Teen gets eight years for role in murder

Sarah Eames | The Daily StarDennis Laughlin of the Otsego County Public Defender’s Office pats his client, Anais Soto, on the back as she wipes tears from her eyes while her sentence is read Friday, July 2, in Otsego County Court.

COOPERSTOWN — The second of three teenagers to plead guilty to the events leading to the death of a Worcester man more than a year and a half ago was sentenced Friday, July 2, in Otsego County Court.

For pleading to first-degree burglary, a violent felony, Anais M. Soto, 19, was sentenced to eight years in state prison and five years’ post-release supervision, two years less than the maximum offered in a plea deal by Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl.

Soto held up her end of the plea deal by testifying last month at the trial of 17-year-old Dylan Robinson, who was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree burglary and first-degree attempted robbery in the October 2019 death of his father, 53-year-odl Kenneth Robinson.

Given the value of Soto’s testimony in convicting Robinson, Muehl told The Daily Star he was satisfied with the sentence imposed by Judge John F. Lambert.

“I found it likely that the judge would take a couple years off, given her testimony at trial. I’m not disappointed with that,” Muehl said. “She didn’t go into the house until everything was done.”

Soto offered testimony about her role in ensuring the safety of Dylan’s two younger brothers, who were also present in the Head Road home the night their father was murdered.

“I think she got tangled up with the wrong group — I don’t know how she got tangled up with them, but she did,” Muehl continued. “The difference for me was the kids. That’s why I capped it at 10 years.”

“After being told to leave (the children) in the burning dwelling, she, at her own risk, made sure they got out, that they were safe,” said Dennis Laughlin, Soto’s assigned defense counsel. “That’s a huge showing of her character.”

Soto declined to make a statement for the record.

Muehl read a statement prepared by Kenneth Robinson’s mother, Cheryl Sawyer, outlining a “list of reasons that we, the family of Kenneth Robinson, would like to see all the people involved in his death get as long of a sentence as the law allows.”

“Two grandchildren that were there that night will never forget what they saw, heard or went through,” Sawyer wrote. “One has nightmares a lot, and the other one is afraid the bad guys will come back and get them just like they said they would that night — pretty much a life sentence for the kids.”

“We could not see Kenny to say goodbye before he was cremated because the coroner said he was unrecognizable,” her statement continued.

Testimony at Robinson’s trial from New York State Police investigators and the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy described extensive and fatal injuries to Kenneth Robinson’s face and chest from two close-range shotgun blasts.

Sawyer went on to describe how the two younger boys were prevented from retrieving their belongings, as the house remained a closed-off crime scene for several weeks following the murder, and how the fire supposedly set by Dylan Robinson and Nicolas Meridy, now 34, who was sentenced in August to 22 years to life in prison, destroyed several key documents that would have helped settle the estate for Kenneth Robinson’s surviving family members.

“The defendants did this all to get money and medical marijuana. The kids are still scared that if anyone gets out of jail, they will come back and get them,” she concluded. “All of us will remember everything that happened that night, forever.”

Reviewing documents from the Otsego County Probation Department, which oversaw the 19-month interim probation Soto served from her parents’ home in Oneonta, Lambert noted that she was “not always a model defendant,” describing her supposed continued association with people she was told to avoid, late nights “running around Oneonta” and a reported physical altercation that was not confirmed.

“But I believe time has changed you a little bit,” Lambert said. “I’ve watched you testify in court and I believe that you are now very sorry that Ken Robinson died that night. I believe that was not your intention when you decided to go into that home, stand posted outside with a firearm, but you knew what was going on. You went there with a purpose: to steal money and drugs.”

Lambert also acknowledged what he described as Soto’s “one redeeming act” in helping the young children to escape.

“Miss Soto, it tells me that there’s hope for you when you get out of prison,” he said.

Soto will receive credit for the time she served prior to her December 2019 release on bail, according to Muehl. Because she was underage at the time the crime was committed, she will serve the beginning of her sentence in a youth detention facility, likely downstate, and transfer to a state prison when she turns 21.

“I do wish Miss Soto the best in the future,” Muehl said. “I hope she takes her time while she is incarcerated to continue her education and take advantage of any programs or anything at the facility that can help her prepare for her future when she gets out, and I wish her well.”

Muehl said he is still considering a motion to vacate the plea of Soto’s teenage codefendant, 17-year-old Alexander Borggreen, who violated the terms of his plea deal by refusing to testify against Dylan Robinson last month.

Dylan Robinson is scheduled to be sentenced at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 23, in Otsego County Court.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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