April 3, 2014
Michael Briggs could spend the rest of his life in state prison for the December 2012 killing of an 82-year-old former nun.
Briggs, 38, pleaded guilty in Schenectady County Court on Monday to one count of second-degree murder and an attempted burglary count. He faces a total sentence of 30 years to life in state prison at his June sentencing.
The plea came as a trial was scheduled to begin next week. Attorneys said there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence of his guilt.
Briggs’ DNA and fingerprints were found at multiple points inside the victim’s apartment. There was also other evidence, including video from the county’s street surveillance cameras of a man believed to be Briggs walking in the direction of Mary Greco’s 1402 Stanford St. home with a shovel just before authorities believe she was killed.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney afterward credited the Schenectady Police Department with building a case strong enough to result in Monday’s guilty plea.
“It was a case with excellent police work,” he said. “The Schenectady police deserve a lot of credit for this.”
Carney prosecuted the case himself with another prosecutor in his office, John Healy.
Had the case gone to trial and Briggs been convicted, he could have faced as much as life in prison without chance of parole. Carney said prosecutors weighed that, along with the uncertainty of a trial and appeals, against a sentence that essentially could still put Briggs away for life.
Briggs’ defense attorney, Michael Mansion, said that was among the calculations in taking the plea deal — that Briggs would have the chance to some day get out.
The alternative was no chance. “It became apparent that the evidence was tremendously against us and, at some point in time, you have to consider cutting your losses and hopefully have a chance of someday seeing daylight,” Mansion said.
Mansion stood with Briggs on Monday afternoon as he calmly pleaded guilty to both charges.
Asked by Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago if, between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31, 2012, he caused the death of Greco, Briggs responded “yes.”
Greco’s body was discovered in her home Jan. 1, 2013.
To the follow-up question, did he cause her death by strangulation, Briggs again responded “yes.”
Briggs will be nearly 70 before he is first considered for parole. Once in front of a parole board, members of the body will have to weigh the heinousness of his crime — the killing of a defenseless, 82-year-old former nun — as well as Briggs’ criminal history, which includes an attack on defenseless victims on Long Island.
At the time of the Greco killing, Briggs had already fled from parole in the Long Island case, Carney noted.
“I can’t believe that a parole board, even 30 years from now, will look at him and say, ‘That’s somebody we can risk letting out,’ ” he said.