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Massena man fails to convince judge jail isn’t the right punishment

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MASSENA - A Massena man wrote a lengthy letter to the village justice outlining reasons he felt he shouldn’t be sent to jail for a petit larceny conviction but he was told his actions spoke louder than his words.

Massena Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson sentenced Jon L. Larue, 22, of 13921 Route 37, Massena, to 45 days in the St. Lawrence County Correctional for the petit larceny conviction. He also ordered Larue to pay a $205 surcharge and a $50 fee to submit his DNA sample to the state database.

He had been charged in October with two counts of petit larceny following an investigation into the theft of a television from Walmart on March 25, 2012 and another television from the same store on March 28, 2012. The televisions had a combined value of approximately $750.

St. Lawrence County Assistant Public Defender Alison B. Appleby read the letter Larue had written in an effort to convince Mr. Gustafson he shouldn’t be sentenced to jail time. He pointed out in his letter that he had been incarcerated in Jefferson County from the end of the January until the end of February and the separation from his wife and child had a dramatic impact on his life. “The worst part was being away from my family. I’m ashamed it took jail to wake me up. I’m drug free now. I’m grown up, manned up,” Larue suggested.

He said the importance of not being incarcerated was even more relevant now since his wife is pregnant and is dealing with serious medical issues. “I’m the sole provider for my family and now I am also the mother, maid, cook too as my wife is on complete bed rest,” he added.

Larue said he is now working full time and provided the court with a letter from his employer saying he was dependable and key component in his employer’s business. Under questioning from the court, Larue admitted he had only been working full time for approximately a week prior to this court appearance.

He expressed remorse for his criminal behavior and said he wanted to turn his life around, not because it would keep him out of jail or under probation supervision but because it was the right thing for him and his family. “I know I deserve to be punished, but I’m doing great on probation. I want to continue to do good,” he said in the letter read to the court by Ms. Appleby.

She pointed out Larue had also been involved in a substance abuse out patient treatment program in Ogdensburg and had tested negative for drug use other than the Suboxone regime he is on for his treatment of an opiate addiction.

Mr. Gustafson wasn’t swayed by Larue’s argument. “Mr. Larue, of course you are saying all the right things, but your actions are totally opposite. Being reliable at work for a week and presenting that to the court ... as proof that you have changed your lifestyle, I’m not buying it. It’s incredibly hard to talk yourself out of a situation you have backed yourself into,” the village justice said before handing down the 45-day jail sentence.

“It’s time for you to get this done and behind you. I’m not going to put you on probation,” Mr. Gustafson said.

In other recent court action before Judge Gustafson:

■ Donna M. Smoke, 50, of 149 Helena Road, Hogansburg was fined $95 and ordered to pay a $205 surcharge for a petit larceny conviction. She was also placed under a one-year conditional discharge and directed to pay a $50 fee to submit a DNA sample to the state database.

Smoke and her son, Tony R. Thomas, 27, also of 149 Helena Road, Hogansburg, had been charged with a felony count of fourth-degree grand larceny following a Dec. 2 shoplifting incident at Walmart. The pair allegedly stole $1,411.43 worth of electronics, groceries and other merchandise from Walmart. Police said the items included DVD players, two Xbox 360, games, videos and several other items.

Store employees witnessed the theft and gave police a description of the suspects’ vehicle, including a license plate number. They were arrested a short time later after a traffic stop.

■ Jessica S. Perkins, 30, of 102 North Woods Road, Brushton, was fined $100 and ordered to pay a $125 surcharge after a petit larceny count was reduced to a disorderly conduct violation in a plea bargain agreement with the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office. She was also placed under a one-year conditional discharge.

Village police had charged Perkins with petit larceny following a Feb. 9 shoplifting incident at the Massena Walmart. She reportedly walked past the last point of sale at the store without paying for $148.91 worth of merchandise, including a purse, cosmetics, socks and a Mountain Dew.

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