Fort Plain murder trial starts today

Eric Rivera

FONDA — One of the three men charged in connection with the killing of a Fort Plain man last June will stand trial today in Montgomery County Court.

Eric S. Rivera, 31, of Gloversville, was indicted in October on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree conspiracy to commit a violent act by a Montgomery County grand jury in connection with the June 30 death of Joshua L. LaVeck.

Facing the same counts in the October indictment were Garry L. Sweet III, 38, of Fort Plain, and Aaron L. Cockfield, 33, of Johnstown. Cockfield was additionally indicted on a charge of second-degree criminal facilitation.

All three men were taken into police custody within days of the alleged homicide, after LaVeck was found dead on the downstairs front porch of his home at 60 Division St. in Fort Plain.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kelli McCoski confirmed in December the cause of LaVeck’s death was the result of a gunshot to the back of the head and stated that police investigation indicated that Sweet was the shooter.

According to police, all three men were friends or acquaintances of LaVeck at one time and Rivera lived with the victim at his village home at one point. McCoski said in December that money or drugs were believed to be the motive for the alleged crime.

Montgomery County Court Judge Felix J. Catena ruled last year that the cases of Rivera, Cockfield and Sweet should be tried separately prevent prejudice against any of the defendants.

Rivera will stand trial before Catena in county court today joined by his attorney Stephen Rockmacher of Albany in a case prosecuted by McCoski. Jury selection took place on Monday for the trial that is expected by the attorneys to conclude on Thursday.

Cockfield was scheduled to stand trial on the charges he faced on March 11, but accepted a plea agreement in county court on March 7, pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in full satisfaction of his indictment.

Cockfield’s attorney, Matthew Swedick, said Cockfield will face a lesser prison sentence of 15 years in a state facility under the plea agreement, rather than the possible 25 years to life sentence he could have faced if convicted by a jury on the charges from the indictment.

Cockfield is due to be sentenced in county court on May 3 at 9:30 a.m. Sweet is scheduled to stand trial in county court on the charges he faces on Monday.