An inmate already serving time for sex abuse was sentenced today to an additional five to 10 years for trying to hire a hit man to kill the woman he had assaulted.
Brendon Berndt, 27, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree conspiracy before Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico.
“My client admits he did something extremely stupid,” defense attorney Frank Bybel said.
Berndt submitted a letter to D’Amico at the sentencing hearing, which the judge read to himself. Berndt did not make any comments about the crime when he was given time to address the court.
When he admitted his guilt last month, Berndt said in court that he “got myself caught up in a conspiracy.”
Berndt said he “foolishly met with someone” earlier this year in the prison in Gowanda about a plot to kill the victim. A fellow inmate had set up the meeting, telling Berndt that it was with someone who could arrange the killing.
Instead, the other inmate alerted authorities. State police then sent an undercover investigator to meet with Berndt under the pretense of arranging the killing.
Berndt conspired to kill the 25-year-old woman he was convicted of sexually assaulting as she was walking on Route 6 in Cortlandt, Westchester County, late on Oct. 29, 2009. He thought killing the victim would improve his chances of winning an appeal of his conviction, officials said.
In his pre-sentence interview with a probation officer, Berndt sought to downplay the conspiracy conviction. In the interview, according to prosecutor John Feroleto said, Berndt said he was just “all talk” when he met with the undercover investigator and that he did not intend to follow through with the agreement to pay $10,000 to the hitman.
Berndt, however, wrote his father and gave instructions about where to send a payment and also made dozens of telephone calls to him trying to get him to send money, Feroleto said.
Someone does not write the letter and make all the phone calls “unless you intend to follow through with that agreement” to hire a hitman, Feroleto told D’Amico.
Berndt misled his father about the reason to send the money, saying it was needed to hire a private investigator for help with the appeal.
The father did not send any money.
Berndt’s conspiracy sentence will begin when his time on the sex abuse conviction expires.