LOCKPORT – Michael J. Solomon Sr., the former Lutheran school music teacher whose initial conviction for sexually abusing a girl was overturned on appeal, took a plea deal Wednesday.
Solomon, 48, of North Tonawanda, was jailed without bail by Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas after his admission to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child.
He will stay in the County Jail until May 2, when Farkas decides whether Solomon has served enough time or not. He served more than seven years after a jury convicted him on 23 charges in 2005. The jury acquitted him on nine other counts.
Defense attorney Glenn Pincus said, “He did not admit and is not convicted of any sexual contact with the victim. He’s convicted of an attempt.”
Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco said the terms of Wednesday’s plea deal limited Solomon’s prison time to 12 years, but the time he served after his original conviction counts toward that.
In 2005, Solomon was sentenced to 32 years in prison, but he was released after the State Court of Appeals ruled in October 2012 that his trial attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin, had an unwaivable conflict of interest because she had once represented one of the investigating officers in a private legal matter. The court ordered a new trial on the 23 charges that drew guilty verdicts from the 2005 jury.
Since the appeals court’s ruling, Pincus has been trying unsuccessfully to overturn the signed confession Solomon gave North Tonawanda detectives June 4, 2004.
He argued that the confession was given under duress and tried to use a psychologist to testify that his tests showed Solomon has a personality that makes him so vulnerable to police pressure that he might confess to something he didn’t do.
Farkas rejected those arguments and set a trial for March 31.
Solomon was accused of molesting the girl, who was not one of his students, between August 1999 and March 2004. The victim, now 22, was in the courtroom for the plea.
Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said Solomon “apologized to the victim and said he hoped she could get on with her life.”
Solomon, who had to sign a waiver of his rights to further appeals as part of the plea bargain, will have to register as a sex offender after his eventual release.