- Nineteen months ago, 10 police agencies surrounded the Tripoli home of Kenneth Welsh.
Police say Welsh caused a three-hour standoff, threatened to blow up his house, and threatened to kill his wife.
Later in court, he was convicted of two felonies and sentenced to three years in prison by Oneida County Judge Michael Bloom.
But now, those convictions and prison sentence have been erased. This month, while in prison, Welsh argued he didn't fully understand all the elements of one of the crimes to which he pleaded no contest, first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Welsh's motion put some of the blame on his defense attorney, Rod Streicher.
"Attorney Streicher never informed [Welsh] of the elements to [ensure] that he understood the elements for the charge of which he pled guilty," Welsh's motion read.
Bloom agreed, and vacated the conviction and sentence. He ruled Welsh wasn't fully informed about the crime to which he was making a plea.
Streicher told us he couldn't be certain whether he shared all the elements of the felony charge with Welsh.
"I don't really remember exactly what I said," Streicher said.
The charges remain in place against Welsh, but the process reverts to where it was before his pleas. That means Welsh could keep or change his pleas. If pleading guilty or no contest, he would be sentenced again. If pleading not guilty, the case would go to a jury trial.
Retired Judge Tim Vocke wasn't involved with the case, but he said a move to throw out convictions and a prison sentence is rare.
"It's not very common [to have convictions vacated]," he said.
"Having somebody in prison, having been sentenced, to complain that an attorney hasn't adequately represented them, is very common," Vocke said, noting chances of success in that complaint are generally small. "But you know, like in any other profession, mistakes [by attorneys] are made. That's just the way it is."
Vocke said the plea process--with an extensive plea questionnaire and conversation between judge, defendant, and lawyer--usually prevents such issues.
"Here's where I think it's critical," Vocke said. "The attorney is supposed to go through each and every element of a criminal charge [with the defendant]."
The case will go back to Oneida County Court on December 4 for a status conference.
Story By: Ben Meyer