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St. Lawrence County judge dismisses two criminal cases

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards has dismissed criminal cases against two suspects in recent rulings regarding two separate incidents, finding fault with the district attorney’s office.

Randy C. Lamb, 35, North Lawrence, was facing grand larceny charges in connection with allegations that he stole more than $3,000 from a Potsdam man for whom he had been doing home renovation work in fall 2011. Edwin G. Roach, 53, Ogdensburg, was facing drug charges in connection with alleged incidents in that city in spring 2012.

Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts.

In a May 22 ruling, Judge Richards granted a motion to dismiss the felony complaint against Mr. Lamb filed by Assistant Public Defender Steven G. Ballan, on grounds that the case was not prosecuted within the time limit permitted under speedy trial requirements. Section 180.85 of 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 disposed of within a year of arraignment.

Mr. Lamb was arrested and arraigned on Feb. 7, 2012. Speedy-trial timing started running Feb. 8, 2012, the judge wrote, noting that a year had elapsed on Feb. 7 of this year and no indictment has ever been filed.

The district attorney’s office argued that it could not be held accountable for lapsed speedy trial time because it had never been provided with the felony complaint or given notice of it.

Judge Richards countered that he had reviewed the transcript of an April 12, 2012, appearance by Mr. Lamb in Potsdam Town Court at which Assistant District Attorney Joshua A. HaberkornHalm was present and participating, thus negating the people’s argument regarding lack of notice.

Contacted Friday, District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé said a prosecutor in court would not necessarily have seen the original felony complaint document, nor would he have had any reason to believe the document would not be forwarded to the district attorney’s office in the normal course of the case.

But that didn’t happen, Ms. Duvé maintained, adding that her office does not have the staff resources to track down every complaint.

“We rely on the police department to get us the files,” she said.

In the case of Mr. Roach, Public Defender Stephen D. Button challenged the legal sufficiency of grand jury evidence against his client, including leading questions and lack of proper foundation for a police officer’s testimony.

The judge agreed with each of Mr. Button’s assertions.

“It is discouraging to the court that despite repeated hints and suggestions, and occasional dismissals in other cases, the prosecutor continues to cut corners in presenting testimony to the grand jury,” the judge wrote.

“The result is predictable: the indictment is dismissed for lack of legally sufficient evidence,” Judge Richards concluded.

The prosecution may, however, present the case to a different grand jury, which Ms. Duvé said the people intend to do.

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