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Norfolk-area man jailed for 10 days for violating probationary sentence

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MASSENA - A 24-year-old Norfolk-area man was resentenced to 10 days in the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility after the court ruled following a violation of probation hearing that he had failed to report as directed to his probation.

Michael J. Riley of 1587 County Route 38, Norfolk, had been sentenced to probation on April 19, 2011 for a driving while intoxicated conviction.

The hearing was held after prosecutors and defense attorney Michael Almasian were unable to reach an agreement during a session in chambers with Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson.

Mr. Almasian said the district attorney’s office was unwilling to offer his client anything less than 90 days in the county jail if he admitted a probation violation. He suggested that sentence was excessive and would accomplish nothing other than “pounding this guy into the ground.”

In brief questioning by St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts, probation officer Emily Germano, the sole witness at the hearing, testified that based on her recollection Riley had violated various conditions of his probationary sentence, including committing a new offense, testing positive for illicit substances and failing to report to his probation officer as directed.

Following her testimony, Mr. Almasian asked to have the declaration of delinquency against Riley dismissed in the interest of justice. “Ms. Germano does not have personal knowledge of this. She wasn’t there when he missed his probation appointments, wasn’t there when he tested positive for an illicit substance,” he argued.

Mr. Botts countered that hearsay was admissible in probation violation cases.

Mr. Gustafson said the testimony had proven Riley had not reported as directed. “The balance of the declaration of delinquency by virtue of the testimony heard today has not been established,” the village justice ruled.

Mr. Almasian urged the court not to sentence Riley to jail, suggesting it would do more harm than good. “Mr. Riley has worked closely with me in the past. He has turned his life around pretty substantially. “He has a seven-month-old son. He has paid his DWI fine. He has a good job,” his attorney said.

“I do not see the benefit for him or the general public of sending this man in jail. He had enough negative experiences with the criminal justice system. He’s trying to extract himself from all of that. He’s not a drug addict, a thug. He hasn’t been that man since he was sentenced. He’s been a good man. He missed more than one appointment - four. He does not deserve jail,” Mr. Almasian argued.

Riley told the court he is currently doing masonry and other small jobs with his uncle, but he expects to begin a full-time job with a local company in the Canton-Potsdam area by May 26.

Mr. Botts reminded the court the probation department had recommended Riley be sentenced to jail time at the time of the DWI conviction rather than be placed under probation supervision. “But it would appear the defendant is trying to put his life back together,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Gustafson recalled the conversation he had with Riley when he sentenced him to probation last year. “Mr. Almasian advocated so eloquently for you that day as he has today. But I told you if you violated probation you would be going to jail, and I intend to do that,” he said, ending Riley’s probation sentence and resentencing him to 10 days in jail. He began serving that sentence at 7 p.m. Friday and had been warned if he was not sober when he showed up at the county correctional facility he would be facing a substantial period of jail time.

“Get your little bit of time done, and I don’t want to see you again,” Mr. Gustafson told Riley.

The declaration of delinquency alleged Riley had been charged with third-degree assault on March 24 when he injured his paramour, Jordan White, when he struck her with a bag of jumper cables during a domestic dispute. Mr. Almasian vigorously questioned the merit of that charge.

The probation department memorandum alleged Riley failed to notify his probation officer of an address change in May 2011 and failed to report during the weeks of Oct. 7, Oct. 21, Nov. 18, Dec. 2 and Jan. 13.

Riley also reportedly was discharged from outpatient treatment for missing an appointment on Dec. 13 and tested positive for oxycodone use on May 31, 2011. He had also failed to pay his $500 fine and $400 surcharge at the time the memorandum was written on March 27.

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