Three of the four teenagers accused in last summer’s movie theater attack pleaded guilty to felony assault charges on Friday.
One of the three, 16-year-old Roeson Cobb, was described Friday as the instigator in the attack. He is to get up to 16 months to four years in state prison. He turned 16 just days before the June attack.
The other two who pleaded guilty each face up to a year in jail, their roles in the attack deemed lesser than that of Cobb. All three pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
All three are also expected to get youthful-offender status. That’s something that was committed to by presiding Judge Richard B. Meyer prior to the pleas, provided nothing changes between Friday and sentencing. If ultimately granted, it would seal their records in the case.
The fourth teen, 18-year-old Jonas Jeannot, was offered the same deal as the two who are to get up to a year with expected youthful-offender status. Jeannot, however, rejected his offer, pushing his case to trial.
Jeannot’s attorney, Michael Mansion, said later that his client denies completely taking part in the attack. If convicted at trial of the top counts against him, Jeannot would technically face up to 25 years in state prison.
The attack happened late June 28 at the conclusion of a showing of “White House Down” at the Bow Tie Cinema in downtown Schenectady. A group of teenagers were disrupting the show, prosecutors have said.
At some point, a man from Niskayuna there with his two daughters snapped his fingers at one of the passing youth. Prosecutor John Healy of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office on Friday identified that youth as Cobb.
Cobb responded by rallying the group of teens he was with against the man. The teens started hitting the man in succession. When he began to fight back, they started attacking together, hitting and kicking him. Cobb threw the first punch, Healy said.
“He was the loud one, the boisterous one and the one who took great offense to being shushed,” Healy said. “He kind of spearheaded the whole thing.”
That was reflected in his plea offer, Healy said. Cobb faces a minimum of one year in jail as part of the deal.
He also faces two years in an unrelated Albany County drug case. His attorney, Eugene Grenz, asked Meyer to consider the one-year sentence, giving him three years in prison total between the two cases.
Also pleading guilty to second-degree assault Friday were 16-year-old Dashawn Harrison and 16-year-old Terrell Bell.
Attorneys for each of the four charged indicated parents have been closely involved.
In addition to the four charged in adult court, two juveniles were charged in Family Court, Healy said.
The victim suffered a concussion, broken bones to a hand, tooth damage and torn-up skin on his knees, prosecutors said.
One of the man’s daughters also was hit and knocked to the floor as she tried to come to her father’s aid, prosecutors said. Her phone was also stolen.
Central to the case since the beginning has been the level of the victim’s injuries. Prosecutors argued they rose to the level of serious physical injury needed for a felony assault.
All four were indicted on charges of first-degree assault.
Each of the three who pleaded guilty Friday did so under the theory of serious physical injury.
Mansion, the attorney for Jeannot, called the level of injury a “major issue” in the case.
“That is, in part, why the offer was what it was,” Mansion said, “because there is a serious issue with the prosecution being able to prove the serious physical injury element.”
Mansion reiterated that his client maintains he did not attack the man. But Mansion also said he will challenge the level of injury at Jeannot’s trial.
Healy called the injury descriptions a failing in the law, not clearly taking into account the spectrum of injuries. When there are injuries that could be considered borderline, Healy said, it becomes an issue of contention.
In the theater case, though, Healy said prosecutors contend that the injuries did rise to the level of serious physical injury.
The three are to be sentenced in Schenectady County Court on May 23. Healy said he expected that the man who was attacked would take the opportunity to speak at the sentencings.
Cobb remains in custody. Harrison was released Friday, as he had served a substantial portion of his sentence of up to one year. Bell and Jeannot remain free on bail.
Meyer, the judge who presided over the cases, is a visiting judge based in Essex County.
Healy said his office required a guilty plea to a felony assault if there were to be pleas. The three did just that in pleading guilty to second-degree assault.
Healy also noted that there is the hope that the teenage defendants will be reformed.
“That’s the hope. That’s the balance that our office and the court has to make in any case where there are 16- and 17-year-olds,” Healy said.