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Rape dismissal takes on political tone


CANTON — Dismissal of a rape case in St. Lawrence County Court for untimely prosecution is turning political.

Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, asked Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire about the county’s oversight of the office of District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé based on the Nov. 26 dismissal of four counts of second-degree rape and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child against Kurtis P. Moore, Massena.

“I try not to insert myself because I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Ms. St. Hilaire said. “I am aware there were some issues.”

The case against Mr. Moore, 20, was dismissed in response to a request from Public Defender Stephen D. Button on the grounds that the case had not been handled in the timely fashion required under state law.

Massena police on Feb. 7, 2011, alleged Mr. Moore, 43 Martin St., who was 18 at the time, had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl on four occasions from July 1 to Christmas 2010.

In court, Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen said the DA’s office had never received the case file. The judge then granted the defense motion.

In her response to the defense motion, Ms. Duvé wrote that review of her office’s databases and open files “reveals the arresting agency did not forward an arrest packet and thus no file was ever opened by the District Attorney’s Office.”

Massena Police Chief Timmy J. Currier disagreed.

“We have documentation on our end that this case was provided to their office,” Chief Currier said Tuesday. The chief declined to elaborate on when the case was forwarded, saying he has not yet spoken to Ms. Duvé about how the case was handled.

“But I am disappointed that this case was dropped,” Chief Currier added.

Ms. Duvé said Tuesday that she is not looking to blame anyone, least of all the police.

“Our office receives and opens well over 4,000 files on an annual basis,” said Ms. Duvé, calling the criminal justice system “a human institution” made up of imperfect human beings.

“A diligent search of the records and files in our office did not reveal that we had received an arrest packet in this particular case,” Ms. Duvé added. “This is not a common occurrence. This is not a regular occurrence.”

The district attorney said she would be happy to talk with law enforcement officials about how best to prevent any similar incidents.

“But I am not blaming anybody,” Ms. Duvé said. “I know how much hard work they do on a daily basis.”

Regardless of what happened, the matter is not for lawmakers to debate, said Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, who shut down discussion at the meeting by saying the board lacked jurisdiction.

“I’m guessing he brought it up as a political issue,” Mr. Morrill said of Mr. Acres. “I just thought it was an improper place. That’s a different branch of government. Our job is to provide resources. Cases, I think, are off-limits to us.”

Republicans have targeted Ms. Duvé, who is up for re-election next year, although candidates have not yet come forward.

Mr. Morrill said legislators in the past have been disgruntled by some judicial issues, such as the county’s payments for the defense of Wayne T. Oxley Jr. — who was found innocent at his third trial for murder — but understand their role is limited.

Legislators can only say so much when the department head answers to the public, Legislative Chairwoman Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, said.

“Once you’re an elected official, there’s a limit to what we can do administratively,” she said. “We have the right to express disappointment, but we can’t make the district attorney function differently.”

Whether he should criticize or not, Mr. Acres said, the fact remains a case involving a 14-year-old goes unprosecuted.

Mr. Button requested dismissal because the state’s Criminal Procedure Law permits the termination of a felony prosecution case that has not been presented to a grand jury or otherwise resolved within a year of arraignment.

Mr. Moore was arraigned Feb. 7, 2011, by Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson and released under the supervision of the Probation Department.

Mr. Button said his office was assigned to Mr. Moore’s case on Feb. 22, 2011. In a March 8, 2011, local court appearance, his office waived the matter to County Court to await grand jury presentment, Mr. Button said.

Mr. Moore remains free on probation while awaiting sentencing in February on an unrelated burglary case, in which he pleaded guilty in October to breaking into the pro shop at Massena Country Club on Sept. 23, 2011.

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