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No criminal charges for Jefferson County deputies in Henderson drinking incident

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It appears no further criminal charges will result from a December 2012 incident in which an off-duty Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy was found slumped over the wheel of his patrol vehicle and a responding deputy removed a partially consumed bottle of liquor from the vehicle.

Oneida County First Assistant District Attorney Michael A. Coluzza, who was appointed special prosecutor in the investigation into actions of deputies Adam B. Hallett and Matthew A. Vaughn on Dec. 21, 2012, said Tuesday that no charges will be forthcoming “at this time.”

“No criminal charges are contemplated at this point and I believe we have investigated the matter thoroughly,” Mr. Coluzza said. “I believe we have taken all of the necessary steps in our investigation and, at this point, I can’t really comment any further than that.”

Mr. Coluzza said he could not confirm that the matter was presented to a grand jury. If it were, and the jury ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges, the matter would result in a no-bill in which the results would be sealed from the public, as no prior charges had been brought. Mr. Coluzza also said he could not confirm “that the matter is entirely closed,” but declined to elaborate.

According to a report of the incident prepared in January 2013 for the county Board of Legislators, county dispatchers received a report from a passerby that Deputy Hallett was unresponsive inside his K-9 unit on the side of County Route 72 in the town of Henderson, with his dog in the vehicle and the engine running. Deputy Vaughn, the Henderson ambulance squad and a state trooper arrived at the scene, but the ambulance squad and the trooper were waved from the scene by Deputy Vaughn, who later reported that Deputy Hallett “appeared to have been drinking,” according to the legislators’ report.

The report states that Deputy Vaughn took a bottle of whiskey from the vehicle and threw it into a field. The deputy contacted Sheriff John P. Burns who, upon learning that the patrol vehicle was undamaged and that no one had actually witnessed Deputy Hallett driving the vehicle, instructed Deputy Vaughn to have Deputy Hallett’s vehicle placed in the garage at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building and have Deputy Hallett driven home.

Deputy Hallett was charged with having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle and both he and Deputy Vaughn were disciplined internally, although the measures taken by the department were never disclosed by the sheriff.

The Oneida County district attorney’s office handled the investigation after it was determined by County Judge Kim H. Martusewicz that Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert had a conflict of interest in the matter.

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