AUBURN — Accused of violently assaulting a 9-year-old boy, Cory Pilcher again came forward to authorities with his guilt — this time in a court of law.
The Brutus man was 26 when he was charged with second-degree assault for seriously injuring a boy he was supervising at the time. Pilcher told investigators that the boy "did not deserve what I did to him," according to court records.
Now 27, Pilcher appeared in Cayuga County Court on Tuesday to plead guilty.
The admission thus far promises Pilcher a sentence of at least six years in prison, along with post-release supervision for up to three years and an order of protection for the child.
Judge Mark Fandrich will decide during sentencing June 7 whether to impose a six-year term as requested by Pilcher's attorney, Rome Canzano, or to adhere to the 6.5 years recommended by Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann. Budelmann said he may also seek restitution for the child's medical expenses.
The maximum sentence for second-degree assault, a D felony, is seven years.
Pilcher, of 36 Second Drive, maintained a flat expression through much of Tuesday's proceedings, though his voice broke for a brief moment after Fandrich revisited the general details of the assault.
Pilcher, along with co-defendant Kristine MacDowell, was watching over several children at the couple's home Nov. 29, including 9-year-old Eli MacDowell. Eli is not the couple's child, authorities have indicated.
The assault occurred when Eli MacDowell tried to take a Jell-O pack from Pilcher's son, investigators stated in court records. After Eli MacDowell was told to stop by Pilcher several times without success, Pilcher lifted the boy over his head and slammed him into the floor, knocking him unconscious.
Eli MacDowell was airlifted to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse with critical injuries that required an induced coma for surgery. Kristine MacDowell called 911 and reported that he suffered his injuries as the result of a fall.
For her part, Kristine MacDowell stands accused of endangering the welfare of a child and falsely reporting an incident, both misdemeanors. Her charges are pending, Budelmann said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pilcher's plea satisfies his involvement in any other alleged incidences involving Eli MacDowell or his sister, Nora, over the period between Nov. 27 to 29, Budelmann said. In one instance, Kristine MacDowell told investigators that Pilcher put hot sauce in Nora's mouth and taped it shut, according to court records.
Canzano said his client has remained remorseful and contrite through his months in the Cayuga County Jail.
Pilcher could have been prosecuted for first-degree assault — or worse if the child's condition worsened — but attorneys negotiated at the lesser charge after Eli MacDowell showed signs of recovery, Canzano said.
Pilcher, who has no prior criminal history, decided to plead guilty because he wanted to accept responsibility and not put anyone, namely the boy and his family, through a lengthy legal trial, Canzano said.
"He is one of the most contrite individuals that I've ever dealt with," Canzano said. "He has great remorse over this. Just about every time I talk to him about it, he's crying about it."
Pilcher's appearance Tuesday was his first in Cayuga County Court. Traditional court hearings for Pilcher's case were waived as attorneys monitored the child's condition, Budelmann said.
While the boy is recovering, it is difficult to tell whether the incident will result in any residual brain damage, Budelmann said. The DA said he sought less than the maximum since Pilcher decided to avoid a trial.
"I'm glad the matter is resolved. It was horrific," Budelmann said. "Very rarely do I get surprised by the things people do to each other, but this one did shock me with the violence involved."