FARMINGTON — A Superior Court justice found a local man guilty Wednesday of aggravated criminal threatening connected to the robbery of the Big Apple in town on Dec. 21, 2010.
Justice Michaela Murphy sentenced him to serve seven months and 15 days of a three-year prison term followed by two years probation. He is also not to go on the property of any of C.N. Brown's Big Apple stores. He was also ordered to pay up to $300 in restitution to the company.
Miguel Visuano, 27, entered an Alford plea of guilty to the lesser charge in Franklin County Superior Court. An Alford plea registers a formal claim neither of guilt nor innocence toward charges brought against a defendant with the recognition that if a case went to trial, a jury could find one guilty.
A plea agreement between the state and defense dismissed a charge of robbery.
Visuano's case was set for trial twice this year, with two juries picked, only to be postponed twice. Both times the postponement had nothing to do with Visuano.
He was accused of robbing the store while wearing a handkerchief over his face with a hood up and wielding a small bat that had a chain attached to it, according to a Farmington police affidavit. Assistant District Attorney James Andrews said there were several plea offers made to Visuano previously and aggravated criminal threatening was one of them.
The co-defendant in the case, Marcia Tracy, 28, of Strong, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property in February in a plea agreement that dismissed a robbery charge. She was accused of driving the get-away Jeep. She has not been sentenced and was expected to be the state's prime witness against Visuano.
Visuano's attorney George Hess said this was an Alford plea and that the defense had witnesses that would place Visuano in another place at the time of the robbery. He also said the co-defendant got off with a good deal for her testimony against Visuano.
If the case had gone to trial, Andrews said, the clerk at the Big Apple would have testified that a man with a hood up over his head and a handkerchief across his face came into the store at about 6 p.m. and demanded that he empty the cash register. The man told the clerk he would hurt him and pulled up his shirt to display a piece of wood about 2 feet long with a loop of chain on the end, Andrews said.
Andrews said Wednesday that Tracy would testify that when Visuano came out of the store he had two cartons of cigarettes and cash and directed her around the back roads of Farmington. She would also testify that at one point Visuano threw something out of the window that she called a horse switch. To this day, she denies she knew what was to go on inside the store, Andrews said.
Justice Murphy asked Andrews why a top level charge would be dismissed for a lower charge.
From the state's point, there is significant proof issues including positive identification and a reluctant witness, Andrews said.
The clerk, though willing to testify, could not positively identify the suspect but did see the suspect a couple days later and identified him. Andrews said he did not think that would stand up in court.
Andrews said the state is also concerned that a jury would not find Visuano guilty and there would be no conviction at all.
Visuano was serving a one-year prison sentence in prison on a terrorizing conviction when he was indicted on the robbery charge in May 2011. When Visuano finished that sentence he was transferred to Franklin County jail and has been held since then. He has already served the sentence he was given Wednesday. He was released from jail late Wednesday morning.