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October 13, 2015

Seventh defendant in robberies of migrants takes plea deal

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 12:00 am

WARSAW — The seventh of eight defendants charged with robbing migrant farm workers this past summer accepted a plea bargain Tuesday in Wyoming County Court.

Melissa Cotton, 19, of Franklinville, waived her right to have her case presented to a grand jury and pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery, a Class C violent felony. The plea was made on condition she receive a sentence of eight years in prison and 2 1/2 years of post-release supervision.

Wyoming County Judge Mark H. Dadd set Cotton’s sentencing hearing for Jan. 10. Cotton has been in jail since her arrest earlier this year.

Her prison term will be a determinate one, meaning she has to serve 6/7’s of the time before she is eligible for parole. She also agreed to pay restitution to the victims and testify against the last defendant whose case is still pending, Brandon Suckow, 20, formerly of Arcade.

Suckow is in custody in a North Carolina jail and is fighting extradition to New York.

The plea arrangement accepted by Cotton was similar to one agreed to by another defendant, Allen Seckler, 24, also of Franklinville.

Seckler pleaded guilty Nov. 1  to the same charge as Cotton, second-degree robbery, a Class C violent felony. The agreed-upon sentence for Seckler is eight years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.

Seckler was supposed to be sentenced today in County Court but the matter was adjourned to Dec. 13.

Five other defendants in the case pleaded guilty in recent court appearances and await sentencing in front of Dadd.

Cotton’s case was one of the last to reach resolution because she received several postponements to give her time to hire a lawyer. Assistant Public Defender Gregory Kilburn ended up as her legal counsel.

Restitution to the victims in the case totals $5,300. It will be paid “joint and several,” by the defendants, meaning they divide the cost among them but if anyone fails to pay, the others are still responsible for that person’s share.

The investigation into the rash of farm worker robberies began when the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office received a complaint this summer from a migrant laborer in Castile, who was choked and had his wallet and other items stolen by five suspects.

The method used by the suspects was for the women to talk to the workers, ask the migrants to go with them to buy beer, then suggest sexual favors. The  women would lure the laborers toward the male suspects, who would attack and rob the farm workers.

The defendants called the incidents “going shopping.”

Investigators said they believed there were at least 13 robberies of seasonal farm workers that occurred this summer in Wyoming County.

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