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Trial starts on Watertown man’s burglary charges

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A jury was chosen and opening statements made Tuesday in the Jefferson County Court trial of a Watertown man alleged to have broken into multiple homes in the city.

Travis L. Peterkin, 43, faces two counts of second-degree burglary, as well as third-degree grand larceny and possession of stolen property charges, for allegedly breaking a window to gain entry into the Watertown residence of Franklyn Cowles on Nov. 9, 2012, and stealing more than $3,000 worth of jewelry. It also is alleged that on Dec. 29 he broke into a Barben Avenue residence with the intent to steal something.

He is additionally charged with resisting arrest, based on claims that on Dec. 30 he struggled with city police Officers Matthew J. Dawley and Charles L. Bickel III, trying to injure Officer Dawley by punching him several times and trying to hit Officer Bickel with a fishing pole. According to the indictment handed up in the matter, on Dec. 30 he also allegedly possessed unspecified property stolen separately from Nolan Follett and Chara McClendon.

Mr. Peterkin, who is representing himself at trial, told the jury in his opening statement that he did, in fact, possess the stolen property, but denied that he committed any burglaries to obtain the items.

“I’ve never argued about the fact that I had some of these peoples’ articles on me,” he said. “I have no problem admitting that I had stolen property on me.”

However, Mr. Peterkin said that he had “been dealing with some shady characters on the street,” buying and selling items, but that he did not steal the items.

“The facts remain, I didn’t burglarize anybody’s house,” he said.

He also characterized his struggle with Officer Dawley as a “fight,” cautioning jurors not to give more credence to the patrolman’s testimony about the incident than to his own.

Mr. Peterkin has represented himself in County Court, including unsuccessfully in 2001 in which the charges were also burglary, also of city residences. Following trial, he was sentenced to up to seven years in state prison after being convicted of 16 counts, including two counts each of second-degree burglary, third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal possession of stolen property. He also served three previous prison sentences, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning with the first witnesses being called.

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