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Gouverneur man sentenced to five years in state prison

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CANTON - A Gouverneur man the county court judge suggested was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend has been sentenced to serve five years in state prison for a burglary conviction.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards sentenced Scott Briggs, 45, of 43 Johnstown Road, Gouverneur, to five years in state prison for the second-degree burglary conviction followed by five years of post-release supervision. He was also ordered to pay $375 in court fees and surcharges. He was sentenced to a concurrent one-year term for a criminal obstruction of breathing conviction.

Briggs had been found guilty following a trial of forcing a door open and entering Stephanie Sawyer’s home at 42 Smith St. on Feb. 22, 2011, then choking Robert Rathbun while inside. He was represented by Canton attorney Charles B. Nash.

The Gouverneur man shared his thoughts on love and his relationship with Ms. Sawyer and replayed the events that led to his arrest during a more than 30-minute statement prior to being sentenced to state prison. “According to the law, I am innocent of the charges. I know what happened that night,” he told the court.

Briggs pulled more than 90 pages of typewritten notes from a manila envelope, suggesting there were a lot of issues related to the case that the judge and prosecutors didn’t know about. “I did not choke Mr. Rathbun. This whole story is exaggerated, but nobody will listen to me. All of a sudden these people are living together - boyfriend, girlfriend,” he said.

He disputed the jury’s finding that he had choked Rathbun. “He grabbed me first and tried to shove me out the door. I was just trying to stop this guy. I was acting defensively. He punched me in the face and broke my nose. I had to have surgery. I’m not a fighter,” he added.

Briggs suggested although he might smoke a little marijuana from time to time he isn’t a bad man. I don’t steal. I don’t do drugs. I hate pills,” he pointed out. The Gouverneur man said he is concerned he will be unemployable when he is released from prison. “Work is my life. That is all I’ve got. I just want my life the way it was before,” he noted.

“I am a good man, a strong man, an honest hard-working man. I’ve told her 100 times I should not have gone there that night,” he said, noting he had been communicating on a regular basis - from time to time - with Ms. Sawyer after their relationship ended.

“It still don’t give me any right to go into that house. I know that. I went to her house that night to talk to her because I was hurting, because I loved her. I meant no harm at all. My intentions were good,” he stressed.

But moments later he said he just wished he could give Ms. Sawyer a baseball bat so she could hit him with it until she was satisfied, hoping it wouldn’t kill him. “It’s not what she is making it our to be. She’s vindictive. I’ve got 40 reasons I’m afraid of her,” he said.

Judge Richards, after patiently listening to Briggs’ lengthy statement, reminded him a jury of his peers disagreed with his position that he was an innocent man.

“It’s obvious to me you are still obsessed with this woman. You can’t let her go. You wrote 90 pages about a relationship that has been over for a year,” he said.

“You won’t let it go. During your diatribe, you blamed it on her. The jury listened to the evidence. They believed her,” the county court judge reiterated.

He also signed an order of protection directing Briggs to have no contact with Ms. Sawyer. “You violate this order, and you will be facing more of what you are facing this morning,” Judge Richards warned the Gouverneur man.

Briggs asked the judge what he should do if Ms. Sawyer made contact with him. The judge said Ms. Sawyer should report the incident to police. But the Gouverneur man said he wouldn’t be able to do that because he wouldn’t want to get his ex-girlfriend in trouble.

The Gouverneur man faced a mandatory state prison sentence as a second felony offender. He has a December 2002 conviction from St. Lawrence County Court for a felony driving while intoxicated charge.

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