N.Y. cop killer appeals murder conviction
By Ben Dobbin
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Ralph "Bucky" Phillips is embellishing his reputation as a troublesome inmate as his lawyers move forward with an appeal of his conviction for killing a state trooper during the largest manhunt in New York history.
Phillips, 46, who is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole, has been sanctioned five times since arriving at a remote prison in the Adirondack Mountains in January 2007, most notably for seeking to obtain unspecified explosive devices, the state Corrections Department said Tuesday.
Phillips maintains he pleaded guilty to a litany of murder, attempted murder and escape charges because he got bad advice from a court-appointed lawyer. At an Oct. 20 hearing, his current attorneys will ask the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Rochester to overturn his convictions so he can stand trial.
Phillips was captured in a field near the Pennsylvania line on Sept. 8, 2006, five months after escaping from a jail near Buffalo. While on the run in western New York, he was stopped in a stolen car near Elmira in June and opened fire on Trooper Sean Brown, who was hit once in the abdomen and recovered.
On Aug. 31, he shot Troopers Joseph Longobardo and Donald Baker Jr. with a high-powered rifle as they staked out his former girlfriend's home in rural Chautauqua County. Longobardo had his leg amputated and died three days later. Baker was shot through the torso and was hospitalized for almost three months.
Since being sentenced in December 2006, Phillips has faced 11 charges of inmate misconduct, ranging from harassment and violent behavior to mailing a letter "asking that certain explosive devices be brought into Clinton Correctional Facility," said Corrections Department spokesman Erik Kriss.
The letter, dated Sept. 26, 2007, was intercepted by prison authorities, and "on the basis of that he was disciplined," Kriss said.
Phillips has been continually confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. He will remain in the prison's "special housing unit" through next June as a result of two violations this summer for "soliciting goods and services" without permission from someone other than a close relative, Kriss said.
Since his arrival at the prison in Dannemora near the Canadian border, Phillips has been viewed as an escape risk. One of his sentences was a 25-year-to-life term for escaping from an Erie County jail in April 2006 by using an industrial can opener to cut a hole in a kitchen ceiling.
The Buffalo News quoted a letter from Phillips in May in which he complained that prison officials "are trying to destroy my mental facilities (sic) by housing me with mentally disturbed prisoners who scream and yell night and day and cover themselves in feces, flood their cells and throw feces."
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