ITHACA, N.Y. — The man accused of fatally shooting a UPS driver in the parking lot of Wal-Mart rejected a plea offer on Thursday afternoon in Tompkins County Court, more than 6 months after the incident.
Justin Barkley, 38, was charged with second-degree murder after shooting and running over William Schumacher on Dec. 8, 2016. Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski said in court on Thursday that if Barkley chose to plead guilty, his sentence would range from a minimum of 15 years to life with a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.
Filipowski said the District Attorney’s office was not offering a reduction and recommended that Barkley plead guilty to the top count, seeking the maximum sentence of 25 to life. Barkley is also charged with menacing a police officer, which Filipowski said would potentially add 2 to 8 years to his full sentence.
The trial process was initially suspended when the Judge John Rowley questioned whether or not Barkley was competent to stand trial after he told the court he believed he shot President Donald Trump.
During his arraignment on Dec. 19, Barkley attempted to plead guilty and said: “I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly – I went there to purposely shoot and kill him and put him down.” Barkley said he was confident that he had never met a man named William Schumacher.
Related: Man accused of Ithaca homicide: ‘I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly’
Judge Rowley rejected his initial plea, noting that Barkley was unable to differentiate Donald Trump from Schumacher, and requested a mental evaluation before continuing the rest of the trial.
A month later on Jan. 19, Barkley re-appeared in court after two psychiatric evaluations. According to a clerical error, Rowley said it appeared that the two psychiatric examiners were split on their decision to deem Barkley competent, and he was sent back to a psychiatric facility for further evaluation.
In court on Thursday, Judge Rowley told Barkley that “accepting responsibility for criminal action is a benefit to you – what’s in it for you is a known range of sentencing.” Rowley added that if Barkley chose not to accept the plea on Thursday, the prosecution was not obligated to extend the offer again.
Filipowski focused largely on the part of the indictment which charges Barkley with menacing a police officer. “There were four police witnesses that will testify that they were placed in a situation of fear.” District Attorney Matt Van Houten added, “police officers who responded to this scene were in fear for their lives – we are taking this very seriously.”
Barkley’s attorney, Peter Dumas, said that a couple of arguments made by the prosecution worried his client.
“He has made statements in the past and wants to make sure that the court knows that his previous statements were made under mental disease and defect,” Dumas said.
After speaking with Dumas privately, Barkley told the courts that the plea was “not what I am choosing to pursue.” Van Houten said following the proceeding that the DA’s office will keep the plea offer open until May 26th, when other motions for the hearing are due.
“We were hopeful he would plead,” Van Houten said, adding that the family members of Schumacher did not want to relive the pain through trial. The DA’s office said that they had talked to Schumacher’s family at length, and they had approved the details of the plea.
While Barkley is still able to accept a plea until the 26th, the DA’s office made clear that they would not offer a reduction to the defendant. In the meantime, jury selection for his case has been scheduled to begin on Sept. 14.
Additional details have been added to this story for clarity.
Featured photo by Jolene Almendarez/ The Ithaca Voice: Justin Barkley is taken into the Tompkins County Courthouse for initial arraignment in January.