It was November 1996 and a 20-year-old Michael Briggs needed money.
Actually, he didn’t really need the money, he told a state parole board years later. He could have asked his family. He also had a temp job. Instead, he attributed what happened next to “psychotic thinking.”
Briggs broke into a house in Roosevelt, Nassau County, and encountered a 12-year-old boy.
In the middle of his demands to the boy to show him where the money was, Briggs tied the boy up and molested him. There were also allegations that he went further, and raped the boy, allegations Briggs denied.
“Well,” Briggs coolly told the parole board in 2006, “there wasn’t really sex. It was just … to humiliate him.”
Just a month later, records show, was another attack on a weak victim: the robbery of a 13-year-old in a similar home burglary. In the second case, the boy was unharmed.
It was late this past December that Briggs, having made his way to Schenectady while on parole, allegedly needed money again — and allegedly went after another weak target.
Shoveling driveways for quick cash after one snowstorm, Briggs encountered 82-year-old Mary Greco, a former nun, at her Stanford Street residence. The woman, described as kind by those who knew her, took Briggs up on his offer, paying him for his services.
Days later, after another storm, authorities say, Briggs returned. This time, authorities say, the ex-convict, now 37, quickly overpowered Greco, robbing her of cash and a rosary and then killing her.
He was indicted last week in Greco’s death, charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, among other crimes. He faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted.
Briggs has pleaded innocent. He remains in custody.
On the Nassau County allegations, Briggs faced up to 121⁄2 to 25 years in prison, and possible consecutive sentences. He also faced inclusion on the state’s then-new sex offender registry.
What he ultimately received, though, for crimes that included accusations of targeting two children for robbery and one for rape, was a total of 71⁄2 to 15 years in state prison, with no plea to a sex crime and therefore no inclusion on the registry.
Briggs’ encounter with Greco on the snowy Schenectady street happened 16 years almost to the day after Briggs’ initial Nassau County arrest.
A spokesman for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the 1996 case, could offer no insight Monday on what led to the ultimate plea deal of 71⁄2 to 15 years, or why Briggs wouldn’t have been required to be included on the sex offender registry.
No one involved in the case still works in the office and records kept by the office do not shed light on the reasoning behind the deal, either from his office or the judge, the spokesman said.
“I wish I could be more helpful, but nobody who had anything to do with the decisions made in this case still works here,” the spokesman wrote in an email response.
Briggs was ultimately released to parole on the Nassau County convictions in late December 2006, state records show. He was kept in prison as long as possible with the good record he kept in prison, and released after he had served two-thirds of his maximum sentence, 10 years.
Inmates with indeterminate sentences — those with a range of a minimum and a maximum possible term, rather than a specific number of years — must be released at the two-thirds point, officials said, unless they have behavioral problems in prison, officials said.
Briggs went before the parole board twice, in 2004 and earlier in 2006, but was denied both times, records show.
After his release, Briggs was returned to state prison once — in June 2010, for violating his parole. He was then released again in November 2010. His parole was to expire in October 2013.
The Long Island newspaper Newsday covered Briggs’ case, reporting at one point that Briggs admitted to police after his arrest that he sexually abused the Roosevelt boy.
It was in early January 1997 that police finally caught up with Briggs, nearly two months after the assault on the boy in Roosevelt. Briggs was charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and what was then known as first-degree sodomy, all high-level felonies.
Briggs, police told Newsday, knocked on the door. The 12-year-old boy, who was home alone that afternoon, answered.
With the door opened, Briggs forced his way inside, ordering the boy to the basement and tying his hands with electrical wire.
Briggs then put electronics into a bag. He also sexually abused the boy before escaping, police told the paper.
After Briggs was gone, the boy finally freed himself, running to a neighbor to call authorities.
A month later, police said, Briggs targeted a 13-year-old boy in Uniondale, following him into a house, showing what appeared to be a gun. He took electronics, but did not harm that boy, police told Newsday.
Briggs was finally caught when spotted casing other houses in Uniondale, the newspaper reported. It was after his arrest, the paper wrote, that Briggs confessed to the Roosevelt assault.
From there, Briggs went on to plead guilty to first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, and the sex offenses were dismissed, the parole board transcript reads. He then received the 71⁄2- to 15-year sentence.
At his 2006 parole hearing, Briggs admitted to breaking in. He said he did not know the residents who lived there.
The board members asked why he sexually abused the boy.
“Like I said, it was psychotic thinking,” Briggs responded. “It was stupid. I mean, I don’t — I’m not saying that it’s something rational to have done. It’s stupid, stupid behavior.”
Asked by the parole board if there was anything else he wanted to add, Briggs said if he could do things over, his mother would be pleased with him, “but that’s impossible, like I said.”
A parole board member responded that Briggs’ mother would be pleased. Briggs’ 12-year-old victim would be pleased too, “because that 12-year-old kid is no doubt going to be scarred for the rest of his life,” the board member told Briggs, “Unfortunately, we don’t get to go back and do things over.”
The board also asked what Briggs would do if he got released. Would he make a new start? Would he not commit the same errors?
“I’m behaving and not practicing destructive behavior that I have in the past,” Briggs told the board. “I’m not practicing [destructive behavior] — not because I’m incarcerated, it’s because [of] a change of mind.”