Syracuse elementary school intruder faces prison after guilty plea

Phillip Lane / file photo

A man accused of hiding inside the girls' bathroom at a Syracuse elementary school and harassing three female students admitted his guilt Friday morning.

39-year-old Phillip Lane of Rochester was in Onondaga County Court before Judge Anthony Aloi, where he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of third degree burglary. Lane had been charged with burglary, child endangerment and harassment after he allegedly approached a girl near Bellevue Academy on June 23, then was found inside a girls' bathroom at Delaware Elementary School not long after. Two other girls walked in on him while he was in the bathroom, but they immediately left. Lane fled the scene after being approached by school staffers, and was later arrested by Police Chief Frank Fowler not far away.

"We know that he approached a number of female students. The issue is what his intent was, and a large portion of that remains unknown because the girls did the right thing. They reported this to a teacher" said Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Geoff Ciereck.

Fowler had called Lane a 'predator on a mission', and applauded the police and staff of both schools for their efforts in protecting their students.

Lane had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges , but the prosecution said he changed his mind out of fear of receiving a longer sentence. Aloi noted that the court accepted his plea in order to spare the girls from having to testify in open court.

"To avoid the necessity of putting witnesses through a trial, he (Lane) decided that he wanted to take the disposition" said defense attorney Chuck Keller.

Lane faces three and a half to seven years in state prison when he is sentenced on October 7.