Minutes before scheduled sentencing, suspect in Niagara Falls rape asks to change his guilty plea

Local News

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – There was a last minute shock in a Niagara County courtroom on Friday. Just moments before Michael Ciskiewic, the suspect in a brutal Niagara Falls rape, was scheduled to be sentenced, he told the judge he wanted to change his guilty plea.

Ciskiewic recently pleaded guilty to predatory sexual assault. The plea agreement called for him to be sentenced to no more than 12 years to life in prison. Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy had planned to issue Ciskiewic’s sentence Friday afternoon before the suspect announced his change of mind.

Police say the attack happened on Monroe Avenue in June. Ciskiewic stood accused of dragging a woman into his home and chaining her up. At the time, investigators said they found the victim thanks to the help of a bloodhound. A standoff ensued outside the home, and Ciskiewic was later found in a wooded area of the city after a manhunt.

Ciskiewic will now have to submit a petition to the judge to change his plea. It’s unclear exactly what grounds he will cite when filing that petition. But when he was asked by the judge if one of his complaints is regarding his attorney, Dominic Saraceno, Ciskiewic replied in the affirmative.

“But it’s not personal,” Ciskiewic added.

Murphy warned Ciskiewic he may deny the request to change his plea.

“It’s not an automatic thing,” Murphy said.

Ciskiewic is scheduled to be back in front of Murphy on Wednesday, when he is expected to be appointed an attorney to help him submit his petition.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek admitted Ciskiewic’s change of mind was a surprise.

“Is it common? No,” Wojtaszek said. “Is it uncommon? Not when you have life on the other end of the sentence.”

“We see it quite often when people are looking at lengthy state prison sentences,” Saraceno agreed. The day of sentencing they kind of get cold feet or second thoughts and they make the request to the judge.”

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