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Jury finds Waddington man not guilty in sex-abuse trial

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CANTON — Not guilty on all counts.

That was the verdict of a St. Lawrence County jury Wednesday morning, clearing James Sabre Jr. of charges that he attempted to sexually assault three women on three different dates in 2010 at three locations in Waddington.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and 20 minutes Tuesday afternoon and for less than two hours on Wednesday before the verdict was read in front of Judge Jerome J. Richards shortly before 11:30 a.m.

“I was surprised, but at the same time confident in my client,” defense attorney Peter A. Dumas said of the verdict.

Mr. Sabre, 44, Waddington, was charged in May with felony second-degree burglary, second-degree burglary as a sexually motivated crime, four counts of felony first-degree attempted rape and felony first-degree sexual abuse in connection with the alleged assaults.

The four-day trial began March 21, with closing statements Tuesday afternoon.

Marisa LaValley, 25, claimed Mr. Sabre, a friend, entered her Waddington home without permission early Sept. 18, 2010, twice tried to force himself on her and made her touch him before she was able to leave and drive to the house of a friend.

That friend was Amanda L. Welcher, 29, another alleged victim and a friend with whom Ms. LaValley, her boyfriend and Mr. Sabre had been drinking the previous night. Ms. Welcher separately claimed that Mr. Sabre assaulted her in a bar foyer after they walked there from his home one summer night to look for a missing mobile phone.

The final accuser was Jacqueline Pandit, 42, who claimed that Mr. Sabre grabbed her by the wrists and tried to sexually assault her in a reclining chair at his home on another night. They had gone there after Mr. Sabre drove an intoxicated friend home in the woman’s car when they left the bar together.

Mr. Sabre testified that he never entered Ms. LaValley’s home but that he stayed at the doorway as he had come to ask for a ride to a pig roast later that day in South Colton.

He also testified that he never assaulted Ms. Welcher, rather that she was seeking cocaine from him the night they sneaked away from a gathering at his home under the pretense of looking for the woman’s lost phone.

Finally, Mr. Sabre testified that Ms. Pandit smoked marijuana with him at his home, listened to music and danced with him, then began kissing in the chair. She stopped, he said, expressing concern about being a friend of Mr. Sabre’s ex-girlfriend.

Neither Ms. Welcher nor Ms. Pandit could recall the exact date of the alleged encounters with Mr. Sabre. Ms. Welcher said hers was in summer 2010, while Ms. Pandit believed hers took place in the winter. It also emerged during the trial that neither woman contacted police prior to Ms. LaValley’s report.

Mr. Dumas said he had been concerned that the “ick factor” in sexual-assault cases such as Mr. Sabre’s could have influenced the jury. He praised jurors whom he believed listened carefully to the testimony.

Efforts to reach Mr. Sabre for comment later Wednesday were unsuccessful.

A spokeswoman said Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment.

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