On September 13, 2023, James Steele, age 48 and of the City of Cohoes, pleaded guilty in Schenectady County Court to each charge of a three-count indictment. Mr. Steele pleaded guilty to one count of Assault in the First Degree, a class B violent felony in violation of New York State Penal Law section 120.10 (1), one count of Assault in the Second Degree, a class D violent felony in violation of New York State Penal Law section 120.05 (2), and one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a class D felony in violation of New York State Penal Law section 265.02 (1). The plea was made directly to Schenectady County Court Judge Matthew J. Sypniewski, a practice commonly referred to as pleading to the Court. A defendant has a right to plead guilty to all charges of an indictment, directly to the Court, in lieu of negotiating with or accepting a plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office.
This indictment arises from an incident which occurred on October 20, 2022, when Mr. Steele got into a physical altercation with another customer at a city corner store. Within seconds, the altercation went from a fistfight to an attack, when Mr. Steele used a knife to repeatedly stab the Victim. When the Victim turned to flee, Mr. Steele pursued him, stabbing the Victim who fallen in his flight. After the Victim got up from the ground and ran toward the car he arrived in, Mr. Steele continued to chase the Victim, prolonging the attack as the Victim tried to get into his car. The Victim was driven to Ellis Hospital and then transferred to Albany Medical Center, where he had a prolonged hospital stay due to the extent of his injuries. Mr. Steele, was apprehended by the Schenectady Police Department, working in conjunction with the City of Cohoes Police Department, 24 hours after the incident at his residence in Cohoes.
Prosecution of this case was made possible by the Schenectady County street camera network, which assisted the Police in identifying and locating Mr. Steele as well as the Victim and, crucially, captured the stabbing on camera. The case was investigated by the Schenectady Police Department. The New York State Police assisted in enhancing video and images of the attack.
In exchange for his plea to the Court, Mr. Steele will receive the minimum sentence of 8 years incarceration with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, to be followed by a 5-year period of parole supervision. Sentencing is scheduled to take place on November 15, 2023 in Schenectady County Court.
The plea was presided over by Judge Matthew J. Sypniewski. Assistant District Attorney Eric J. Weinhold prosecuted the case. Mr. Steele was represented by Assistant Conflict Defender Joseph D. Gardner of the Schenectady County Conflict Defender’s Office.