An unexpected guilty plea has resolved the case of a Florida man accused of trying to rob a Cooperstown store at gunpoint last year.
A pool of 77 potential jurors gathered yesterday morning in Otsego County Court for the first day of what was to be Barry Renert’s trial. But before jury selection could begin, presiding Judge Brian D. Burns entered the courtroom and said Renert had pleaded guilty to one charge of second-degree burglary.
According to authorities, Renert, 62 at the time, entered the Seventh Inning Stretch memorabilia store in Cooperstown in December armed with a 9mm Glock handgun. Renert, a former employee at the store, confronted store owner Vincent Carfagno and brandished the firearm, authorities said.
Carfagno then produced a handgun and fired at Renert, missing him, but causing Renert to flee. Authorities said Renert fled with Stephen Janiszeski, 30, who was waiting in a car.
Janiszeski, who was arrested in Florida in June, told authorities that he and Renert drove from Sanford, Fla., to Cooperstown to rob the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Renert was arrested in Virginia that night, and extradited to New York soon after. Janiszeski is being held in Otsego County jail awaiting grand jury action.
Renert was indicted on one charge of attempted second-degree murder, one charge of attempted first-degree assault and one charge of second-degree burglary. Had he been convicted on all charges, he could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
Under the plea agreement to which Renert agreed Monday morning, he will be sentenced to 15 years in prison plus three years of post-release supervision. Fifteen years is the maximum sentence in New York for second-degree burglary.
Renert will be formally sentenced Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. in Otsego County Court.
Before dismissing the people who had answered their jury summons, Burns said that he didn’t think it was good practice to take pleas on the morning of jury selection, and noted that he had asked the attorneys to come to a resolution earlier. He praised the potential jurors for showing up, however, and expounded on the importance of serving on a jury.
“Serving on a jury is, in my opinion, the purest form of democracy,” Burns said.
He also noted the role that the imminent selection of a jury had in facilitating the plea agreement, arguing that it held Renert’s feet to the fire.
“It was the only reason this case was resolved today,” he said.
The swift resolution of the case came as a surprise to Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl.
“I expected to try it,” Muehl said.
He said that offering Renert the chance to plead to the maximum sentence for second-degree burglary was his final offer.
“I wasn’t going to accept anything less than that,” Muehl said.
Muehl did indicate, however, that his case against Renert for attempted murder wasn’t a sure thing.
“There was only circumstantial evidence. I didn’t have really good, solid evidence that he intended to kill him,” Muehl said. “It was kind of tough. So I’m pleased with the outcome.”