BALLSTON SPA — The illegal immigrant who accidentally shot and killed a man through a Wilton motel room wall one night last fall pleaded guilty Monday to two felonies, including criminally negligent homicide.
Daniel A. Salas-Miranda, 40, will serve up to 10 years in prison for the shooting death last Oct. 7-8 of 61-year-old Michael Kornacki in his room at Crest Inn & Suites on Route 9 in Wilton. He pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
The charges stem from him firing a shot from a handgun that went through a wall separating the two men’s rooms, with the bullet hitting Kornacki as he lay in bed. He did not have a permit for the handgun.
Salas-Miranda told Saratoga County Judge James Murphy that he fired a gun sometime between 6 p.m. Oct. 7 and 6 p.m. Oct. 8. He told the judge he was cleaning the 9mm Springfield Arms semiautomatic and did not know it was loaded, and it discharged as he removed its magazine.
“It was an accident,” he said through an interpreter. “I was not aware someone had been injured or died.”
The plea came after Salas-Miranda was advised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he could face federal prosecution on the gun charge, which could have resulted in a lengthier sentence. Instead, he will face only immigration prosecution, as he is in the country illegally from Mexico.
“There was a potential for federal charges for his conduct in New York state,” Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Charles Bucca explained.
“That is the reason Mr. Salas-Miranda decided to accept a plea in this court,” his lawyer, Kyle Kordich, told Murphy.
Bucca said the plea deal had been discussed with Kornacki’s family.
Salas-Miranada faces deportation after his release from prison, and also could face federal prosecution for re-entering the country after being deported.
The motel is owned by the family that also owned the limousine that crashed last October in Schoharie County, killing 20 people, but State Police said the two incidents were not related.
Kornacki had been living at the motel, and was found dead on Oct. 10. An obituary published in area newspapers indicated he was a native of Schenectady who had lived in Corinth and worked drilling wells and repairing well pumps.
No obvious external injuries were noticed when he was found, but an autopsy located a bullet in the man’s body, and it was determined that round had apparently caused his death, officials said.
State Police evidence technicians located evidence that a shot had been fired through a wall, and Salas-Miranda was determined to have been in the room.
Kornacki’s family last November questioned the police account, saying it seemed to defy physics for the bullet to pass through a wall and metal refrigerator with enough force to cause a fatal injury. They also questioned how he could have stayed in his room for days without anyone checking on him.
“It’s the family’s belief that Michael’s murder was a loose end that was tied up hours after the bus crash to prevent his testifying about all the shady activities and bookkeeping at the motel/limo company,” a relative who spoke on the condition of anonymity said last fall.
The plea agreement calls for a 10-year prison sentence, to be followed by up to 5 years on parole. Murphy sent Salas-Miranda to Saratoga County Jail, pending sentencing April 2.