ITHACA, N.Y.  — A man facing a 15 count indictment on drug and illegal gun possession charges pleaded not guilty to all charges Wednesday afternoon at the Tompkins County Courthouse.

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Corbin Whyte is accused of having seven guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, prescription pills and more than $1,000 in cash when police pulled him over March 28 in Ithaca to arrest him on an outstanding warrant.

After being held with no bail since then, Judge John Rowley issued a $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond for Whyte’s release.

“There are serious issues with regard to the stop, the search,” defense attorney Edward Goehler said in court. “We are asking that you impose a reasonable bail that Mr. Whyte and his family can make.”

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia said Whyte should be held without bail until the legal matter is resolved.

“His potential sentencing …would be, on one of these charges, between five to 15 years,” Bonavia said. “We want the (current) remand status to continue.”

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Whyte is charged with seven counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, six counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Bonavia cited Whyte’s previous history with law, including two felony an five misdemeanor convictions, as proof of the defendant’s disregard for the law.

One of those felonies is for tampering with physical evidence. Whyte was previously charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Paul Garcia in 2010. After three trials resulted in hung juries, the district attorney’s office decided not to pursue a fourth trial.

The other felony was for fleeing from Ithaca police in 2014 after a warrant was issued for Whyte’s arrest in Florida, where he was supposed to complete probation after being sentenced to two years in prison following his previous conviction.

Bonavia said the weight of the evidence, which includes footage from at least one police body camera, is enough to prove the charges against Whyte.

Goehler, however, said, ” He showed up to a murder trial…He will appear when he has to appear.”

He said Whyte is involved in several businesses in town and provided a letter from one of Whyte’s business partners to Rowley.

Whyte’s extended family, including two young children and a baby due to be born in August, also live in Tompkins County, Goehler said.

He pointed out that at least half a dozen supporters were in the front row of the courthouse on Whyte’s behalf.

“He has no intention of leaving the community, your honor,” Goehler said.

Rowley said he weighed those factors when considering bail and was concerned about the evidence police said they found during the search of Whyte’s vehicle.

“That, at last on its face, is a very strong case. I don’t know anything about the search issues,” Rowley said, though he added that he expected to hear about them soon from the attorneys.

After setting bail, Rowley scheduled a conference for the case in May and a tentative trial date in August.

Clarification: The language in the ninth paragraph has changed since publication to clarify that Whtye was not convicted of murder due to hung juries, not because a jury found him innocent.     

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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.