ITHACA, N.Y. — The man who was accused of punching a Tompkins County judge in the face last week appeared in Ithaca City Court on Thursday afternoon, accepting a plea deal that reduced felony charges against him.

Court records show that Carmen Dechellis, 56, approached Judge John C. Rowley at a building on the West Side of Ithaca, where Dechellis had previously been banned from. In a written statement, Rowley said he smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated.

“I politely but clearly told him that he had to leave. Carmen stood up, and I escorted him out of the room into the rear entrance way of the building. I was aware Carmen was banned from the building,” Rowley said.

Rowley said Dechellis snapped and began yelling and became scared that Dechellis was going to physically harm him.

“Carmen did then proceed to swing wildly at me with his right, closed fist, punching me in the left side of my face. The impact caused me to drop my phone. Carmen attempted to stomp on my phone with his foot,” Rowley said.

Dechellis was charged with a felony charge of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and misdemeanors for fourth-degree criminal mischief, third-degree attempted assault, and third-degree menacing, as well as one violation for trespassing.

In court on Thursday, Dechellis was represented by attorney Susan BetzJitomir in front of Judge Elizabeth Burns, a Cortland City Court judge who was brought in for the case.

“He’s a grandfather, we need to be aware of the caretaking he does,” BetzJitomir told Burns. “He would like to be released into the community to get his affairs in order.”

Cortland District Attorney Patrick Perfetti, who prosecuted the case, came to an agreement with BetzJitomir to bring the felony charge down for Dechellis.

“We would agree to amend the felony complaint to a misdemeanor,” Prefetti said.

After a discussion with BetzJitomir, Dechellis agreed to accept the deal, and plead guilty to fourth-degree criminal mischief.

“You understand why you’re here and what’s going on?” Burns asked Dechellis, to which he replied, “Sure.”

“You prevented Rowley from calling police by damaging his phone,” Burns said. “I will certainly consider any pre-sentencing information you choose to give me – things that would warrant a lighter sentence, I will consider.”

Dechellis faces up to a year in jail following his acceptance of the plea. His sentencing will resume on June 19.

Alyvia Covert

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.