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Basil takes deal, pleads guilty to manslaughter in Sager death

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Jeffrey Basil, whose murder conviction in the death of William Sager last year was set aside due to juror misconduct, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in a deal entered Tuesday morning in State Supreme Court.

Under the deal, Basil will serve at least 15 years in prison with a maximum term of 21 years. He will then face five years of supervised release.

By taking the plea deal, Basil admits to pushing Sager down a flight of stairs inside Molly's Pub on May 11, 2014. Sager, an Air National Guardsmen, died the following July of injuries sustained in that fall.

Joel Daniels, one of Basil's three defense attorneys, said outside the courtroom that the plea deal eliminates a second trial and the risks that come with it.

"We would have run the risk of the possibility of being convicted of murder," Daniels said. " And if that happened, at sentencing Jeff Basil would be looking at a possible life sentence."

In January, Basil was convicted of second-degree murder in the case but that conviction was set aside by Judge Penny Wolfgang following the revelation that one of the jurors did not provide accurate information about her military service - something defense attorneys believed might cause bias given Sager's military connection - as well as a prior arrest.

Christopher Belling represented the Erie County District Attorney's office in court but did not comment after Tuesday morning's proceedings. Instead, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty met with media to offer the prosecution's response to the plea deal.

The prosecution, too, faced risks in a new trial. Basil could have been acquitted and walk free but Flaherty pointed out that had he been convicted of manslaughter by trial, he would possible face less jail time than what the plea deal requires.

Flaherty also asserted that the Sager family supports the deal.

"Mr. Basil stood up in court and admitted his guilt," Flaherty said. "The sentence will be appropriate. It will be stiff, 15 to 21 years in state prison. The family can leave today knowing it's finished."

Sentencing is scheduled for July 22.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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