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Court vacates plea for man charged in Massena home invasion

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CANTON - A 35-year-old Norwood man was allowed to vacate his plea to an attempted burglary conviction after the court discovered it could not live up to the sentencing commitment that has been part of the plea bargain agreement.

Chris A. Lavine of 26 Depot St., Norwood, had pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted burglary on June 22, satisfying charges from a home invasion at a Pontoon Bridge Road residence in the town of Massena.

Lavine; Derek Falls, 42, Montreal; Phillipe N. Gravel, 22, Notre Dame East, Montreal, formerly of Quebec City; and Edwin B. Spears, 37, 7 Chadnest Court, Neptune, N.J., had each been charged with second-degree and third-degree burglary. Lavine was located at his residence, while the other three men were taken into custody in the Ground Round parking lot in Plattsburgh after being located by state and federal drug task force members.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards noted the court had agreed to sentence Lavine to six months in the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility and place him under probation supervision for five years.

But he said he had received word from the probation department that Lavine was a second felony offender and not eligible for the split sentence. Lavine had been convicted of third-degree burglary in October 2000 and sentenced to 18 to 54 months in state prison.

He was paroled in June 2001 but the 10-year clock for second felony offender status was extended for 270 days when Lavine was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana in 2008.

“He falls within being a second felony offender by approximately 15 days,” Judge Richards said.

As a second felony offender, a conviction for the attempted burglary count would require a mandatory state prison sentence.

Defense attorney Edward F. Narrow asked the court to vacate Lavine’s felony plea and set the case for trial, and St. Lawrence County Chief Assistant District Attorney Amanda N. Nissen said since the court couldn’t live up to the sentencing commitment she couldn’t object to the effort to allow Lavine to take back his guilty plea.

Judge Richards vacated the plea and continued Lavine’s release under the supervision of the probation department.

Spears, Falls and Lavine allegedly entered the Sandra Dupuis residence on the Pontoon Bridge Road in Massena at approximately 2:45 p.m. Monday and demanded to know where they could find her daughter, Kimberly Kemison.

Testimony during the preliminary hearing linked Ms. Kemison to drug smuggling, and Ms. Dupuis said one of the men told her his daughter owed him approximately a quarter of a million dollars.

She also said Lavine, whom she knew because her daughter had lived with him for a period of time a number of years, told her Ms. Kemison was in a lot of trouble. Ms. Dupuis said she didn’t know where her daughter was living at the time.

Ms. Dupuis said Spears went upstairs in her residence and she heard banging around. She noted she later discovered damage to a door and an upstairs hallway at her residence. She said Lavine spent most of his time on the back porch, while Falls remained in the kitchen.

She testified the three men walked out of her residence with her cell phone, Ipad and an apron that contained the tips she had earned working that day at a Massena restaurant. Ms. Dupuis said she had followed the men outside her residence in an unsuccessful effort to get her items back. The men also allegedly entered a detached garage, where they removed a set of keys from the ignition of a vehicle, court documents said.

Massena-based Bureau of Criminal Investigation Investigator Andrew Gayeskie said he had removed a cell phone, an Ipad and a rental agreement signed by Gravel from a 2011 Dodge Challenger that had been impounded at NYSP-Plattsburgh. He said when he turned the Ipad on Ms. Dupuis’ home page appeared on the screen.

They reportedly rented a vehicle on Dec. 4. They arrived in Plattsburgh at approximately 2 a.m. Dec. 5, spent the night at a hotel and then left Plattsburgh at approximately 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. that day on a trip that eventually brought the trio to Lavine’s home following a stop at another friend’s house. They then followed Lavine’s directions to Ms. Kemison’s mother’s home in Massena, the state police investigator testified.

Spears was allegedly one of the key players charged in a December 2007 indictment that allegedly found ties between the Luchesse crime family and the Bloods street gang following a lengthy undercover operation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.

Spears had been identified by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, in a press release issued at the time the indictments were announced, as the key player in an alliance between the Luchesse crime family and the Bloods.

The attorney general’s release alleged Spears, described as an admitted “five-star general” in the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods, formed an alliance with Joseph Perna and Michael Cetta of the crime family to smuggle marijuana, cocaine, heroin and cell phones into East Jersey State Prison through a corrupt prison guard.

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