LOCKPORT – As he had promised, State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. on Friday imposed the minimum sentence for murder, 15 years to life in prison, on a Niagara Falls man who stabbed his wife to death a decade ago.
But the judge said it was a plea deal he wished he hadn’t made.
“If I had read the presentencing report before this plea, I wouldn’t have agreed to it,” Kloch said. But he couldn’t have done that, because the report wasn’t written until after the plea was entered Dec. 17.
Kelvin W. Robinson, 57, has pleaded guilty twice to second-degree murder for the death of his wife, Coleen, 38, on March 14, 2004, in the couple’s home on Niagara Avenue in the Falls.
Nine years after he pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 18 years to life, Robinson’s guilty plea was invalidated on a legal technicality.
He had pleaded guilty in 2004 under the section of law covering killing with “depraved indifference to human life,” but in 2006 the State Court of Appeals changed the interpretation of that section and ruled it couldn’t apply to a one-on-one stabbing.
That ruling was applied to Robinson’s case because an earlier, unsuccessful appeal was pending in 2006. Robinson’s second guilty plea on Dec. 17 required him to admit to intentional killing. In exchange, he was offered the minimum sentence, meaning his appeal brought a chance of parole three years sooner than under the original plea.
Friday, Kloch said he was angered to read this passage in the presentencing report by a county probation officer: “Robinson concluded by saying when he sees his son, he’s going to tell him his side of the story.”
“Your side of the story?” Kloch shouted at Robinson. “You don’t have any side of the story. You killed his mother.”
Kloch’s remarks completed an emotional sentencing that nearly saw an argument break out in the courtroom between Robinson’s family and that of his wife. Security officers restored order.
That came after Mary Huff, Coleen Robinson’s aunt, reduced the defendant to tears as she recited a long list of the victim’s positive characteristics.
Robinson wept as he said several times, “Yes, I know.”
“We believe there is a sentencing disparity,” Huff said. “The family of Coleen would have cherished three more years with her … Where’s the justice in that for us and for Coleen?”
Robinson broke down completely as he addressed the family: “I’m very sorry. I was angry and out of control,” he sobbed.
His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin, said, “I had many conversations with his appellate attorney in Rochester (who said), ‘Are you crazy? You’re letting him plead guilty after all we went through?’ ”
But Bergevin said Robinson told her, “I take responsibility. God knows what happened, and I want to plead guilty.” “Mr. Robinson had a higher calling, and he wanted to make this right with God,” Bergevin said.
“We’re not a vengeful family. We’re just a heartbroken one,” Huff said.
She told Robinson, “Because of your selfishness, we had to relive these events.”