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St. Lawrence County DA calls on Judge Richards to disqualify himself from all cases involving her office

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CANTON - St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain filed an application in St. Lawrence County Court Monday morning Ms. seeking to have Judge Jerome J. Richards disqualify himself from all cases involving her office.

Ms. Rain’s application suggests Judge Richards can’t be “detached and neutral” in cases involving her office in light of his decision Thursday to disqualify himself from all proceedings involving Ms. Rain’s investigations into allegations that the county used forfeiture money illegally and omitted a grant application to fund positions in the district attorney’s office.

Judge Richards took a brief recess, returned to the bench and denied her application. He told Ms. Rain she could renew her application if circumstances change.

Ms. Rain is convening a grand jury to investigate why the county failed to apply for a five-year grant totaling $500,000 that has paid for two victim advocate positions in the district attorney’s office. Ms. Rain also contends that $12,148.61 in forfeiture funds authorized by former District Attorney Nicole M. Duve in December were illegally and improperly used by County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire for the purchase of a sound system in the county Board of Legislators chambers.

In 2004, while he was district attorney, Judge Richards authorized the use of $35,488 for a board chambers sound system and recorder from funds given by the district attorney.

Judge Richards filed his certificate of disqualification with Judge Vito C. Caruso, the administrative judge for the Fourth Judicial District.

In his certificate, Judge Richards requested disqualification from presiding over, hearing and determining all proceedings pending in Ms. Rain’s probe of the county because “based upon subpoenas issued by the district attorney the scope of the investigation goes back ten years to a time when I was the district attorney.”

Ms. Rain has let it be known that a former district attorney and the DA’s office were also a target of the investigation, Judge Richards wrote.

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