Editor’s Note: Only part of this story was published this morning. After criticism from readers, we have decided to run the series in full today.
Click here for the Ithaca Voice statement on and apology for our initial decision to only publish the first part of the story.
Ithaca, N.Y. — A case involving a bloody melee that sent four people to the hospital in 2013 is now working its way through the court system.
New details have been revealed after court documents reviewed by the Ithaca Voice show the gruesome nature of the incident.
(Warning: There are descriptions of sickening violence in this story.)
1 – What happened?
The following was obtained through a “Summary of Facts” and facts produced at the suppression hearing from court documents:
On a cloudy October evening in 2013, “40-50 people” were involved in a “sea of fighting” on the 600 block of Chestnut Street in Ithaca.
Desiree Richmond was involved in a conflict with another woman. Richmond told the woman that she was going to “f— her up.”
The woman left on foot, and attempted to get in her car. Richmond pursued the woman to her car, where she slammed the car door on the woman’s left leg.
After the altercation, Richmond confronted another woman in the street; she then shoved the woman. After the push, Richmond’s son, Dante Sweat, came up behind the woman and struck her.
Sweat, then 17, proceeded to stab the woman multiple times in the head and body.
As Sweat was stabbing his first of four victims, his mother pursued the woman — whom court documents say she had slammed the car door — on foot.
She chased the woman into her own home, where she tackled her to the floor. She then cut her in the abdomen and on the hand with a “sharp-edged instrument,” according to court documents.
Her son then entered the residence, and proceeded to stab the woman in the left side of her abdomen while his mother held her down.
According to an officer interviewed after the incident, “there were people screaming from all different directions…there were many weapons involved — knives, guns, baseball bats.”
The daughter of the woman who was getting stabbed then tried to intervene. Sweat then cut her throat with the same knife he was using to stab her mother, and the same knife he used to stab the other woman, lying bloodied in the street.
Another daughter of the woman getting stabbed saw five small children, ages 1, 2, 7, 9, and 11, according to court documents, that were watching the assaults on their mother and sister. They were crying.
She attempted to move the children away from the area, and while relocating the 1-year-old girl, Sweat then stabbed her in the abdomen.
Police arrived shortly after the final stabbing, with weapons drawn and called ambulances to the scene to escort four women, one of which was found in the street, to Cayuga Medical Center, according to a report by the Syracuse Post-Standard.
Three of the women were then transferred to a regional trauma center, according to police. None suffered life-threatening injuries and all were in stable condition within a few days.
2 — The post-melee investigation
Soon after arriving at the scene, an Ithaca police officer detained Desiree Richmond and locked her in the back seat of a marked IPD vehicle. The officer asked where her son, Dante Sweat, was located, according to court documents.
Richmond said that Sweat was located inside their apartment.
Ithaca police then surrounded the apartment with their weapons drawn. They began ordering everyone within the apartment outside.
Sweat complied; an officer handcuffed him and then performed a “thorough patdown.” The officer then locked Sweat in the back of an IPD vehicle.
The officer asked Sweat what happened, without reading Sweat his Miranda Rights. Sweat then made a series of incriminating statements, and when asked where the weapon he used was located, he stated that it was in the downstairs bathroom.
Ithaca police entered the residence. (Some later noted in court documents that this was done without a warrant.) The officer observed the location of the knife provided by Sweat in his “un-Mirandized” statement.
After a preliminary search of the premises, the officer then drove Sweat to the Ithaca Police headquarters located just a few minutes away.
An investigator met with Richmond, who gave her permission to search the apartment. The investigator was aware that Sweat had revealed the location of the knife, and that was “the first place [he] went to” when he arrived at the apartment.
Meanwhile, at IPD headquarters, Sweat was placed in an interrogation room where he was read his Miranda Rights. Following administration of the warning, Sweat repeated “essentially the same” statements he made in his “un-Mirandized” interview from the back of the police car.
Sweat would later be charged with four counts of attempted murder.
3 – Sweat’s statements at issue
Due to the absence of an initial Miranda Warning after detaining Sweat, Sweat’s attorney argued that Sweat’s statement should not play a part in the trial.
“It has long been settled that when a person suspected of a crime is taken into custody or significantly deprived of his freedom, then the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that the police administer the ‘Miranda Warnings’ prior to any interrogation,” wrote Sweat’s attorney, Thomas Kheel.
Kheel is the third attorney afforded to Sweat. Seth Peacock was his first, and Jerome Mayersak the second. Mayersak’s relationship with Sweat, however, was “irreparably damaged,” court documents show.
The Court ruled that the officer’s interview with Sweat was lawful.
The officer “did not act improperly when he asked one of those detained – Mr. Sweat – to explain the circumstances afoot. The inquiry by [the officer] about the incident and the location of the knife was neither accusatory nor prolonged nor tainted by threats or promises,” court documents said.
“Similarly, [the officer’s] inquiry – presented to Ms. Richmond – about the whereabouts of Mr. Sweat was neither accustatory nor coercive and was justified by a chaotic, emergency situation in which the police were confronted with multiple stabbing victims, serious injuries, and a perpetrator whose location was not then known by police,” said court documents.
“Huddle’s questioning of Ms. Richmond clearly was not coercive or otherwise tainted by police misconduct.”
4 – Plea deal
Sweat originally pleaded not guilty to a burglary in the 1st degree charge, four counts of 2nd degree attempted murder, three counts of assault in the 1st degree, unlawful imprisonment in the 1st degree, and five counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to court documents.
An order of protection was put in place, which stated the Sweat could not come into contact with any one of the people, an order which court documents reveal Sweat violated at one point.
The People offered a plea bargain offer to Sweat and his mother as of early September, according to court documents.
In the offer, Sweat and his mother would both have to agree for it to be valid. The following would have to happen:
1.) Mr. Sweat would admit to all the charges in the Indictment, the People would recommend a Youthful Offender Adjudication that would take the place of the felony conviction at the time of sentencing and the Court would impose whatever lawful sentence is warranted.
(If this were to happen, Sweat would be faced with a maximum of four years in prison and he would have no criminal record after the fact, according to Article 720.20 of New York Criminal Procedure Law. He could, however, be disqualified from public office and public employment in the future.)
“County Court should grant Youthful Offender status to the defendant,” wrote Sweat’s attorney. “The defendant’s alleged actions were obviously ‘impetuous and ill-considered,’ as he immaturely and in a moment of extreme adolescent emotion, believed he was justified in protecting his mother from what he perceived to be neighborhood bullies.”
2.) Ms. Richmond would plead to one count of Burglary in the 1st degree and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
According to court documents, Sweat expresses a desire to enter the plea deal. He and the People believe that it is a lawful offer.
Richmond, however, maintains her innocence. She also doesn’t believe that the offer is lawful, according to court documents.
Richmond submitted a video as evidence of her innocence, along with a statement from a witness, but the courts found that these pieces of evidence bring about no new information and do not prove her innocence.
In the video provided by Richmond, she is seen exiting her van and marching across the street, confronting one alleged victim while that alleged victim was arguing with some other person on the street.
In the video, according to court documents, there is shoving and striking between people. Richmond claims that her son is the person visible striking an alleged victim in the back. Shortly after Sweat struck the alleged victim, the group dispersed.
In the witness statement, the witness claims that Richmond may have been pushed into the apartment where she allegedly committed criminal acts including burglary.
The trial is scheduled to commence on November 24, 2014.