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Hannawa Falls teen gets lashing from judge after probation violation

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CANTON — The Hannawa Falls teen who was jailed last month for violating his probation after bringing a rifle to the Colton-Pierrepont Central School campus in March had his interim probation extended Thursday in St. Lawrence County Court.

In a plea deal with the district attorney’s office, Sawyer M. Pignona, 17, of 96 Postwood Road,will have to restart his one year of interim probation.

Mr. Pignona was arrested by state police on Feb. 21 and charged with sexual misconduct, first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and endangering the welfare of a child, all misdemeanors. He is scheduled to answer those charges in April in Pierrepont Town Court.

Following the arrest, troopers brought him before St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards, who sent him to the county jail, where he was held until Thursday, for violating the conditions of his interim probation.

Judge Richards had placed Pignona and co-defendant Connor I. Warden, 17, of 19 Sisson St., Potsdam, on one year of interim probation on Sept. 30 after they had pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, a class E felony.

Pignona also was charged with second-degree menacing after he and Warden went to Colton-Pierrepont school on March 18 and Mr. Pignona brandished the weapon from a car window, sending the school into lockdown.

Thursday’s plea deal to release Pignona under the extended interim probation came despite a recommendation from probation officials that the teen should remain in jail pending a chemical dependency evaluation.

Judge Richards pointed out a three-page memorandum from probation indicated Pignona had attempted to arrange for the purchase of and use of drugs, had sex with minors, consumed alcohol and provided alcohol to minors during a party at his father’s home while his parent was out of town.

“While you were in jail you told your father, ‘I’m just trying to be a teenager. They just catch me being a teenager and this is what happens,’” Judge Richards said. “I have a 63-page print-out from your cell phone where you discuss your behavior and activities.”

After a meeting at the bench and a 10-minute meeting in chambers with Assistant District Attorney Joshua A. HaberkornHalm and Pignona’s attorney, Anthony M. Neddo, Judge Richards riddled the teen with questions about his behavior.

“Mr. Pignona, what is it you think is going on here?” Judge Richards asked him. “You think this is teenage behavior?”

In a murmur, Mr. Pignona said he “supposed” not all of his behavior was appropriate.

“You suppose?” Judge Richards asked him. “Do you think your father approves that you used his house? You don’t respect your father enough to not do these things?”

“I do respect him,” Pignona said.

“That’s pretty hard to believe,” Judge Richards quickly replied. “What’s it gonna take? No one is picking on you here, Mr. Pignona. It’s you that got you here.”

Judge Richards told the teen that while he is going to be released from jail on his violation, he would be placed under more strict conditions of probation including a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, an evaluation with chemical dependency and participation in any treatment suggested or recommended following the evaluation.

Additionally, the plea deal requires Pignona to spend six months of weekends in the jail following his Pierrepont Town Court date.

Judge Richards adjourned Pignona’s sentencing to Feb. 23.

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