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Self-Styled Mercenary Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

November 19, 1986

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A man who portrayed himself as a gun-for-hire has been sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison for plotting a jail break.

James M. Dickerson, 43, of Rochester advertised his services in ″Soldier of Fortune″ magazine under the nickname, ″Paladin,″ a character in the 1950s television western, ″Have Gun Will Travel.″

He admitted accepting money to try to free reputed Philadelphia mobster Stephen Vento and another man from Lewisburg Federal Correctional Institutuion in central Pennsylvania on July 15.

″You chose this life as Paladin and you must now accept the consequences of having made that choice,″ U.S. District Court Judge Michael Telesca said as he sentenced Dickerson on Tuesday.

The prison break, which was to involve a helicopter landing in the prison yard, was foiled by authorities who managed to plant undercover agents as the pilot and co-pilot of the helicopter.

Charges against three others, including 18-year-old Stephen Vento Jr., are pending, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Geraci Jr.

Federal authorities said Dickerson had received about $2,100 of the $25,000 he had been promised to orchestrate the plot.

He was arrested the day of the scheduled prison break at his cabin at Bluff Point on Keuka Lake in Yates County. Police found guns, one of them loaded, at the cabin, the judge said.

Dickerson’s lawyer, James V. Philippone, asked the judge for probation, saying his client had not realized his actions constituted criminal behavior and he never intended to go through with those acts.

″I don’t believe one single word of the explanation you have given for your behavior,″ Telesca told Dickerson. ″I believe you are a violent person.″

Dickerson had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to free federal prisoners, one count of aiding the escape of a prisoner and one count of causing the interstate transportation of weapons, a submachine gun, Geraci said.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to travel interstate to commit murder in connection with a plot in Spokane, Wash. That plan was also foiled.

Dickerson will be eligible for consideration for parole after serving one- third of the 25 years.

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