Gregory Pattison will spend the next 31 years in prison for taking the lives of Richard Alicea Jr. and Johnny T. Houston in 2001.
Pattison, formerly of Jamestown, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter Wednesday, just more than a month before the case was set to go to its second trial.
"We faced a myriad of challenges at trial," said David Foley, Chautauqua County District Attorney. "After meeting with the mother of Richard Alicea Jr. and honestly discussing the issues that we faced from an evidentiary standpoint, and with her consent, the people offered a plea of guilty to two counts of manslaughter in the first degree, a class B violent felony, with an agreed upon combined sentence and five years of post-release supervision."
Pattison was originally convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder and second-degree murder in connection with the slayings, but the conviction was later overturned by an appellate court for technical reasons. Despite the overturned murder convictions, Pattison remained incarcerated in California on a related federal charge and conviction. Two co-defendants, Aaron Pike and Daniel Diaz, were also previously convicted for their role in the murders and remain imprisoned.
The story that came to light during the original trial was that Daniel Diaz and Aaron Pike, two drug dealers from Jamestown, had hired Pattison to murder Richard Alicea Jr., who worked as an informant for the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, since Alicea had taken more than $150,000 worth of drugs from them.
According to the original testimony provided by the District Attorney's Office, Pattison also owed Alicea about $5,000, but Pike and Diaz convinced him to not pay Alicea and kill him instead. Pattison accepted the offer and, while riding in the back seat of a four-door Honda being operated by Alicea with Houston in the passenger seat, shot both individuals in the back of the head.
After five hours of deliberation, a jury of eight women and four men found Pattison guilty on all counts. Pattison was convicted of murder in the first and second degrees along with Pike and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Diaz pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 35 years to life.
Due to a technicality, however, Pattison was granted an appeal. On June 5, 2009, the Fourth Appellate Division ruled that Pattison hadn't been properly notified of the date and time that the grand jury was originally scheduled to convene.
The case was brought back to court in 2011 by the Chautauqua County District Attorney's Office after the previous indictment was dismissed. As part of the plea agreement, Pattison has waived his right to appeal any legal issues. The case was scheduled to go to trial on July 31.
"We worked diligently to reconstruct this case after the unfortunate ruling by the Appellate Division overturned the conviction and dismissed the indictment on hyper-technical grounds, and we were relieved to gain an indictment," said Foley. "But the age of the case and the fact that numerous witnesses from the first trial were either entirely uncooperative or unable to be located by police were working against us at all times. Cooperating witnesses who had previously testified in exchange for reductions in their own sentences no longer had any incentive to assist us. Other witnesses demanded further assistance with serious pending charges they faced with our office, something I refused to do."
Pattison is slated to continue to serve his federal sentence in the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, Calif. for a marijuana-related conviction until 2029. He will then face continued incarceration in New York state as well as post-release supervision.
"No amount of prison time is ever enough in exchange for taking the life of another, but this plea agreement insures that all of the defendants in this double homicide, a crime which occurred and was prosecuted well before I took office, are spending either the bulk of, or all of their life, in prison for this crime," Foley said.