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Man pleads guilty in DNA sexual assault case

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CANTON — Jason D. Tassie, the Massena man tied to the sexual assault of an elderly woman through DNA, pleaded guilty in St. Lawrence County Court Wednesday morning and is facing 15 years in state prison.

Tassie, 30, 124 Main St., pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary as a sexually motivated felony, a class B violent felony. That charge allows for a maximum sentence of 25 years and a minimum of five years.

Tassie was remanded to St. Lawrence County Jail without bail awaiting his Oct. 7 sentencing, where it is anticipated that he will be facing a determinate sentence of 15 years with a post release parole supervision of 20 years.

The plea deal came before jury selection early Wednesday and the day after St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards’s decision to allow DNA to be used in the case which linked Tassie to an August 2009 assault of an 86-year-old Massena woman living in Massena’s Beach Street area.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé said the plea negotiation was entered into with the full participation and agreement of the victim and her family.

“It spared her the stress and anxiety of going through that trail process and going through a very traumatic event in her life,” Ms. Duve said.

Judge Richards filed his decision on what evidence would and would not be used after 2˝ weeks of pretrial evidence suppression hearings arguing that Tassie’s DNA had been obtained illegally by Massena police due to a mistake made by a Massena Town Court clerk.

Tassie’s attorney, Mary E. Rain, said she had contacted her client Tuesday night after she learned of Judges Richards’s decision.

Ms. Rain said if Tassie had decided to go to trial and had been found guilty on all three charges, he could have been sentenced to a maximum of 47 years in state prison.

Tassie’s decision to plead guilty to the first of the three charges he was facing, which including two felony counts of sexual assault, instead of going to trial, was made after a meeting in Judge Richards’s chambers with the Ms. Duvé.

The district attorney credited the Massena Police Department with helping to resolve the matter through their investigation and identification of Tassie.

“I am very satisfied with the resolution of this matter,” Ms. Duvé said. “It brought the perpetrator to justice and brought closure for the victim. This was the culmination of a lot of hard work.”

Ms. Rain said although the case would have been a difficult one since DNA was involved, she said she feels an obligation to take violent, sexual based felony cases like Tassie’s due to her experience.

“I always look at a case as a defense attorney, whether they are guilty or innocent, as I am protecting their rights like I would be protecting our rights,” Ms. Rain said. “There are not many attorneys in this county that will take violent felonies. I feel an obligation to take these cases because I have the experience to handle them, even if I find them abhorrent, and some of them are really bad.”

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