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Former Gouverneur mayor reindicted on grand larceny charge

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CANTON — Former Gouverneur Mayor Christopher A. Miller has been reindicted on a charge linked to his alleged swindling of two Gouverneur residents by fraudulently selling them a house.

The state Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, issued a decision Thursday to overturn the Dec. 20 dismissal of a third-degree grand larceny charge against Mr. Miller, 32, of 171 Rowley St., by St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards.

Mr. Miller and Dylan Liebenow were co-owners of the house at 31 Edith St. in Gouverneur. In April 2012, Mr. Miller is accused of having sold the home to Ronald and Heather Sliter for $50,000 on a fraudulent land contract because he failed to mention there was a co-owner who did not sign off on the transaction.

Elected mayor in fall 2011, Mr. Miller served in the position for less than a year before resigning in August 2012, six days before he was arrested.

According to the granted appeal, Mr. Miller accepted $10,840 from the purchasers and upon their discovering he was not the sole owner of the property, they vacated the premises and demanded a return of their money.

“In the interim, defendant filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but neglected to disclose, among other things, the existence of the underlying land contract on his schedule of personal property,” the appeal read.

Judge Richards had dismissed the grand larceny charge along with a charge of first-degree offering a false instrument, citing what he called Assistant District Attorney Jonathan L. Becker’s “pervasive mishandling of the questioning of witnesses in this case.”

“Finally, the prosecutor repeatedly interrupted one or more jurors who were trying to ask clarifying questions, and basically strong-armed them into abandoning the attempt to clarify,” Judge Richards wrote in his 2012 decision.

While the Appellate Division overturned the decision to dismiss the grand larceny charge, the people conceded at an oral argument that the offering a false instrument charge was properly dismissed and withdrew their challenge to have it overturned.

“Contrary to county court’s finding, the record as a whole does not reveal a ‘pervasive mishandling’ of the manner in which this case was presented to the grand jury,” the appeal order said. “Inasmuch as we are satisfied — based upon our review of the grand jury minutes — that there otherwise is legally sufficient (and admissible) evidence to sustain count 1 of the indictment, the isolated instances of hearsay testimony, which were accompanied by appropriate limiting instructions do not warrant dismissal thereof.”

The Appellate Division added that it was persuaded that the prosecutor’s limited use of leading questions did not impair the integrity of the grand jury proceeding. “Accordingly, county court erred in concluding that the indictment was subject to dismissal,” the order said.

Mr. Miller will be scheduled to return to answer the charge at a date not yet scheduled.

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