Conviction affirmed in 2016 city homicide
The conviction of a former Jamestown resident who shot and killed his estranged wife in November 2016 has been affirmed by the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, fourth department.
Keith Robbins had appealed the 25-year state prison sentenced imposed in December 2018 by Chautauqua Court Judge David Foley. Robbins, now 42 years old, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter just prior to his case going to trial for the Nov. 10, 2016, killing of Shari Robbins on Prospect Street as she was parking her car at work.
Robbins had been indicted on charges of second-degree murder and injuring a police animal before he accepted a plea deal from the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office. Then-DA Patrick Swanson said Shari Robbins’ family was comfortable with the plea offering.
Robbins was represented in his appeal by John Morrissey of the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo.
According to a memo included in the Appellate Division’s decision released Friday, Robbins contended his waiver for the right to appeal his manslaughter conviction was invalid and that he should be allowed to challenge the severity of Foley’s sentence.
On that regard, the justices with Appellate Division, fourth department agreed, writing, “There is no basis upon which to conclude that (County Court) ensured that the defendant understood that the right to appeal is separate and distinct from those rights automatically forfeited upon a plea of guilty.”
However, the justices ultimately concluded that the 25-year sentence was “not unduly harsh or severe.”
Jason Schmidt, Chautauqua County district attorney, recognized his first assistant district attorney for the handling of the appeal.
“I want to congratulate my colleague Andrew Molitor for the hard work he put into the appeal achieving success for our community in affirming the conviction of a violent murderer,” Schmidt told The Post-Journal.
Robbins, then 36, was taken into custody at a Todd Avenue home in Jamestown after a days-long manhunt. A tip to police led to his discovery.
During his apprehension, Robbins stabbed a JPD K-9, though the dog later recovered and continued to serve until retirement.
Robbins was represented prior to trial by the county Public Defender’s Office. He avoided the possibility of being found guilty of second-degree murder, a Class A felony, and a 25-to-life prison sentence. Both Swanson and Public Defender Ned Barone at the time agreed the plea was the right choice to make.
“There’s no 100% certainty that he would have gotten more time than he did,” Swanson said in October 2017. “There was the hope that we could get a 25-to-life sentence but there’s no guarantees at trial and the finality with him waiving his (right to) appeal is important to us.”
“Well, I think that in this particular case it’s a good plea, it’s a good resolution,” Barone said. “I think that it takes into consideration a number of different factors that were relevant in this specific case.”
As part of the plea deal, Swanson told The Post-Journal that Robbins waived his right to appeal, “which means essentially that he’ll be spending the next 20-25 years in prison, which is an appropriate sentence given the conduct,” he said.
Robbins is currently incarcerated at the Auburn Correctional Facility in Cayuga County. According to online records, he is not eligible for conditional release until 2038. Otherwise, his sentence will keep him in jail through 2041.