State appellate court upholds Montgomery County conviction

ALBANY — A Palatine Bridge man currently serving 15 years in state prison for felony arson had his Montgomery County Court conviction affirmed Thursday by the state Appellate Division.

Scott J. Cole, 41, currently an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, lost his appeal after having his July 14, 2015 second-degree arson conviction upheld.

He had previously been indicted on four counts of second-degree attempted murder and single counts of second- and third-degree arson, second-degree criminal mischief and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Authorities at the time said Cole set fires at a home at 104 Failing Hill Road in the town of Palatine on Jan. 29, 2015 with the intent of killing four people. One fire involved a building, and the other involved a vehicle that sustained more than $1,500 in damage.

The Appellate Division decision noted Cole entered a guilty plea to second-degree arson, waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentence and was sentenced as a second violent felony offender to 15 years in prison followed by five years of post release supervision.

The court ruled Cole “made no statements during the plea allocution or at sentencing that were inconsistent with his guilt or called into question the voluntariness of his plea.”

Appellate judges stated that “to the extent that defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel implicates the voluntariness of his plea, it is similarly not preserved for our review on direct appeal in the absence of a motion to withdraw his plea.”

The decision said Cole argued that the judgment of conviction should be vacated because “he was not competent to enter a knowing, intelligent and voluntary plea and counsel’s failure to raise this issue deprived him of effective representation.” It said Cole also contended that it was error for County Court to deny one of his motions without a hearing,

“Although medical records establish that defendant received treatment for psychiatric issues prior to and during his incarceration and around the time of his plea, there is no indication that defendant was incapable of understanding the nature of the proceedings,” the ruling said.

Cole “actively participated in the plea proceedings and asked questions to clarify the nature of his plea,” the decision noted.

“Accordingly, counsel’s failure to investigate further or request a competency hearing did not deprive defendant of effective assistance,” the ruling said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Kerry Minor

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