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Massena man sent back to jail following preliminary hearing

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MASSENA - A Massena man was sent back to the county correctional facility after a village justice ruled enough evidence had been presented at a preliminary hearing to have his felony grand larceny charges sent up for superior court action.

Village police had charged Edward J. Slade, 21, of 446 state Route 131, Massena, with fourth-degree grand larceny June 19 following an investigation into an incident that took place earlier in the day.

Police allege Slade had entered the James Pratt residence at 103 North Main St. at approximately 8:30 a.m. that day and stolen $3,000.

Mr. Pratt testified when he woke up that morning he swept the bottom of his stairs and his sidewalk and then took a shower. “It’s my routine. I’ve got OCD,” he said under questioning from St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts.

He said a short time later Slade knocked on his door and started shouting he needed to use his bathroom. “He said, ‘It’s Eddie, it’s Eddie, it’s Eddie. Let me in. Let me in. I need to use your bathroom,” Mr. Pratt recalled.

He said Slade entered his apartment and immediately went to the bathroom. Mr. Pratt said he went back into his bathroom immediately after Slade walked out of the room.

Mr. Pratt said when he came back out of the bathroom moments later he discovered $3,000 he had left on his kitchen table was missing. He said he knew the amount of the currency because he counted it every day. He said the table was located near the bathroom.

“When I come out, he’s gone and the money is gone. I was in the bathroom when he took off. He was hopping down the stairs like a jackrabbit,” he testified.

Mr. Pratt, in the statement he had provided police, said he had actually seen the money in Slade’s hands. “I had left $3,000 on the table in the kitchen. I had it out counting it. When I came out of the bathroom, he was running out of the apartment. He had my money in his hand,” Mr. Pratt told police.

The Massena man, in his statement, said he had chased Slade toward the community center, and he lost him as Slade was running around the community center.

“The money was $2,900 in $20 bills and two $50 bills. This was my money I was saving to buy a car,” he noted in his statement.

Mr. Pratt had initiated the investigation into the larceny when he was being arraigned in Massena court on criminal mischief and criminal trespass counts after he allegedly damaged a door at 69 Beach St. when he went looking for Slade and the money.

St. Lawrence County Assistant Public Defender Alison Appleby had focused on various inconsistencies in Mr. Pratt’s recollection of the event. She suggested at one point he had testified he hadn’t seen Slade leave his apartment and then in his statement he had suggested he had seen Slade run out of the apartment with the money in his hand.

“I seen him take the money off the table and take off. I was running after him,” he countered under cross examination.

Ms. Appleby also questioned the source of Mr. Pratt’s income. He testified he receives a monthly SSI check for $761, gets $200 a month in food stamps and HEAP pays his heating bills. He said his mother handles the HEAP payments for him, and his monthly rent is $425.

He said he has been able to set aside money over the past two years while he has been collecting SSI. But he acknowedged he could not provide any evidence - receipts or paperwork - proving that $3,000 had been on the table. “I count it every day,” he reiterated.

Massena Village Police Ptl. Mark LaBrake testified he had interviewed Slade about the larceny complaint, and the Massena man had claimed he had not stolen any money. He said he had stolen a small bag of marijuana as payment for a debt Mr. Pratt owed him.

The village patrolman said he had searched two items where Slade told him he had hidden the item he took from Mr. Pratt’s apartment. “He stated he hid it under a rock in the falls/dam area (off the Center Street extension).

Ms. Appleby, in her closing argument, said Mr. Pratt had provided conflicting testimony about what he actually saw and seemed extremely nervous when he was testifying. She also questioned how Mr. Pratt could save $3,000 living solely on SSI payments.

Mr. Botts countered the testimony at the preliminary hearing proved Slade was in Mr. Pratt’s apartment that morning and had access to the money on the table.

Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson ruled enough evidence had been presented to hold the case over for superior court action. He pointed out, however, the standard of proof at a preliminary hearing is much lower than the standard at trial. “You should be grateful the standard of proof at this hearing is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he told Mr. Botts.

The village justice sent Slade back to the county correctional facility but reduced his bail from $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond to $1,000 cash or bond.

Slade urged the court to release him from custody, noting he would be willing to go the probation department daily for drug testing. “I’m not a threat to society. I have nothing in common with anybody in there (jail),” he suggested.

Mr. Gustafson countered he had reviewed Slade’s criminal history before setting bail. “It’s not good. My problem is you seem to be in the process of becoming a one-man crime spree. I’m concerned you are going to hurt yourself or someone else,” he said.

But the court, at the request of defense counsel, said he would direct the probation department to have Slade evaluated to determine if he needed alcohol or substance abuse treatment.

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