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Wed., Sep. 2
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Norwood teen sentenced for drug charges; DA office to appeal again


POTSDAM— After nearly two months of arguments and appeals, a Norwood teenager wa ssentenced to a split sentence of jail time and probation Wednesday in Potsdam Village Court.

For now.

Zachary D. Linsky, 19, Norwood, was sentenced to 60 days in the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility and was placed on probation for three years for a misdemeanor conviction of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was also ordered to pay a $1,095 fine and had his license suspended by Village Justice Nicholas J. Pignone.

Linsky and Lamarion J. Blanks Jr., 18, of Brooklyn were found in possession of 250 Ecstasy pills and a small amount of marijuana during a June 2 traffic stop in Potsdam.

“Through a combination of your attorney’s skill and your good fortune, you’re now in this position as opposed to a much worse one,” Judge Pignone told Mr. Linsky, alluding to the heavier penalties carried by the felony charge he originally faced.

Public Defender Stephen D. Button said that he agreed with the sentence, which matched what was recommended by probation officials, but that the case may not be quite over.

“At this juncture, we’ve received a notice of appeal from the people,” Mr. Button said. “We’ll continue to do our best to protect our clients against positions that are unjust.”

If accepted, the appeal, filed to the state appellate court, could throw the situation back into limbo.

Mr. Linsky, represented by Attorney Steven G. Ballan, pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana and several traffic violations June 6.

Originally a felony, Mr. Linsky’s controlled substance charge was reduced by Judge Pignone after the prosecution made a mistake at the preliminary hearing, sparking the nearly two-month feud between representatives from the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices.

“You really dodged a bullet,” said Judge Pignone, who admitted he had been wrestling with how to best sentence Mr. Linsky for some time.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan L. Becker asked for the probation-recommended sentence that ultimately was affirmed by Judge Pignone, but expressed displeasure that the hearing was moving forward at all.

“The people continue to protest,” Mr. Becker said. Mr. Linsky “is a little too smart to say he didn’t know the pills were there.”

The problems began at Mr. Linsky’s June 6 arraignment, during which Assistant District Attorney Andrew Botts failed to provide the Ecstasy pills’ weight. He did, however, at Mr. Blanks’ appearance: 74 grams.

In an appeal that was dismissed by Judge Kathleen M. Rogers last week, Mr. Becker argued that the preliminary hearings for Mr. Linsky and Mr. Blanks were separated illegally, thus rendering the weight controversy meaningless.

Judge Rogers also dismissed the defense’s motion for matching $10,000 sanctions levied against Mr. Becker and District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé, both of whom were named in a lawsuit filed by Mr. Linsky through the Public Defender’s office June 27.

In the suit, he alleged that new felony charges Ms. Duvé sought to charge him with after the misdemeanor reduction — second-degree conspiracy and second-degree attempted sale of a controlled substance — should have been precluded by double jeopardy. In response, Ms. Duvé postponed the grand jury proceeding related to the new charges scheduled for June 28.

Wednesday’s hearing featured the complication that became standard throughout this case. Mr. Becker and Mr. Ballan disagreed on several instances, including the suspension of Mr. Linsky’s license and the correct institution of court surcharges, and the imposition of a curfew.

In regard to the curfew, Mr. Ballan pressed for Judge Pignone, not the probation department, to determine the terms.

“I just don’t want probation to have unfettered authority to decide something that’s your call,” Mr. Ballan told the judge.

Eventually, a nightly curfew starting at 11 p.m. and ending at 5 a.m. was agreed upon.

Mr. Ballan originally asked Judge Pignone to sentence Mr. Linsky only to probation, avoiding jail time, but the judge said this could be a learning experience for the 19-year-old.

“There’s going to be a lot of reminders,” Judge Pignone told Mr. Linsky, referring to the criminal record that will now follow him. “Hopefully, my thought is that [60 days] will be enough of an experience for you to never want to return to jail.”

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