Cornell Accepts Plea Agreement

MAYVILLE – Barak Cornell has accepted a plea agreement that will shorten his sentence by 15 years after serving roughly six years of his recently overturned sentence.

According to David Foley, Chautauqua County district attorney, Cornell pleaded guilty to the entirety of the indictment, which included second-degree arson, second-degree criminal mischief and three counts of second-degree reckless endangerment. Cornell’s 25-year sentence was recently overturned on appeal.

“We were advocating for a 14 to 15-year plea,” Foley said. “The court committed to a cap of a 10-year determinate sentence, over my objections.”

The sentence would also include a maximum five years of post-release supervision.

According to Ned Barone, Chautauqua County Public Defender, the plea was accepted the same day the jury was scheduled to be picked for the case.

“In essence, we’re looking at a sentence that’s much, much less than (25 years),” Barone said.

The defense focused on bringing out “mitigating circumstances” in the case, according to Barone.

“Preparing for the trial, we took a different approach, which we believe without question gave us success in this matter,” Barone said. “Mr. Cornell has maintained his innocence from the beginning.”

Cornell first pleaded guilty to second-degree arson on Dec. 8, 2008, 11 months after he allegedly spilled fire accelerants on the deck of his neighbor’s home and lit them with a cigarette. The neighbor, Jeff Lubi, was reportedly sleeping inside with his family at the time. All of the family escaped safely.

Despite Cornell’s guilty plea and a sentence of 14 years in prison with five years of post-release supervision, the case was appealed and overturned on procedural grounds.

Cornell was convicted for a second time in April 2011, with the additional charges of third-degree criminal mischief and three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, all leading to a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.

In October 2013, this again was appealed and overturned on procedural grounds.

Barone, who was not involved in the case back in 2011, stated that these procedural grounds primarily dealt with evidence, wherein the appellate division believed “certain things were conducted incorrectly.”

Cornell’s sentencing is scheduled for Monday, July 14.