County: No plea agreement for man accused of arson

Jeremy Jenney, of Cortland, accused of arson following an incident in 2022, was in Cortland County Court on Thursday. (Photo provided by Kevin L. Smith of The Cortland Voice).

No agreement to a plea deal was made for a man accused of arson after intending to harm individuals in an apartment.

Jeremy Jenney, of Cortland, was arrested in September 2022 after he threw a molotov cocktail through the window of an apartment on Northcliffe Road. According to court documents, four individuals were in the apartment at the time of the incident, with one individual suffering minor burns on his legs.

For this arrest, Jenney was charged with first-degree arson (a Class A-1 Felony), second-degree arson (a Class-B Felony), first-degree reckless endangerment (a Class-D Felony), second-degree assault (a Class-D Felony), two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon (a Class-D Felony) and aggravated family offense (a Class-E Felony).

On Thursday in Cortland County Court, Jenney’s defense attorney Ira Pesserilo said the pre-plea evaluation recommended probation.

Chief assistant district attorney Chris Simser, confused by Pesserilo’s plea recommendation, said that an offer that included a potential plea to second-degree arson was sent to Pesserilo in November 2022 by assistant district attorney Ric Van Donsel. Court docs noted Van Donsel originally represented the DA’s office in this case.

Simser noted on Thursday that the plea offer to second-degree arson came with a recommended sentencing of seven years in prison. The average recommended sentencing for this charge, Simser added, is up to 15 years in prison that includes up to five years of post-release supervision.

According to Simser, a signed plea offer was not on file. Pesserilo confirmed there was no plea agreement, but added the court agreed to have a pre-plea report done.

“There is nothing in the file indicating if (the plea offer) was ever modified,” Simser said. “Probation is not a legal sentence.”

According to Pesserilo, Jenney is on medications and dealing with his mental health. Pesserilo noted that since the start of this case, he has argued that Jenney has a “serious mental disability.”

“He is simply not capable of understanding what he’s doing (and comprehending his actions), let alone the consequences of his behavior,” Pesserilo said. “He’s been through this virtually his entire life.”

This prompted Pesserilo to recommend probation.

“We must be humane with (Jenney) and give him humane treatment,” Pesserilo said, adding Jenney needs a “degree of supervision.”

County judge David Alexander adjourned the session without a plea deal in place. Alexander suggested Pesserilo discuss and review the case with Simser in order “to offer some alternative.”

Pesserilo questioned whether Simser will continue to represent the DA’s office, or if duties will return to Van Donsel. Simser replied by saying he will consult with district attorney Patrick Perfetti on the matter.

The defense’s next motion in the case is due by Sept. 25. Response from the DA’s office is due Oct. 9.

Jenney is currently being held in Cortland County Jail.