QUEENSBURY — One of the Glens Falls men accused of killing a man over a drug theft rejected a plea deal offer in Warren County Court on Thursday that would have resulted in the manslaughter charge against him being dropped.
Nicholas D. Hamel told Judge John Hall that he was not going to accept a plea offer that would require him to plead guilty to felony assault, receive a prison sentence of between 2 and 7 years and cooperate against his co-defendants.
His lawyer, William Montgomery, said he had reviewed evidence in the case with his client before the decision was made.
“Based on that review of the evidence, he is not willing to accept the offer,” Montgomery told Hall.
The judge warned Hamel that he faced up to 25 years in state prison if convicted of either of the weightiest charges against him, first-degree manslaughter or first-degree assault, and that the allegations that he brought a knife to the brawl could make him “just as liable as the person that actually stabbed the person.”
Montgomery told the judge that one of the aspects of a possible cooperation agreement was problematic.
“The information the district attorney’s office believes he can supply, he really can’t,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said afterward that he didn’t anticipate any resolution to the case without a trial.
“He continues to maintain he didn’t commit the crimes alleged in the indictment,” he said. “It was an unfortunate situation but I don’t see any criminal liability on his part.”
Hamel’s case was scheduled for a “possible plea” and no other court action in the case has been scheduled.
He didn’t seem too concerned about his legal predicament, as when he entered court and the judge asked him how he was doing, he replied, “Fantastic.”
Hamel is accused of being involved in the June 8 brawl that led to the death of 31-year-old Charles Werner on Union Street in Glens Falls.
Police believe Werner tried to steal prescription drugs from Hamel and Hamel’s roommate, and the two chased him and caught him, leading to a fight in which Werner was stabbed multiple times and Hamel cut as well. Werner had met the men to buy Xanax pills.
Hamel’s roommate, Skylar C. Phillips, 19, allegedly stabbed Werner in the chest with a large hunting knife. He has been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and lesser counts.
Two other people who were alleged to have been involved in the drug activity that surrounded the case — Richard L. Rothaupt, 24, of Glens Falls and Erica L. Cooper, 34, of Queensbury — face felony counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance. They have pleaded not guilty as well.
Rothaupt told a reporter at his arraignment the morning after the brawl that he was simply trying to break up a fight.
All four have pleaded not guilty and are being held in Warren County Jail pending further court action.
Second-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years to life in prison, while first-degree manslaughter can bring a sentence of up to 25 years.