ITHACA, N.Y. – A man who reportedly robbed an elderly woman cashiering at a smoke shop in Ithaca rejected a plea deal Tuesday that would have required him to confess to felony third-degree robbery.

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Will Howell Jr., 32, admitted to stealing money from the smoke shop at 124 W. State St. on May 2 while he was on probation for stealing a wallet in the Ithaca Commons Market in December.

He said he was given incorrect change for a purchase and he snatched money from the cash register.

He refused, however, to confess to having physical contact with the elderly cashier.

Judge Joseph Cassidy asked, “The cash register was just open there and you just took the money and nobody tried to stop you?”

“I didn’t touch her. She didn’t touch me. We had no interaction,” Howell said. “Put that on my life.”

The plea deal arranged for Howell would have set a maximum sentence at three to six years and allowed his lawyer to suggest a lesser punishment during a sentencing trial. He would have had to plead guilty to third-degree robbery – which dictates that force was used during the crime – to qualify for the deal.

“I’m not no criminal. I’m an addict. I need help,” Howell said.

Howell’s attorney, Adam Abelson, said he and his client discussed the terms of the plea deal ad nauseam prior to appearing in court.

“I’m in a no win situation,” he said adding that he would feel more ethically compliant if another attorney was assigned to the case.

He declined to say after court concluded whether he would continue representing Howell.

Howell will reappear in court at a later date.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.