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Accused Watertown man admitted to police he was involved in drive-by shooting

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The West Main Street man accused of injuring a 24-year-old Three Mile Bay man Monday morning during a drive-by shooting has pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and first-degree criminal use of a firearm.

Austen Lee Scudera, 19, of 327 W. Main St., was arraigned Friday morning in Watertown City Court.

Part-time City Judge Catherine J. Palermo set bail at $75,000, saying that it could be reargued to a lower amount at a later court date. Mr. Scudera is being held at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

In arguing for the $75,000 bail, Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney George R. Shaffer contended that Mr. Scudera is on probation on a prison contraband charge and faces a sentence of five to 25 years in state prison if he is found guilty, increasing the risk of flight.

Mr. Scudera is accused of shooting Robert C. Hunt III, while Mr. Hunt was sitting in his parked car on Ohio Street near Michigan Avenue about 1 a.m. Monday after a visit to a friend. He was shot once by a handgun and several bullets struck his vehicle, according to court papers.

Police believe a woman drove Mr. Scudera to the scene in a red car, which witnesses described to investigators.

Detective Stephen R. Backus said police know the motive but are not releasing that information.

“It was not random,” he said, declining to elaborate on the connection to the victim or his friend.

The shooting happened as Mr. Hunt had just left a property at Ohio Street and Michigan Avenue and got into his car. Kimberly J. Maitland, the property’s owner, said Thursday that her family “has no contact” with the alleged shooter. She was just relieved that he had been caught, she said.

Detective Backus acknowledged that a woman was driving the red car at the time of the shooting. He declined to identify her. Police are looking at whether she, too, could face charges.

During an interview with police on Thursday, Mr. Scudera admitted that he was the shooter and “provided specific details related to the shooting,” according to a statement by Detective Backus. As a result of evidence gathered during the investigation, it was determined Mr. Scudera “was directly involved,” he wrote.

Friday morning’s court proceeding took just a few moments. Assistant Public Defender Tricia L. Dingman spoke on his behalf, with Mr. Scudera only acknowledging what the judge told him.

At one point, he mouthed something to his family members who were in the courtroom.

Two of Mr. Hunt’s family members declined comment afterward.

Mr. Hunt remains stable in a Syracuse hospital.

Earlier this week, his family had offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the shooting. It was unclear Friday whether anyone was going to receive the reward.

Mr. Scudera had previous brushes with the law. In the past three years, he has faced charges of disorderly conduct, menacing, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in connection to incidents involving fighting, attacking a woman in her home and attempting to hit another woman during another incident.

When he was in jail in 2010 as a youthful offender, Mr. Scudera was charged with third-degree promoting prison contraband. He was sentenced for three years probation after admitting he possessed a plastic shank, made from a plastic utensil, while incarcerated at the PSB.

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