Judge pushes to have several cases go to trial, including grand larceny case with sergeant
ALBION – The acting Orleans County Criminal Court judge said she is pushing to have several cases go to trial, rather than waiting for plea deals to be struck.
Sara Sheldon, who is the interim judge since James Punch retired last month, set trial dates for three cases on Monday, and told District Attorney Joe Cardone and attorneys for defendants she will push for more trials.
“I’m a judge who loves jury trials,” she said in court.
She arraigned Dean Covis, a sergeant with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, who faces a 141-count indictment.
Covis is accused of submitting false time sheets, log books and collecting pay for security work he didn’t perform, when he was paid $20 an hour to provide security at the hydroelectric plant in Waterport. The facility is owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners. (Tom Marano, a deputy facing similar charges, will be arraigned in court on Aug. 28.)
Covis allegedly was paid about $14,000 for security work. The alleged crimes occurred near the end of 2013 through the beginning of 2015.
He has been charged with 140 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree for allegedly submitting false time sheets and for making inaccurate log book entries for time in and time out, as well as for activities during his shift, said Lawrence Friedman, the Genesee County district attorney who is serving as special prosecutor.
Covis also faces one count of grand larceny in the first degree.
He pleaded not guilty in court on Monday. He was released without bail. Friedman said Covis has made all of his court appearances. The Genesee DA didn’t ask for bail.
Sheldon gave Covis’s defense attorney, Stephen Leonardo, until Oct. 2 to file motions in the case, with a pretrial conference set for Oct. 23. Sheldon said the trial would start Jan. 9.
In other cases:
• Sheldon also set Oct. 16 as the start of a trial against Jade Fayko of Holley. She was offered a plea deal with a split sentence of jail and probation if she pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny.
Fayko, 21, rejected that offer on Monday. Fayko was with two other people when someone broke into a truck in Clarendon and allegedly stole $8,000 in cash.
One of the codefendants said Fayko broke into the truck and took the money, but Fayko in a previous court appearance said she was a passenger in a vehicle with the two other codefendants. Fayko said she didn’t leave that vehicle and instead the two other codefendants broke into the truck and took the money. One of the codefendants handed Fayko $200, Fayko said in a previous appearance.
“Your mere presence at the scene of the crime doesn’t make you guilty of the crime,” Judge Punch told her during a June 5 appearance.
• Judge Sheldon also set Nov. 27 as the start of a trial against Matthew Engert, 26, of Holley. He allegedly assaulted another inmate in the jail on Feb. 14. Engert was in jail after being arrested for criminal possession of a weapon.
He faces charges of second-degree assault for punching another inmate in the Orleans County Jail in the head and chest.
• Sheldon also wanted to set the trial date for another case, but is holding off after the case was adjourned until Aug. 28.
Leonel Lopez-Sanchez, 45, of 1st Street in Rochester faces numerous felony drug charges for selling and possessing controlled substances.
Lopez-Sanchez is currently in the county jail on $300,000 bail. Sheldon said the case has been in the court since April and she wants it to be resolved.
He has been offered a plea deal that would cap the sentence at 4 years, but he doesn’t want to accept that, his attorney, David Owens, told the judge.
Lopez-Sanchez, a native of Cuba, also could have “deportation issues” if convicted, Assistant DA Susan Howard said.
Lopez-Sanchez has no prior felonies, but was convicted of misdemeanor crimes in Miami, Howard said.
Sheldon said if the sides can’t reach an acceptable agreement with a plea, the case would go to trial.