county court

Hochul will allow people denied youthful offender status to apply retroactively

Posted 2 November 2021 at 1:15 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.282/A.6769) that allows individuals who were under the age of 19 when they were convicted of a crime, and therefore eligible for youthful offender status, but denied the designation to reapply for youthful offender status retroactively.

“Far too many New Yorkers who made poor choices at a young age are forced to deal with the lifelong consequences of criminal convictions that deny them a second chance at a productive, fulfilling life,” Governor Hochul said. “Communities thrive when every member has the opportunity to contribute and it’s time for New York to make the changes necessary for ensuring everybody has a fair shot at success. Thanks to this legislation, we can now support those who have learned from their mistakes by doing away with the stigma of a criminal conviction, and giving them the opportunity to get back on their feet.”

For those convicted of a crime when they are under the age of 19, New York’s Youthful Offender law provides the opportunity for their conviction to be replaced by a confidential, non-criminal adjudication and reduced prison sentence.

A criminal record has lasting effects, including societal bias and limited access to employment – two significant barriers to rehabilitation that dramatically increase the likelihood of recidivism. Many of those under the age of 19 when convicted and eligible for youthful offender status are still not granted it. This legislation allows those who were not granted that designation and who have not been convicted of another crime in at least five years since their original sentence to apply for retroactive designation of youthful offender status.

3 are sentenced in shooting that killed Medina woman, injured 5 others

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2021 at 9:37 am

17-year-old shooter sentenced to 20 years to life

Cheyenne Farewell

LOCKPORT – Three people were sentenced to state prison on Thursday for their roles in the shooting death of a Medina woman and also for injuring five others by gunfire.

Cheyenne Farewell, 20, of Medina was killed when she was shot while attending a Halloween party last Oct. 17 in Lockport. Five others were injured when bullets were fired through a side garage door of a home on South Niagara Street.

Jeff Farewell, Cheyenne’s father, posted this message on his Facebook page: “Thank you everyone for your support. This part of the chapter is over. Now it’s time to start another. I don’t know what that is but I’m positive Cheyenne Farewell will show me the way….”

Two youths, ages 16 and 17, were charged with murder in the second degree, multiple counts of first-degree assault and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

One of the defendants pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced by Niagara County Court Judge Matthew Murphy to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison. Murphy granted this defendant youthful offender status and his name shouldn’t be published.

The youthful offender possessed a gun and walked up to the garage door but did not fire any shots, said District Attorney Brian Seaman. The DA said he wanted a longer sentence for this defendant and opposed him being given YO status.

The other adolescent offender, Shawn Johnson, was the shooter, Seaman said. Johnson plead guilty to second-degree murder, several assault charges and a weapons charge. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Jonathan Frey, the adult who drove the vehicle involved, entered a guilty plea to hindering prosecution, and was sentenced to 2 to 4 years in state prison.

“This case was a complex and tragic incident ably investigated by the Lockport Police Department,” First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffman and Executive ADA Mary-Jean Bowman said in a statement from the DA’s Office.

“The sentencing of these individuals brings the legal proceedings in this sad chapter of Lockport’s history to an end,” Seaman said. “It is my hope that it will also bring some sense of closure to the victims and their families who will continue to suffer greatly.”

Sidewalks and walkways removed from Courthouse with new ones coming

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 September 2021 at 2:18 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The top photo shows the Orleans County Department of Public Works on Wednesday working on the front area of the Orleans County Courthouse, facing East State Street.

The DPW has removed the sidewalks and wide walkway leading from the street to the historic building from 1858.

This photo from this afternoon shows the front area leading to the building without any concrete sidewalks. New ones will soon be going in that will be 12 feet wide, much slimmer than the previous ones.

The County Legislature has set aside $50,000 to replace sidewalks, upgrade landscaping, and relocate existing light fixtures at the Courthouse Square.

It’s part of several improvements at the site. The county also replaced the roof hatch and sealed the cupola. The sealed cupola should stop water from leaking inside. The hatch, which is used for workers to access the cupola and top of the dome, had deteriorated.

Holley woman pleads guilty to burglary in Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2021 at 11:41 am

ALBION – A Holley woman admitted in Orleans County Court today she was the driver for co-defendants in a burglary on Fruit Avenue in Ridgeway.

Melissa Kuhn, 20, could face up to six months in the county jail and five years of probation when she is sentenced on Dec. 1.

In court today, Kuhn said she wasn’t aware ahead of time the co-defendants intended to break into a garage on Fruit Avenue and take tools. She realized when they opened the trunk of the vehicle that they had committed a crime. She said they asked her to be the driver because they didn’t have drivers’ licenses.

As part of the plea today, Kuhn was told she will need to pay a $300 court surcharge, $50 DNA databank fee, and $25 crime victims’ fee.

In other cases, County Court Judge Sanford Church sentenced Edward Symonds, 55, of Waterport to three months in the county jail and five years of probation. He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of controlled substance and admitted to selling two marijuana cartridges.

Cal Share, 50, of Kendall was sentenced to five years probation for aggravated DWI while driving a commercial vehicle. He also needs to pay a $1,000 fine and $520 court surcharge.

Wide crumbling sidewalks getting removed by courthouse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 September 2021 at 3:05 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Public Works today removed many of the large concrete sections of sidewalk leading to the County Courthouse on East State Street. There are more to be taken out.

The county DPW will be putting in new sidewalks, with the main walkway reduced to be a much slimmer 12 feet wide.

It’s part of several improvements at the site, where the building was constructed in 1858 and is the focal point of Courthouse Square, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The county also replaced the roof hatch and sealed the cupola. The sealed cupola should stop water from leaking inside. The hatch, which is used for workers to access the cupola and top of the dome, had deteriorated.

The sidewalks and concrete steps near the street also were in disrepair.

The County Legislature set aside $50,000 to replace sidewalks, upgrade landscaping, and relocate existing light fixtures at the Courthouse Square.

2 charged with assault after fight with knives in Albion

Staff Reports Posted 25 August 2021 at 1:49 pm

Angel Gonzalez-Rodriguez, left, and Jeffrey VanEpps

ALBION – Two men have been charged with assault after getting in a fight with knives last night in the Village of Albion.

Albion police officers and the Orleans County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to 110 West Bank St. at 10:54 p.m. after a report of two men fighting with knives, and one with a laceration to the face.

Upon arrival, Albion Police were flagged down by a 35-year-old man suffering from a stab wound to the right leg, Albion Police Chief David Mogle said.

The Albion Fire Department and the Medina Ambulance responded to the scene and treated the 35-year-old man. The Medina Ambulance transported the man to Strong Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries due to the stab wound.

Albion police officers were given a description of the suspect and where the suspect lived. The Albion PD, with the assistance of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, took the suspect into custody without incident.

Jeffrey VanEpps, 43, of Albion was charged with one count of Assault in the 2nddegree, one count of criminal possession of a weapon 4th, one count of Menacing 1st and one count of disorderly conduct. VanEpps was remanded to Orleans County Jail for CAP Court.

After further investigation, it was determined that the individual stabbed in the leg named Angel Gonzalez- Rodriguez, 35, of Albion had initially been involved in a fight with VanEpps over a cell phone, Mogle said. The two are neighbors.

During the fight Gonzalez-Rodriguez attempted to stab VanEpps, causing a minor laceration to VanEpps’ forehead, Mogle said.

Gonzalez-Rodriguez was later released from Strong Memorial Hospital and charged by the Albion Police Department with one count of attempted assault 2nd, one count of criminal possession of a weapon 4th, one count of menacing 2nd, one count of harassment 2nd and one count of sisorderly conduct.

“The Albion Police Department believes that this was an isolated incident between the two involved individuals and that there is no immediate further threat to the Albion community,” Mogle said.

“The Albion Police Department would like to thank the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, Albion Fire Department, and the Medina Ambulance for their prompt response to assist with this incident,” he said.

2 plead guilty in County Court and could face incarceration

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2021 at 11:53 am

ALBION – Two people pleaded guilty in Orleans County Court today, including an Albion man who could be sentenced to state prison on Oct. 20.

Kolin McKain, 25, of Albion pleaded guilty to attempted burglary in the third degree for entering a business after hours without permission and taking money from the cash register.

He faces a maximum of 1 ½ to 3 years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 20.

Also in court today, Joseph Vasquez, 48, of Albion pleaded guilty to criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, which is a misdemeanor. Vasquez had a table saw and taxidermy items that were stolen. He could be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail when he is sentenced on Oct. 20.

In a case from last week in court, Kevin Moscicki, 33, of Elba was sentenced to probation and five days of jail for felony driving while intoxicated. He was stopped in Barre on March 5 and has a prior DWI within the last 10 years. He was fined $1,000 and had his license revoked for a year.

Courthouse, built in 1858, getting needed repairs, attention

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2021 at 11:01 am

New sidewalks, exterior lighting, landscaping and cupola work on the docket

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Workers this morning are up high on the Orleans County Courthouse in Albion, making repairs to the façade trim on the dome.

The county will also be replacing the roof hatch and seal the cupola, said John Papponetti, superintendent of the Orleans County Department of Public Works.

The sealed cupola should stop water from leaking inside. The hatch, which is used for workers to access the cupola and top of the dome has deteriorated.

The workers make a repair to the courthouse dome. The building was constructed in 1858 and is the focal point on the Courthouse Square, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The sidewalks and concrete steps have deteriorated and will be replaced. The County Legislature set aside $50,000 last month to replace sidewalks, upgrade landscaping, and relocate existing light fixtures at the Courthouse Square. That work will not begin until the dome and cupola work is completed. Papponetti said the dome/cupola should be done next Friday, Aug. 13.

Some of the large sandstone steps at the courthouse also will be repaired. They are crumbling in spots and don’t withstand salt, Papponetti said. The steps aren’t used that much because the main entrance to the courthouse has shifted to the side facing East Park Street through the County Clerks Building, which is a handicapped accessible entrance.

The big sandstone steps temporarily will be pulled out so there can be an inspection underneath.

“The courthouse is our pride and joy, the center of attention, but it is falling apart,” Papponetti told county, village and town officials during a recent meeting of the Orleans County Association of Municipalities.

Some of the efforts are preventive maintenance, but he said the building needs other attention outside of the immediate projects. He also is concerned about the main second floor courtroom that has cracks in the ceiling and some peeling paint. The large columns out front have cast-iron rings on the bottom that are rusting.

2 plead guilty in shooting death of Medina woman in Lockport

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2021 at 7:57 am

Cheyenne Farewell

LOCKPORT – A 17-year-old pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Niagara County Court on Thursday in the shooting death of a Medina woman on Oct. 17.

The teen admitted to firing eight shots at a garage door in Lockport, where about 100 people were having a Halloween party.

The gunfire caused the death of Cheyenne Farwell, 20, of Medina, and injured five other people including two others from Medina.

The 17-year-old shooter will spend a maximum of 20 years to life in prison. He will be sentenced on Sept. 30, according to the Lockport Union Sun & Journal.

A second defendant who is 16 pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and could be sentenced to 5 to 25 years in prison. That teen said he had the gun, but didn’t shoot it. With manslaughter, he admitted to “aiding and abetting” the crimes, the Lockport newspaper reported.

The names of the two defendants are being withheld by the media due to their age and provisions of the Raise the Age Law, which in 2017 raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old. However, 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of serious crimes can be sentenced as adults.

Farewell was a Brockport State College student, where she was studying to become a therapist and writer. She was an advocate for mental health. More than 300 people mourned her death at a vigil on Oct. 18, 2020 at State Street Park in Medina.

Farewell’s mother Rochelle Horner posted on Facebook on Thursday that her daughter received justice with the two teens pleading guilty.

She said the one teen who pleaded guilty to manslaughter showed remorse, while the shooter did not.

“There will be no horrific trial where anyone has to relive that awful night,” Horner said in her post. “Cheyenne may have her justice, but her dad and I and her family and friends still don’t have HER. The kids at that party who were shot or witnessed that nightmare will never be fully okay. But today we were given a gift. Thank you to everyone who has showed us support.”

Man arraigned on 13 counts, including attempted murder for attack on Holley police officer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 August 2021 at 10:33 am

ALBION – A Holley man was arraigned this morning in Orleans County Court on 13 counts, including attempted murder in the second degree.

David Simoni, 32, was charged on June 15 after he allegedly lunged at a Holley police officer, attempting to stab him, when the officer was dispatched to the Holley waterfalls on Frisbee Terrace that evening.

Simoni was allegedly walking around with a knife antagonizing people, Robert Barton, Holley police chief, said on June 16.

An Holley officer approached Simoni, who was sitting on a park bench and did not respond to any of the officer’s questions. The officer then spoke with other individuals in the park to investigate the incident, Barton said.

When the officer returned to Simoni, who was still sitting on the bench, a physical altercation ensued as Simoni lunged at the officer, Barton said. During the altercation, the man attempted to stab the officer with a knife, Barton said.

With the assistance of nearby citizens, the officer was able to disarm Simoni and then the officer utilized his taser to cause the male to disengage. The male was taken into custody without further incident.

Simoni has been in the Orleans County Jail on $50,000 cash bail and $100,000 bond. County Court Judge Sanford Church kept the bail at those levels during today’s arraignment.

Simoni also was arraigned on menacing a police officer, reckless endangerment in the first degree, attempted assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon, menacing in the second degree, criminal obstruction of breathing, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, criminal mischief with intent to damage property, acting in an injurious manner to a child younger than 17, and resisting arrest.

Simoni is represented by Public Defender Joanne Best. She and District Attorney Joe Cardone both requested a mental health evaluation for Simoni, and Church agreed to order that evaluation.

Music teacher in Parma sentenced to 50 years in prison for producing child pornography

Posted 3 August 2021 at 8:27 pm

Press Release, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., Western District of New York

ROCHESTER – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Philip M. Close, 43, of Rochester, who pleaded guilty to a 74-count indictment, including 61 counts of production of child pornography and 13 counts of possession of material containing child pornography involving prepubescent minors, was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles A. Siragusa.

“As a result of this sentence, this defendant will likely spend most or all of the rest of his life behind bars,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Let this case serve as an example to any individual in a position of trust with children—if you seek to exploit children to satisfy your own perverse interests, be prepared to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and potentially to lose your freedom forever.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who handled the case, stated that from 2016 to 2019, the defendant owned the Close School of Music on West Ridge Road in the Town of Parma and provided private music lessons to children of all ages.

During that time, Close hid spy cameras throughout the school and secretly recorded the students, parents, and other teachers. Some of those cameras captured videos of the defendant inappropriately touching his students and himself during lessons.

Close also placed two spy cameras in the school’s only bathroom: one under the toilet and one hidden in a watercooler facing the toilet. The defendant intentionally positioned these cameras to record the naked genitals of young girls when they stood up from the toilet. Prior to opening the Close School of Music in 2016, the defendant worked at a different music school. Between 2012 and 2016, he also placed a spy camera in the bathroom of that school and intentionally recorded the naked genitals of young girls when they went to the bathroom.

Between 2012 and 2019, Close produced hundreds of videos of child pornography involving 61 identified minor victims. The youngest victim was four years old. While executing search warrants at the Close School of Music, investigators also discovered 13 devices that contained other images and videos of child pornography.

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Child Exploitation Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter; and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

Several plead guilty in Orleans County Court

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 July 2021 at 2:43 pm

ALBION – Several people pleaded guilty in Orleans County Court on Wednesday in crimes that included drug possession, driving while intoxicated, sex abuse, grand larceny and promoting prison contraband.

The guilty pleas included:

Michael Russell, 50, of Hamlin who pleaded guilty to sex abuse in the second degree. He admitted to sexual contact with his hand with a girl under age 14 between July 2007 and July 2011.

He faced more serious charges of three counts of first-degree sex abuse, but the victim agreed to reduced charge in the plea agreement that will have Russell spending up to 364 days in the Orleans County Jail. He could also be sentenced to six years of probation and will be required to be registered as a sex offender.

He will be sentenced on Oct. 20.

Jason Kuczynski, 31, a former inmate at the Orleans Correctional Facility pleaded guilty to attempted promoting prison contraband in the first degree for possessing fentanyl in the prison. That is a controlled narcotic and it is against prison rules to have it.

Kuczynski, who is now at the Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica, faces up to an additional 1 ½ to 3 years in state prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 29.

Jacob Harbaugh, 31, of the Niagara Falls was due to go on trial on Monday. He instead pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the fourth degree and faces up to 1 ½ to 3 years in state prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 13.

He maintained his innocence and entered an Alford plea where he doesn’t admit guilt. But Harbaugh said he was concerned he could be found guilty at trial of more serious burglary and larceny charges.

He is one of three defendants who allegedly stole three dirt bikes from a Ridgeway garage on Oct. 16, 2018. The other two co-defendants have all been sentenced and said Harbaugh was part of the crime, including its planning and then the disposal of the motorcycles, District Attorney Joe Cardone told County Court Judge Sanford Church.

Harbaugh also was stopped by police in Middleport and was in the same vehicle as the other two co-defendants, Cardone said.

The motorcycles were taken from a detached garage on Countyline Road in Ridgeway. Harbaugh was seen at the location of the crime. However, Harbaugh said he didn’t know the codefendants intended to take the motorcycles.

Cardone said two of the flat-track motorcycles have been recovered. Two of the motorcycles are valued at about $5,000 each and the third one is worth about $8,000, Cardone said.

Matthew Daugherty, 26, of Lockport pleaded guilty to criminal possession of controlled substance in the fifth and seventh degrees.

Judge Church accepted him into a treatment court program. He will be on interim probation. If he completes the treatment court in about a year, the felony charge will be removed and he will be sentenced on the misdemeanor and won’t face any time in jail.

Kayla Hodgins, 29, of Medina also pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth and seventh degree. She was accepted into the treatment court program. She will be on interim probation. If she completes the treatment court in about a year, the felony charge will be removed and she will be sentenced on the misdemeanor and won’t face time in jail.

Jason Perry, 40, of Albion pleaded guilty to felony driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree. He faces up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 29.

Batavia man acquitted of assault, burglary charges in Orleans County Court

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 July 2021 at 1:19 pm

ALBION — A Batavia man was on trial last month in Orleans County Court and was found not guilty on all charges — first-degree burglary, aggravated criminal contempt in the first degree, and second-degree assault.

Jamie Dutton

Jamie A. Dutton, 29, was charged on Sept. 9, 2020 and accused of entering a woman’s home in violation of a court order and then assaulting her, causing serious injuries including a collapsed lung.

A jury acquitted him of the charges last month in the first jury trial in the county court since the start of the Covid pandemic in early 2020.

Robert Zickl prosecuted the case for the Orleans County District Attorney’s Office and Dutton was represented by Kathleen Casey of Barker.

Dutton still charges of second-degree attempted murder in Genesee County for an alleged stabbing last Aug. 25. Dutton allegedly stabbed a person in the chest. The victim survived after receiving immediate medical attention. Dutton also has been charged with first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Albion man facing federal charges for distribution and possession of child pornography

Posted 8 July 2021 at 4:14 pm

Press Release, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., Western District of New York

BUFFALO – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment charging Spencer Hart, 37, of Albion, NY, with three counts of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. The charges carry a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a $250,000 fine.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey T. Fiut and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who are handling the case, stated that according to the indictment, Hart distributed child pornography on March 17, June 21, and June 22, 2020.

In addition, on July 16, 2020, Hart possessed a hard drive containing an image of child pornography involving a prepubescent minor under the age of 12. The defendant was previously convicted on a state charge involving possession of child pornography.

The defendant was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and is being held pending a detention hearing on July 14 at 10 a.m.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Buffalo and Rochester Offices, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Akron man pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide in overdose death

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 July 2021 at 1:36 pm

ALBION – An Akron man pleaded guilty in Orleans County Curt today to criminally negligent homicide for his role in a fatal drug overdose of a Medina woman in March 2020.

Anthony V. Abraham, 33, admitted in court to taking the Medina woman to Rochester to get cocaine. He had told the woman’s family they were going out to dinner.

The woman, 26, was recovering from injuries from a serious automobile accident and was staying with her grandmother in Medina while recuperating. She also had some level of brain damage from the auto accident, said District Attorney Joe Cardone.

The cocaine was laced with fentanyl. The Medina woman would suffer a fatal overdose at her grandmother’s home.

Although an unintentional death, Cardone said Abraham clearly facilitated her access to the drugs and the use of the cocaine with fentanyl.

With criminally negligent homicide, a person has a “gross deviation” from the standard level of care by a reasonable person, causing substantial and justifiable risk to another person, said Orleans County Court Judge Sanford Church.

Abraham pleaded guilty and will face a maximum of six months in jail and up to five years on probation when he is sentenced on Sept. 29. If Abraham violates terms of probation, he could be sent to state prison for 1 1/3 to 4 years.

In another case in County Court today, a Batavia man pleaded guilty to attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.

Johnny Sponaugle, 45, admitted to selling cocaine to an informant from Orleans County on Aug. 5, 2019. Sponaugle said he provided the cocaine while meeting the informant at the Burger King in Batavia.

As part of a plea agreement, he will face a maximum of 2 years in state prison, plus one year of post-release supervision when he is sentenced on Sept. 29. If he went to trial, he risked being found guilty and being sentenced to up to 5 ½ years in prison.