LOCKPORT – Jacob J. Taggart pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with the April 25 shooting of an 18-year-old man on a Niagara Falls street corner.
It was the third guilty plea in the shooting of Anthony McDougald, but the answer to the question of who actually shot him, leaving the victim with a bullet lodged near his heart, remains as obscure as ever.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said, “I believe Mr. Taggart was the shooter.” She said an eyewitness gave a statement that included a description of the gunman that closely matched Taggart.
But Taggart’s attorney, Frank L. LoTempio, disagreed. “I’ve talked to the eyewitness. The witness described a Hispanic male.”
LoTempio said he thought the description came closest to matching Marlyn M. Rubin, 20, of Niagara Street in the Falls. Rubin pleaded guilty last Thursday, saying that he didn’t see the shots but that he had seen Taggart with a gun in a car he drove to the crime scene at 12th and Niagara streets.
And on Jan. 3, a third defendant, Paul E. Buck Jr., 21, of Niagara Falls Boulevard, pleaded guilty, saying he shot McDougald himself.
“I think Mr. Buck was making an attempt to take the fall for everyone else,” Hoffmann said.
Taggart, 23, of Niagara Avenue, admitted to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree gang assault. Like the others, who pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, he faces a maximum of seven years in prison when he is sentenced March 21.
All three were charged under the accomplice liability law, meaning it doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger if all were out to harm McDougald.
Rubin said he and Buck wanted to have a fistfight with McDougald, and Taggart said Wednesday that he drove them to 12th and Niagara for that purpose.
Like the others, Taggart faced a maximum 25-year prison sentence if convicted at trial. “It was too much of a gamble for him,” LoTempio said of why his client took the plea offer.
Unlike the others, Taggart faces mandatory state prison time, because he has a previous felony conviction for drug possession.