BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A quarter of a century has passed since that night in March 1987 when Daniel Malvitch and a buddy, Peter Drew, jumped a middle-aged man on Federal Street in Salem, telling him they had a gun and demanding his wallet, which contained exactly $6.
Malvitch had just turned 18. Months later, he pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
He received a 10-year sentence to what was then known as the Concord Reformatory. But in those days, before truth-in-sentencing legislation was enacted, a Salem Superior Court judge could still suspend a prison term. Malvitch was released on probation conditions that included alcohol treatment, restitution and an order that he stay away from the victim.
Instead of complying with those conditions, he disappeared. The first in a series of default warrants was issued in December 1987.
Now, Malvitch, at 43, is expected to begin serving that sentence soon.
Court records in Massachusetts and Florida show that Malvitch has spent his adulthood in Florida and Alabama, in and out of jail and prison.
The old warrant from the 1987 case was found during his most recent prison stint, the result of 2009 conviction charges described as “criminal mischief” and making a false fire alarm in the Pensacola, Fla., area.
He’s also done two years for a 2000 escape attempt, according to Escambia County, Fla., court records available online.
After his release from custody in Florida, he was eventually turned over to Massachusetts authorities. Yesterday, he had been expected to admit that he had violated his probation and have a judge impose the 10-year sentence.
Instead, he peppered Salem Superior Court Judge John Lu with questions, told the judge he intends to withdraw the original plea in the case and ask for a trial, and then, when asked if he had ever suffered mental illness, told the judge he thinks he might.
That led Lu to postpone the proceedings. While a court psychologist found that Malvitch was competent to proceed, his attorney, Neil Hourihan, asked for a further delay in the case.
Malvitch does plan to ask to withdraw his plea and ask for a trial in the old case, his lawyer confirmed to the judge, but wants to start serving the time now, just in case he’s unsuccessful.
And because he originally received the sentence before truth-in-sentencing took effect in 1993, he could be eligible for parole in as little as a year, probation officials said.
He’s due back in court Jan. 14.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.