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Richards to seek second term as St. Lawrence County judge

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CANTON — Fairness takes courage, and in the lobby of the courthouse where he was elected to uphold justice 10 years ago, St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards said Wednesday said that fairness that would guide him in his run for a second term.

Judge Richards, 59, of Ogdensburg, said he has served the residents of St. Lawrence County for “26 of the 30-plus years of my career” and has dedicated himself to the fairness of defendants and victims alike.

“I have attempted to consider all of the circumstances surrounding the individuals I have prosecuted and all those I have judged,” Judge Richards said.

Before election to his first term on the bench in November 2004, Judge Richards served as district attorney from 1995 to 2004.

“I am at the point where my education and experience in the criminal justice system come together to allow me to have a unique skill set specifically crafted to deal with the scourge of drug problems, the violence of assaults, the sexual victimization of innocent individuals and the weakness of people who break the law,” Judge Richards said.

The judge at times has come under criticism for being too forgiving, but he said such critics should spend some time in his shoes.

“The law controls, but fairness is not a black and white term,” Judge Richards said. “In fact, it is quite nebulous and quite difficult to grasp. I have to be able to go home at night, thinking that I have been fair and believing that I have been fair.”

He said that after being a prosecutor seeking convictions for 16 years, taking a position that requires impartiality was a difficult training ground. The judge said he has learned a lot in the past decade, crediting former Canton Town Justice Michael C. Crowe and former St. Lawrence County Judge Eugene L. Nicandri with being two of the “fairest jurists in this county that I ever knew.”

“I’ve come to appreciate that fairness takes a lot of courage. ... It is entirely different than when I was a prosecutor,” Judge Richards said.

He said he personally believed the creation of regional courts could improve the quality of justice in the county, though he didn’t believe he would see it by the time he would complete a second term in 2025.

“I ask for the support and votes of our citizens. ... You have my commitment and promise to serve the public honestly, fairly, firmly and impartially,” he said.

Judge Richards’s announcement was interrupted by a protester who waved a folder filled with newspaper clippings and accused the judge of not taking crime seriously.

Asked to respond, the judge said, “I don’t think you are right, but you are entitled to your opinion.”

The man, later identified as Paul D. Middlemiss, 54, Ogdensburg, is a Level 3 registered sex offender who was convicted in 1994 by then-acting St. Lawrence County Judge Kathleen M. Rogers of third-degree sodomy involving a 13-year-old victim.

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