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Gouverneur man sentenced to county jail for assault conviction

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CANTON - The St. Lawrence County Court judge told a Gouverneur man his decision to seek mental health counseling before he committed a home invasion helped to keep him out of state prison.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards sentenced Nico J. DeVito, 21, of 25 Sterling St., to six months in the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility and five years’ probation for his conviction on two counts of second-degree assault.

The county court judge also ordered DeVito to abide by the terms of an order of protection directing him to stay away from two male victims and three female witnesses to an April 28 home invasion.

Judge Richards said stipulations included in the probationary sentence will require the Gouverneur man to comply with mental health treatment, complete the offender accountability program and complete any recommended anger management programs. DeVito was also ordered to pay $99 restitution and $375 in court fees and surcharges.

The St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department had charged DeVito with first-degree burglary and second-degree assault, both felonies, following an incident at a Johnstown Road home, where his ex-girlfriend was socializing with several of her friends.

Deputies said they responded to the home in the early morning hours of April 28 after receiving reports of an assault in progress. DeVito was accused of unlawfully entering the home and assaulting Nathan Foster and Josh VanOrnum. Deputies said one of the men suffered a broken eye socket.

Defense attorney Charles B. Nash encouraged the court to follow the probation department’s recommendation that DeVito be sentenced to a split sentence of up to six months in the county jail and a five-year probationary sentence.

“This was his first offense. I would ask the court to balance the seriousness of this crime with his family issues and this being his first offense,” Mr. Nash said.

Judge Richards warned DeVito he had little room for error while he was on probation.

“People are afraid of you, and don’t believe you will be able to comply with the terms and conditions of probation. They think you should go to prison for as long as you can go, for 14 years,” he said.

“Those people don’t deserve to have to fear you. They need to be able to walk the streets without the fear of being attacked by you,” he added.

“You violate my order of protection, and I don’t care how it is, smoke signals ... and you come back before me and it is found to be the case you can expect prison. There is no other step in between. If your sentence is 14 years, you’d be looking at 12. I wouldn’t be looking forward to that. But I can’t control you, sit on your shoulder. You will have to do it yourself,” Judge Richards said.

The county court judge told DeVito he wasn’t initially being sentenced to state prison because the assault charges were his first offense and he recognized and sought treatment for his mental health issues before he attacked his ex-girlfriend’s male friends.

“This is your first offense and first-time felons don’t usually go to prison. But make no mistake. You were on the borderline. You better take advantage of it.” Judge Richards said.

In other recent court action before Judge Richards:

■ Nestor Velez, 36, of 2477 Belmont Ave., The Bronx, had his sentencing for two third-degree attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance counts adjourned. St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan L. Becker had asked for the sentencing to be adjourned until matters are resolved with the title of the van seized at the time of Velez’s arrest and are turned over to the prosecutor’s office.

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