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Former Broome County district attorney stole, altered records of previous DWI charge

Cornwell Plea WEB

Former Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell pleaded guilty to a felony charge of stealing and altering county records Monday.

Cornwell confessed to altering details, including the name and date of birth, on file from a previous conviction against him. Current District Attorney Michael Korchak said Cornwell also removed the physical case file, including witness statements and other documents, from the district attorney’s office. Korchak said the case related to charges of DWI, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer stemming from a 1995 incident. The 1995 charges were originally felony counts, but Cornwell agreed to a plea deal that saw them reduced to misdemeanor.

In pleading guilty to felony count of grand larceny Monday, Cornwell will be subject to a $5,000 fine and will lose his law license.

Korchak said it was difficult to see a public servant, once his own boss, convicted of the charges.

"People make honest mistakes, but these weren't honest mistakes,” Korchak said.

Korchak said he didn’t want to second guess the severity of the punishment agreed to between Cornwell and special prosecutors in the case.

"We're satisfied that we did the right thing going forward with the prosecution. We're satisfied with the outcome in that both defendants, as in any criminal case, admitted their guilt and accepted responsibility for what they did,” Korchak said. “I mean, that's the bottom line. I'm very disappointed in what happened, but I can't change that.”

Korchak said he’s currently working with Broome County Clerk Joseph Mihalko and state entities responsible for judicial case management systems to assess checks and balances to prevent similar incidents from arising in the future. He didn’t specify specifics of new measures nor a timeline for implementing them.

Cornwell’s assistant at the time, James Worhach also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing stolen property. Korchak said Worhach stole a case file related to a 2013 DWI charge against him.

A separate felony charge is still pending against Worhach for an alleged scheme where he requested reimbursement for several thousand dollars worth of falsified parking vouchers.

Cornwell and Worhach were indicted by a grand jury last year and had pleaded not guilty at the time. Korchak had initially said he would prosecute the cases against Korchak and Worhach, but a judge later ordered him to release the matter to special prosecutors given he previously served under Cornwell.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.