20 to 60 months in jail

MAYVILLE – Dunkirk resident Christopher M. Grant will spend 20 months to five years in state prison for his role in the September 2012 shooting death of Frank T. Slate Jr., 73, of Fredonia.

The 28-year-old appeared at Chautauqua County Court Monday morning in front of Judge John Ward, who handed down the sentence after brief comments by County District Attorney David Foley and Grant’s legal counsel, Fredonia attorney Jason Schmidt.

“Prior to entering into this arrangement (the pre-negotiated plea deal) with Mr. Grant, I had communications with the family (of Slate) regarding his cooperation, and the family agreed to allow us to proceed with the sentence at this time,” Foley told the judge, adding afterward the family was thankful the case was not dragged out as part of a full-scale trial.

Several family members of Slate were present in the audience for the sentencing.

Ward asked Grant if there was anything he wished to say on his own behalf. Grant said he was “sorry for the way things turned out.”

“It shouldn’t have happened the way it did, but you can’t change the past,” he added.

Schmidt pointed out to the judge that Grant is aware he will be credited 82 days on his sentence for already serving time in county jail.

After the sentencing, Foley explained the reasoning behind Grant’s 20 months to five years, since the maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is five to 15 years.

“First, none of the evidence suggested that Mr. Grant was the shooter in the incident, and secondly, he cooperated with the prosecution against Mr. (Theodore S.) Wickham, (his accomplice),” Foley said. “This was a pre-arranged sentence based on conversations that took place between myself, the defense attorney and the court. We agreed to a certain sentence in exchange for his cooperation.”

Schmidt told the OBSERVER afterward there were no surprises in Grant’s sentence.

“This was a pre-determined plea deal and this sentencing is the end result of that process, which has gone on since 2012,” he said. “It went as planned. Mr. Grant had been preparing himself for incarceration and he was prepared (Monday) to proceed with the sentencing as it occurred.”

Grant pleaded guilty to the indictment of second-degree manslaughter, a class C felony, in December 2012.

The person Foley said actually pulled the trigger and shot Slate to death with a 16-gauge shotgun, Theodore Wickham, 46, of Dunkirk, is scheduled to be sentenced March 17. Wickham pleaded to the indictment of second-degree manslaughter in mid-January.

Foley previously informed the OBSERVER Wickham’s sentence, like Grant’s, is also pre-determined, adding Wickham will receive a longer sentence.

“This crime was an unfortunate situation,” Foley said. “The evidence we were able to extract afterward suggested that it was a reckless act, meaning not intentional. There was some suggestion about Mr. Grant being angry with Mr. Slate prior, but the events that occurred thereafter were, at least in some degree, separate.”

Rumors swirled after the shooting that abuse of some kind may have been the reason Grant and Wickham were angry with Slate that night.

When asked about this, Foley declined to comment.

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