Daniel C. Freeland, 62, of Baltimore, Md., unexpectedly pleaded guilty in Saratoga County Court today to menacing a police officer, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy said.
The plea to a felony charge in front of County Court Judge Jerry Scarano stems from an incident that occurred last Dec. 18, in which Freeland pointed a gun at a state trooper during a chase following a bank robbery.
The incident occurred in Wilton, after Freeland fled up the Northway after committing a gunpoint robbery at a bank at Newton Plaza in the town of Colonie.
Freeland pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in April in Albany County Court, and is to receive a 10-year state prison sentence later this month, according to a spokeswoman for Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
Freeland fled the robbery scene in an SUV with Maryland license plates. The vehicle was spotted northbound on the Northway. It exited at Exit 16, leading state police on a high-speed chase on Ballard Road.
When forced to stop at a railroad crossing because of a train, Murphy said Freeland pointed a .38-caliber revolver at a New York state trooper who had been in pursuit. Trooper Christopher DiMauro fired a shot in response, with the bullet striking Freeland's vehicle.
Immediately after that, the train cleared the road and Freeland crashed the railroad crossing gates at a high speed, Murphy said.
Troopers continued to pursue Freeland, and the chase ended when Freeland crashed into a civilian vehicle on Rt. 50 in Saratoga Springs, where he was apprehended. The occupants of the vehicle were treated for injuries and released.
The matter had been scheduled for a status conference to set hearing and trial dates today, but Murphy said Freeland took the opportunity to plead guilty.
Under an agreement between Murphy and Soares, Freeland was prosecuted separately in both counties.
"He pointed a loaded .38 caliber handgun at a trooper. He needed to be held responsible for that potentially deadly criminal conduct," Murphy said. "Mr. Freeland now has separate convictions, one in Albany for the bank robbery and one in Saratoga for the threat to the police."
State Trooper Daniel Sisto, second vice-president of the state troopers' Police Benevolent Association, said the union appreciates that Murphy and Chief Trial Assistant Karen Heggen didn't plea bargain the charge.
"What happened that day could have been tragic, and it would have been further tragedy if the charge had been plea bargained away," Sisto said.
Murphy said he will seek the maximum seven years in state prison on the menacing charge, to be served concurrently with the Albany County sentence.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 1, before Judge Scarano.