Hours before jury selection was scheduled to begin, a Westport man changed his plea to guilty first-degree strangulation on Dec. 10.
John J. King, 48, will receive up to 10 years of prison in connection with Sept. 27, 2011 assault of his partner.
King was charged in 2011 for punching his wife in the face during an argument and then strangling her until she was rendered unconscious at their home. District Attorney Kristie Sprague said the victim could not say how long she was unconscious before she was able to call 911. The victim was transported by ambulance and treated at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
King with assistance of his counsel, Joseph Brennan of Glens Falls, admitted to his conduct and entered a plea of guilty to first-degree strangulation. According to the plea agreement King will be sentenced to 10 year prison sentence with 5 years of post-release supervision, an order of protection for the victim, mandatory surcharges and fees, as well as a waiver of his appeal rights. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21, at 2 p.m.
King had initially submitted a plea of not guilty and Sprague said she was unsure why he had a sudden change of heart.
“It can be feel like a lot of pressure to start a trial,” Sprague said.
King initially faced multiple charges including: second-degree attempted murder, first-degree strangulation, second-degree strangulation, third-degree assault and second-degree unlawful imprisonment.
King would have faced up to 25 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.
Sprague said this was the first case of strangulation to come before Essex County Court since the legislation passed in 2010.
Sprague said the new law, Article 121, Strangulation and related offenses, will help law enforcement to match elements to identify the crime more thoroughly.
“Before we’d have to look at assault or attempted murder,” Sprague said. “Defendants would get a slap on the wrist after almost killing someone because of the way the crime was classified.”
The crime can be classified into two variations: intent to cause death, or intent to cause serious physical injury.
The crime degree ranges from a class a misdemeanor to a class c felony; criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, strangulation in the first and second-degree.
According to a statement by the District Attorneys Office, in cases of first-degree strangulation requires the People to prove that the defendant applied pressure on the throat or neck of the victim with the intent to impede the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of such victim and thereby caused serious physical injury. Serious physical injury in this case was the substantial risk of death to the victim.
Sprague said in upcoming weeks both Essex County and Clinton County plan to host an event promoting education of the new regulations. Using resources such as the Strangulation Training Institute website, and consulting with other law enforcement.
According to their website, Gael Strack, CEO of the National Family Justice Center Alliance said strangulation is often an overlooked crime because of the lack of visibility of injuries but the assault causes brain damage and in many cases, death in less than four minutes.
For more information about the research surrounding strangulation go to www.strangulationtraininginstitute.com.