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Four robbery suspects plead not guilty; all fail drug tests

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CANTON — Four people indicted in two recent Massena burglary cases all pleaded not guilty during arraignment Tuesday in St. Lawrence County Court, but they also had something else in common.

Each of the defendants tested positive for illicit drugs Tuesday following court-ordered screening, officials said, including one man who assured Judge Jerome J. Richards before the test that his result would be negative.

“No more pot, you understand?” an exasperated Judge Richards told Devian J. Fletcher after learning that the New York City man had tested positive for THC, a chemical component in marijuana.

“Yes, sir,” the defendant replied.

Mr. Fletcher, 19, and Matthew C. Malu, 24, Yonkers, were indicted this month on charges of second-degree attempted burglary for allegedly trying to break into a Haskell Street home in late December to confront a resident.

Police allege that Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Malu were looking for Andrew Courson when they showed up on his 26 Haskell St. doorstep about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 27. They allegedly tried to open a door but found it was locked. Mr. Courson’s girlfriend, Amanda Parmer, reportedly told the men to leave, and said she was calling police. She said she saw Mr. Malu pick up a shovel and throw it through a kitchen window as the two were leaving. They were arrested by police a short time later.

In an unrelated case, Ogdensburg residents Lashawn J. Whitfield, 40, and Ashley E. Pike, 27, who were indicted on charges of second-degree burglary following an alleged Jan. 11 break-in at a Stanton Road residence in Massena, also pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. The defendants allegedly stole an unspecified amount of jewelry.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua HaberkornHalm said the people are prepared for trial with respect to all four defendants.

Mr. Malu had been free on $2,500 bail, but following a request from Mr. HaberkornHalm, the judge placed him under probation supervision.

Officials informed the judge that Mr. Malu tested positive for THC and cocaine, but he denied using cocaine. The judge instructed him to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation by week’s end.

Mr. Fletcher, similarly, had his $1,000 bail exonerated and was transferred to probation. The judge directed him to be evaluated for chemical addiction as well as to sign up for a local general equivalency diploma program while his case is pending.

Ms. Pike tested positive for THC, and she reportedly admitted smoking marijuana earlier this month. She was released under probation supervision.

Mr. Whitfield also tested positive for THC, reportedly admitting to court officials that he had smoked marijuana last week. Ms. Rain told the judge that her client also admitted his marijuana use to her on his way out of the courtroom to be tested, and suggested that he, too, would benefit from a substance addiction evaluation.

Mr. HaberkornHalm, who earlier in the day argued unsuccessfully that Mr. Whitfield should be jailed pending trial based on previous convictions, mostly in New Jersey, again requested the defendant be held in lieu of $20,000 bail or $40,000 bond.

The judge instead released Mr. Whitfield under probation supervision, but with a stern warning.

“Mr. Whitfield, don’t test positive,” he said. “You test negative now for everything.”

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