Prosecution resumes in 2015 Schenectady shooting death after guilty plea vacated

Defense attorney found a technical flaw in process by which Jonathan Monforte admitted killing Kusaan Tolliver
Jonathan M. Monforte in 2015
Jonathan M. Monforte in 2015

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — Prosecution of a man for allegedly killing Schenectady resident Kusaan Tolliver in 2015 has resumed after the state’s highest court found fault with his guilty plea.

Jonathan Monforte, now 25, previously of Schenectady, was formally charged this past week with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the July 28, 2015, shooting death of Tolliver near 528 Schenectady St.

The charge is the same one to which Monforte pleaded guilty in February 2016 and for which he was sentenced to an agreed-upon term of 25 years in state prison.

Monforte, however, later appealed aspects of his guilty plea, first to the Appellate Division and then, after losing there, to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals in September found fault with how the case moved from the lower Schenectady City Court to the higher Schenectady County Court so Monforte could accept the plea deal in the case.

The fault, essentially a technicality, reset the case to where it was before Monforte’s plea deal, resuming the prosecution.

The filing of the manslaughter charge in Schenectady City Court this past week was to address the issue found by the appeals court and the case now goes forward from there, including talks to resolve it again, prosecutor Peter Willis said.

“It was something nobody realized the first time around,” Willis said.

Willis declined to discuss any potential talks to resolve the case again with another plea deal.

Monforte was arrested in the case in December 2015, six months after Tolliver’s death, and initially charged with second-degree murder.

Monforte then admitted in his guilty plea, just over a month after his initial arrest, that he killed the 18-year-old Tolliver. The shooting was in retaliation for an altercation earlier that day, prosecutors said then. Monforte sought out Tolliver, shot him and killed him, prosecutors said.

A large contingent of Tolliver’s family and friends attended Monforte’s initial April 2016 sentencing. At the sentencing, Tolliver’s mother offered a statement, read to the court by the prosecutor. “The pain I feel every day is unspeakable, unbearable, unimaginable,” she wrote.

Monforte remained held at the Schenectady County Jail this past week without bail. An attorney representing Monforte could not be reached for comment.

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