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DNA makes the case in Tassie hearing

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CANTON — It’s the only thing that matters and without it, there would be no trial.

Suppression hearings for the upcoming trial of Jason D. Tassie, 30, the Massena man being connected to a 2009 sexual assault and burglary of a woman in her 80s through DNA, concluded Tuesday in St. Lawrence County Court.

“DNA has been the issue in this case and the most critical,” St Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards said. “Without it, we wouldn’t have a case.”

The two-and-a-half week hearing was looking to find what evidence will be utilized in the trial, which will begin at 8:15 a.m. July 29.

Mr. Tassie’s attorney, Mary E. Rain, is looking to prove that the DNA obtained from her client was done so illegally, after a mistake made by a Massena Town Court clerk had Mr. Tassie convicted of a 2006 misdemeanor.

Such a charge would have made a DNA collection valid; however, Mr. Tassie pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, a violation.

Massena police Investigator Joseph W. Brown took the stand and was questioned on the basis of which he obtained a series of three search warrants to collect DNA samples from Mr. Tassie.

Mr. Brown said he was the lead investigator in the 2009 sexual assault case and in July 2012, when Mr. Tassie became a suspect in a peeping tom case where DNA was left behind at a Dover Street residence.

Mr. Brown said he submitted two samples of DNA from the 2012 crime to the New York State Police Crime Lab, one of which came back as a match to the unidentified individual’s DNA in the 2009 sexual assault case.

Ms. Rain said in court Tuesday that Investigator Brown received information from Massena Patrolman Travis P. MacDonald who did a search on eJustice for Mr. Tassie, where he discovered the 2006 mistaken misdemeanor conviction to which no DNA had been collected.

Investigator Brown said on Sept. 22, 2012 he obtained a search warrant for DNA from Massena Town Judge Gerald P. Sharlow; however, he did so without giving Mr. Tassie ample notice and never submitted the sample.

Search warrant applications for Mr. Tassie’s DNA were made by Investigator Brown on Sept. 26, 2012 to Massena Town Judge James M. Crandall and Feb. 13, 2013 from Judge Richards.

Additionally, on Jan. 11, 2013, Investigator Brown requested that Massena’s Department of Public Works pull Mr. Tassie’s trash from his 8 Tracy St. residence where multiple cigarette butts were collected and submitted to the state police crime lab as DNA samples.

Ms. Rain has formed the argument that each sample was obtained based on the false filing of Mr. Tassie’s misdemeanor conviction, what she referred to as fruit of the poisonous tree, making all the evidence against her client suppressible.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve’s case against Mr. Tassie will have to be constructed around the fact that the information within those applications to obtain DNA, would be enough for judges to issue a search warrant, even without the information obtained from eJustice and the DNA gathered due to the mistaken conviction.

At the close of the hearings Ms. Rain looked to seek an adjournment of the upcoming trial based on what she said was the DA’s office failing to provide nine of 14 reports into discovery.

“She was well aware of these documents and failed to provide them,” Ms. Rain told Judge Richards. “One might understand one document, but nine? Nine is not an accident.”

Ms. Duve told the judge that as her office was provided with reports and evidence she turned it over to the defense.

“I can only provide it as it is created,” Ms. Duve said of the reports. “I can only provide them as it is provided to me.”

Judge Richards denied the application and set the trial for July 29. Counsel is scheduled to submit a Memorandum of Law, which will contain both facts and law through cases that set precedent, after which Judge Richards will make a decision on what evidence will be suppressed in the upcoming trial.

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