Judge Richard C. Giardino practically begged Taron Gibson to say that he wasn’t guilty.
A jury convicted Gibson of selling heroin, but Giardino said he wasn’t convinced.
He didn’t buy Gibson’s convoluted story of how he was in Georgia while his license plates were switched so someone else could pretend to be him during a drug sale. But the judge still wasn’t convinced that Gibson was a criminal.
Before he sentenced Gibson, he directly asked the 37-year-old Schenectady man whether he was covering for someone.
Gibson wouldn’t answer.
“An uncle? A cousin?” Giardino asked.
Gibson said nothing.
His attorney pleaded for the minimum — two years in prison. He noted that Gibson had prior convictions, but not recently.
“By all accounts, he has turned his life around,” attorney Michael Mansion said. “He’s married. He has a preschool-age child. He has a strong safety net. His family is here.”
But the prosecution argued for the maximum — 12 years, based on Gibson’s prior convictions.
Giardino stared Gibson in the face.
“Based on your prior record and your conviction this time, it would be easily supportable to give you the maximum,” he said.
Then he asked Gibson, again, to tell the truth.
He said he believed Gibson lied in his testimony but asked if he was protecting someone.
“I’m giving you one last chance to say, ‘Judge, this is what happened,’ ” Giardino said.
He paused. Gibson did not respond.
“Or,” Giardino said, “ ‘Judge, I can’t tell you what happened but it wasn’t me.’ ”
Again, he paused. Again, Gibson didn’t take the chance to speak.
Finally, Giardino sighed.
“They proved it beyond reasonable doubt,” he said. “Doesn’t have to be beyond all doubt.”
He then sentenced Gibson to seven years in prison, then warned him to stop taking the fall for others.
Gibson nodded. Then he walked out, head held high, smiling at his family as they sobbed and cursed quietly in their seats.
Outside the courtroom, Mansion said he, too, had asked Gibson to tell him the truth, even after the conviction.
But, he said, Gibson stuck to his story.
Gibson testified that while his license plates were on a vehicle driven by a heroin seller, he was in New York City and Georgia. He said his father had died, so he went to New York City to be with his mother and sister and traveled with them to Georgia for his father’s funeral. Then he went back to New York City and got to Schenectady just after the second heroin sale to a confidential informant.
The informant had a relationship with Gibson’s close family friend, a man he referred to as his uncle. She became an informant after police found heroin in her purse and asked her to attempt to make two drug purchases so they could catch the heroin dealer.
After becoming an informant, she reported that Gibson sold heroin to her twice. On Jan. 7, Gibson was charged with the crimes.
Mansion said he would appeal, possibly by using the judge’s own comments as a reason for the case to be reconsidered.