By Jessica Bagley
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Daniel J. Grover pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree kidnapping as a sexually motivated felony as part of a plea bargain with the prosecution in Niagara County Court.
Grover, 35, of 1870 Niagara Falls Blvd., took a then 5-year-old girl from her North Tonawanda home in the middle of the night on July 28, drove her to a wooded area and then sexually abused her.
“He had her for about five or six hours,” Assistant District Attorney Holly Sloma said.
Grover brought the girl back to her father’s home in the City of Tonawanda, where he was later arrested.
As part of the disposition, which Sloma and her colleague Robert Zucco worked on with the victim’s family, Grover will serve 15 years in prison and have 25 years of post-release supervision. County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas will sentence Grover April 30, when he will likely avoid the kidnapping charge’s maximum sentence of 25 years.
“We as a family are just glad its over,” the victim’s father said following Grover’s guilty plea Thursday. The family is also glad that when Grover is released, he will be registered as a sex offender — a result of the felony being classified as sexually motivated.
The victim’s great-grandmother said the sex offender registration was important to the family to make sure “he can’t hurt anyone else.”
Grover initially pleaded not guilty in August to three charges related to the incident: first-degree sexual assault, second-degree kidnapping and committing sexually motivated felony.
But Thursday, with the help of his lawyer, David Douglas, he chose not to proceed with the trial scheduled for March 18.
Grover’s decision came directly after the prosecution’s motion arguments, which Zucco believed may have led influenced Grover’s decision.
“It may have made him think twice about his plea,” Zucco said.
Zucco requested Farkas to allow his team to present evidence at trial in regards to Grover’s past convictions.
In 2004, he was convicted of an attempted burglary in the Town of Niagara, Zucco said.
“A male testified in that case that he saw the defendant totally nude in the apartment hallway, and that he was touching his penis with his hand,” Zucco said.
Grover told police following the incident that he needed money for cocaine and took off his pants because they were baggy and were making too much noise, startling the residents of the apartments.
Zucco also sought to introduce evidence from Grover’s previous kidnapping conviction in 2007 when he took a 4-year-old girl from her home.
“This type of evidence could help the jury determine if his conduct — taking the girl away from her home — was done for sexual gratification,” Zucco said.
In response to Zucco, Douglas argued that introducing the evidence from the past convictions would end the trial before it even begun.
“It would be like an atomic bomb being dropped upon us,” Douglas said. “And once it’s dropped, most jurors are going to think, ‘that’s the end of it, I don’t have to think about this anymore.’”
But Farkas sided with the prosecution, although she didn’t make her final determination in court Thursday.
“I’m inclined to embrace some of the people’s argument, if not all of it,” she said.
Douglas requested a recess following the arguments to discuss the bargain with his client. Following the break, Grover re-entered the courtroom and quickly became emotional, crying throughout his plea.
He will remain held at Niagara County Court without bail until his sentencing.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150