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Buffalo men plead not guilty to drug charges

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CANTON — Four Buffalo men pleaded not guilty in St. Lawrence County Court on Tuesday to charges that they were involved in an Ogdensburg area drug ring.

Charles J.H. Caviness, 24; Eldridge Gossom, 25; Andre L. Wilson, 40; and Tige K. Smith Jr., 24, all formally maintained their innocence in brief appearances before Judge Jerome J. Richards. All have been charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a Class B felony.

The Erie County men were arrested Dec. 6 following a raid by Ogdensburg police on an apartment at 325 Belmont Courts. Police said the arrests were the culmination of an ongoing investigation into crack cocaine trafficking in the city.

Police have refused to say how much cash and crack were seized in the Dec. 6 raid, and that information also was not included in publicly-available court documents when grand jury indictments were handed up against the men earlier this month.

Following their initial arraignment in Ogdensburg City Court last month, the defendants were committed to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, with Mr. Caviness, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Smith held in lieu of bail set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond, while Mr. Gossom was held on $20,000 cash or $40,000 bond.

Judge Richards lowered bail terms for the four on Tuesday: $7,500 cash or $15,000 bond for Mr. Caviness, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Smith, and $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond for Mr. Gossom.

Before the judge set the new bail terms for Mr. Gossom, Assistant District Attorney Joshua HaberkornHalm argued against lowering the amounts for a man he said already “has a rap sheet,” including “probation in this county for identical conduct.”

In December 2010, police charged Mr. Gossom with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after they found him in possession of 23 half-gram bags of crack worth $1,200, also at Belmont Courts. Along with the crack, police said a small amount of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and an undisclosed amount of money were seized in the 2010 arrest.

Probation officials confirmed for the judge that Mr. Gossom’s case had been transferred to Erie County’s supervision.

“He is definitely from out of the area, and has no contacts in the area that I am aware of,” Mr. HaberkornHalm told the judge.

“We believe he doesn’t present a flight risk,” defense attorney Thomas B. Wheeler said.

“He is from Buffalo, but has appeared and made the trip” for all previously scheduled court appearances in St. Lawrence County, Mr. Wheeler said.

The prosecution is ready to move to trial in the case, Mr. HaberkornHalm said.

No trial date has been set, with pre-trial discovery — the process by which both sides engage in evidence gathering — the next step in the case.

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