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AUBURN — A former Auburn inmate maintains his innocence of causing the death of a fellow inmate following an altercation in 2017.

Ashton Bellamy, 32, is facing one count each of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault for his connection in the death of former Auburn prison inmate Daniel Wingate. On July 9, 2017, Wingate was found in his cell unresponsive and covered in blood. He was evaluated, then transported to Auburn Community Hospital where he died on July 14 due to blunt force injuries to the head.

Bellamy appeared in Cayuga County Criminal Court Thursday with his defense attorney, Rome Canzano. Currently incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on a previous first-degree attempted assault conviction, according to the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Bellamy appeared due to the court executing a force order to have him show up. Canzano apologized to the court and said Bellamy is, and has been, cooperative but was ill, not trying to refuse to appear.

Rupert Alberga, 37, who is serving a 24-year-to-life sentence for a previous second-degree murder conviction, was a codefendant in the incident and was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Alberga has asserted for more than a month that there is no decedent in the case, refusing to acknowledge there is a dead body.

In court Thursday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Valdina said Bellamy was in the cell next to Wingate — a sex offender soon to be released — and Wingate used "the N word." When all cells were opened later that same day, Bellamy and Alberga entered the victim's cell simultaneously. Bellamy punched Wingate in the face twice, Valdina said, but then Alberga continued to beat him. While it is unknown who's blows caused Wingate's death, Valdina said Bellamy "intentionally aided Alberga." 

"We don't believe his intention was to kill the victim," Valdina said of Bellamy, but The People do believe he intended to seriously injure the victim and intended to aid Alberga — who earlier said he was going to "f-up the victim." 

Valdina said that because it is a homicide case there were plea bargaining restrictions, and the lowest available offer would be for Bellamy to plea to second-degree assault, with a sentence of 12 years to life in prison. If convicted of assault at trial, Valdina said Bellamy would likely be looking at 25 years to life.

"I remain confident and optimistic we'll be able to resolve this in an equitable way to all parties," Canzano said. He said Bellamy maintains innocence in causing the death of Wingate and "remains committed to participating and cooperating."

Canzano said there are "numerous legal issues and factual problems" with the case and he doesn't feel The People have sufficient evidence to establish Bellamy's intent to cause serious physical injury "in punching a victim who was picking on him." While Bellamy doesn't discount his involvement, Canzano said, "we're looking for a way to resolve this correctly."

Valdina said he "respectfully disagreed" with Canzano's account of the manslaughter, and feels the intent to cause injury was clear. He said The People would leave the offer of 12 years to life in prison open until Jan. 24.

Both Alberga and Bellamy have trial dates set to begin April 1.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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Towns Reporter