CANTON — A felony bribery charge against an Ogdensburg man was dropped Tuesday when his codefendant refused to testify.
Orrie J. “Joe” Howe, 59, of 7035C Route 37, was charged with bribing a witness, a class D felony, for allegedly attempting to bribe Michael J. Wells between February and October 2012 in an attempt to keep him from testifying in a pending trial against Mr. Howe’s son Travis M. Howe.
The charge was dropped Tuesday in St. Lawrence County Court when Mr. Wells refused to cooperate with special prosecutor Gary M. Pasqua, a Franklin County assistant district attorney.
Before the trial was to begin, Mr. Pasqua stood before Judge Jerome J. Richards and approximately 65 potential jurors and told the judge he would not be able to prove his case without Mr. Wells’s testimony.
Travis Howe, 28, was headed for trial but pleaded guilty in October 2012 to first-degree robbery, a class B violent felony, for his role in a March 2011 armed robbery at Twin Bridges Convenient Mart & Deli, 40 Main St., Ogdensburg.
Mr. Wells, who also is serving 12 years in state prison for his part in the robbery, is facing charges by the grand jury of bribe received by a witness, a class D felony.
Mr. Pasqua said he offered Mr. Wells a plea deal that would have included additional prison time, but Mr. Wells was not willing to accept the deal.
This is the second time Mr. Wells rejected a plea deal that would reduce the charge against him. An Aug. 29 outburst by Mr. Wells in County Court ended with his rejecting a plea deal with the St. Lawrence County district attorney’s office that would have reduced that charge.
On Wednesday Mr. Pasqua said the biggest problem he faced was that the evidence against Mr. Howe was “largely and almost solely” in letters written by Mr. Wells which were uncovered following the execution of a search warrant by police at Mr. Howe’s home.
“There were none by Howe, however, so even if the letters were let in as evidence at trial, I don’t feel like we could have proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt without Wells,” Mr. Pasqua said. “Once I made the decision that I couldn’t get the letters in, I did not want to waste the time and resources of the court, the jurors and the taxpayers.”
The elder Howe’s attorney, Edward F. Narrow, said it took “a lot of courage” for Mr. Pasqua to stand up and admit that he could not prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt and that as a result, the file against his client could now be sealed and Mr. Howe could move on with his life.
Mr. Pasqua said he will move forward with prosecuting the indictment against Mr. Wells on the charge of receiving a bribe.
“I don’t see any issue using those letters against Mr. Wells,” Mr. Pasqua said. “He will not have the same benefit that Mr. Howe had.”
A trial date has not yet been set in the case against Mr. Wells.