Surprise Twist at Sentencing for Group Home Killing

October 21, 2010 Updated Oct 21, 2010 at 9:34 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

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October 21, 2010 Updated Oct 21, 2010 at 9:34 PM EDT

Lockport, NY (WKBW) - One of the teenage suspects in the beating death of a Lockport group home worker wants to withdraw his guilty plea. Robert Thousand, 18, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon just minutes before the judge was to sentence him.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza does not have to let Thousand withdraw his manslaughter plea since it has already been accepted by the court. Thousand has admitted involvement in the July 2009 murder of Renee Greco, a counselor at Lockport group home for troubled teens. Thousand testified recently against Anthony Allen, 19, where he said that Allen beat Greco with a wooden table leg after Thousand threw a blanket over her during a card game at the group home. A jury convicted Allen of second degree murder. On Thursday, Thousand did not elaborate on his reasons for wanting to withdraw his manslaughter plea.

"I've been thinking about some things," Thousand told the judge, "I don't know how it would work but I want to withdraw my plea."

Thousand's attorney, Joseph Terranova, says the announcement caught him by surprise. The judge called a brief recess so Terranova could discuss the change with his client. Terranova says he then explained to Thousand that by withdrawing his manslaughter plea he could be tried for murder, and statements he made in Anthony Allen's trial could be used against him. A second degree murder conviction would likely come with a 25-years-to-life sentence while Thousand would likely serve less than 20 years behind bars for the manslaughter plea. Even after the discussion with his attorney Thousand still said he wants to withdraw his plea. Terranova says Thousand did not explain his reasons to him.

"I probed that and I think it is the product of some faulty thinking and I told them that directly, but the legal process will have to play itself out and we'll see what happens," says Terranova.

Thousand is due back in court on November 12th. That's when the judge is expected to decide if she'll accept his motion to withdraw his plea, but she warned Thousand in court on Thursday that it's a long shot that she'll accept it.