BUFFALO, NY – Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that 23-year-old Daniel D. Hill of Kenmore pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon before Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan to one count of Burglary in the Third Degree (Class “D” felony).
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, at approximately 10:34 p.m., unknown individuals broke through a glass window to burglarize a liquor store on Elmwood Avenue near West Utica Street. The crime was committed as a protest was underway in the City of Buffalo and the liquor store was closed at the time of the incident. The defendant, as well as other unknown individuals, unlawfully entered the store and stole merchandise.
As part of his plea, Hill was permitted to enter U-CAN ERIE as one of the first participants of a newly created diversion court program in Erie County. U-CAN, which stands for “United Against Crime Community Action Network,” is a court-monitored, anti-crime mentorship program for eligible young adult defendants who may continue to become involved in the criminal justice system without intervention.
U-CAN ERIE is a collaborative effort by the Court, Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Erie County Probation Department, Peaceprints of WNY and Project Blue to provide mentorship and services to first-time, non-violent offenders who may be at risk of committing a crime again in the future. The program is supervised by Erie County Court Judge Susan Eagan.
Participation in U-CAN ERIE is available to eligible defendants between the ages of 18 and 25 who have been charged with their first non-violent felony offense and have been considered likely to re-offend. The program provides individualized support and services to young defendants in an effort to change their mindset and improve their lives for the future. The overall goal is to reduce recidivism through early intervention that addresses the specific needs of the defendant through mentorship and court-monitored goals, which are intended to set the defendant on a path for a productive future in our community and reduce their likelihood of further criminal behavior.
Eligible defendants will be offered the opportunity to participate in U-CAN ERIE under these terms:
- Plead guilty to felony or misdemeanor in exchange for one-year of interim probation
- Agree to meet once weekly for at least one hour with the court designated mentor
- Follow standard conditions of probation
- Obtain a high school equivalency diploma and/or maintain employment
- Abide by any treatment requirements imposed by the Court
Eligibility will be determined by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo in conjunction with the Erie County Probation Department. Individuals accused of committing their first felony offense for a violent crime such as the use of a firearm or deadly weapon during the commission of a crime, sex offense, domestic violence or have a known gang affiliation are ineligible to participate in U-CAN ERIE.
The Court will maintain regular contact with each defendant and require them appear in court on a designated day each month. During the scheduled session, the Court will obtain a status reporting by speaking with the defendant, their defense counsel and the probation officer. A representative from the District Attorney’s Office can attend all sessions. At each monthly session, the Court will discuss a relevant topic with the participants or invite guest speakers.
The New York State Mentoring Program will pair participants with trained community mentors, provide ongoing support, and act as liaison between the mentor and the defendant. Defendants who cancel mentoring sessions with less than 24-hour notice will be required to complete community service hours. Persistent mentorship cancellations or deviation from the program requirements may result in removal, which would require the case to be transferred back to the previous judge for adjudication.
The Erie County Probation Department will identify a designated probation officer, sensitive to needs and challenges of this population, to supervise the participants during the one year of interim probation.
Peaceprints of WNY and Project Blue will work to address the needs of the defendant by connecting them with various service providers.
If the defendant successfully completes the program as part of one year of interim probation, the defendant will be permitted to withdraw his or her guilty plea and receive a misdemeanor conviction or non-criminal disposition.
If Hill successfully completes the U-CAN ERIE program, he will be permitted to withdraw his plea to the felony charge and instead plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense. He continues to remain released on his own recognizance.
“We are seeing too many young people involved in the criminal justice system. Even worse, my office is often prosecuting the same young person who has committed another crime, sometimes for a more serious, violent offense than the first time. Even one criminal conviction can have a life-long impact. Whenever possible, I want to give a second chance to young people who have made a bad choice. This program provides an opportunity for the defendant to learn from their mistakes and get the help that they need to turn their life around,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
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