MEDIA -- The man accused of shooting to death a University student in a brawl outside of a Delaware County restaurant in December 1989 is expected to plead guilty to the crime today. According to an attorney in the case, the defendant, 21-year-old Arnold Butcher of Chester, agreed yesterday to offer an "open plea" to murder in the death of former Engineering freshman Tyrone Robertson. The prosecuting attorney, Delaware County Assistant District Attorney Jay Mattera, confirmed yesterday he had reached this agreement with Butcher. Under this plea, Butcher will not plead guilty to a specific degree of murder, but will undergo a "degree of guilt" hearing in which the judge will hear evidence and decide if he is guilty of first or third-degree murder. The plea allows both the state and the defendant to avoid the inconvenience and expense of a contested trial. The two other co-defendants, 24-year-old Michael Shaw and 23-year-old Dwight Townsend, also agreed to a compromise with the prosecution in which they would plead guilty to lesser charges if the rest of the charges against them were dropped. Although Butcher is believed to have fired the shot that killed Robertson, all three men are facing first-degree murder charges. The three Chester men were scheduled to go to trial yesterday morning, but discussions between the attorneys took up most of the day. After hours of deliberations between prosecutors, the defendants' attorneys and Delaware County Judge Anthony Semeraro, Butcher and his attorney, Spiros Angelos, agreed to the deal. The three men were arrested in March in connection with the December 30, 1989 shooting. According to police reports and witnesses' statements, the incident began when Robertson and his brother, Paul, became involved in a fight with Butcher as they were leaving a Chester restaurant. Butcher reportedly called down the street to Shaw and Townsend to help him fight the Robertson brothers. During the ensuing brawl between Shaw and Townsend and the Robertsons, Butcher allegedly drew a gun and shot Tyrone in the buttocks. Robertson died after the bullet that entered through his buttocks severed a major artery, causing him to bleed to death. Townsend's attorney, Eileen Courtney, said yesterday the lawyers have been trying to work out some kind of compromise in the case for the last several weeks. Butcher will go before the judge for his hearing at 10 a.m. today. If convicted of first-degree murder, Butcher faces a sentence of life imprisonment. Townsend and Shaw both agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor stating that they "participated in an unlawful act during which a person was recklessly or negligently killed." They also plan to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit involuntary manslaughter with Butcher. When sentenced, any jail terms will run concurrently. Shaw and Townsend will likely be sentenced in about three months and face jail terms of up to five years, although under court guidelines first-time offenders usually only receive up to one year in jail. Both Courtney and John Williamson, Shaw's attorney, said yesterday the major question in the case is whether their clients knew Butcher had the gun and was planning to use it when they attacked the Robertsons. "Although I am not happy [the charge her client will face] was not simple assault, it was a fair plea and. . . a good compromise," said Courtney. Courtney said Mattera, who declined to comment yesterday, was insistent that Shaw and Townsend plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Mattera said last week he would concentrate his efforts on convicting Butcher of the highest charge possible. One possible line of defense for the three defendants would be to try to confuse the jury about who fired the actual shot. Since the scope of the involuntary manslaughter charge does not include carrying out the actual murder, Butcher is left alone to defend that charge. Townsend, who already spent more than three months in jail before he was released on bail, has never been convicted of a crime, Courtney said. When the case resumes today, the possibilty exists that the current deal will disintegrate, attorneys said. Courtney said the negotiations between attorneys are often emotional and complex and either side can change its mind until the trial actually starts. During Butcher's hearing, Angelos is expected to try to dissuade the judge from finding his client guilty of first degree murder by emphasizing that Butcher did not shoot at one of Robertson's vital organs. Angelos is also expected to try to make a case that Robertson's wound was not one that is necessarily fatal. Angelos is expected to claim that if Robertson had been taken to a hospital with a trauma center, he might not have died.Comments powered by Disqus
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