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Ogdensburg man sentenced to prison for burglary; claims he was set up

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CANTON — Claiming he was set up, an Ogdensburg man broke down in tears Monday in St. Lawrence County Court as he faced a prison sentence in a Massena burglary case.

LaShawn J. Whitfield sat in the galley with his arm around his wife Monday afternoon when County Judge Jerome J. Richards called his name.

“I love you,” he whispered to his wife, kissing her and taking his place next to his attorney. Mr. Whitfield, 41, of 834 Ford St., had an extended conference with his attorney to decide whether he was going to withdraw his Nov. 15 guilty plea to the violent felony of second-degree burglary. The guilty plea was part of a deal with then-District Attorney Nicole M. Duve that promised Mr. Whitfield six years in prison instead of the 15 years he had been facing.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Whitfield sobbed as he told Judge Richards he had been set up by his codefendant, Ashley E. Pike, 28, of 228 E. Orvis St., Massena, and her family.

In her statement to police, Ms. Pike said she and Mr. Whitfield had been visiting her sister on Stanton Road in Massena on Jan. 11, 2013, the day of the burglary. She said during their conversation her sister noted her next-door neighbor had moved into a nursing home a few months earlier and wondered aloud whether there was anything valuable in the 27 Stanton Road home.

She said a short time later she joined Mr. Whitfield when he went to the neighbor’s residence, grabbing a pillow and a hammer from her sister’s residence. She said Mr. Whitfield made the porch light inoperable, broke the glass on a door and entered the house. She said he took a small black jewelry box from the home and sold some of its contents, including a white gold plain band ring and a yellow, gold opal ring, to Peets Jewelers for $123. The two rings were recovered from the store.

Both pleaded guilty to having broken into the house. Ms. Pike was placed on one year of interim probation supervision on Dec. 23 after her April 11 guilty plea to felony second-degree burglary.

“I can withdraw your plea,” Judge Richards told Mr. Whitfield at his first appearance Monday. “But if I set this for trial, there are no promises and you are facing up to 15 years in prison.”

Ms. Duve, assigned to the case as special prosecutor, told the judge that Mr. Whitfield could face life in prison if he is convicted in a trial since he has multiple felony convictions.

Mr. Whitfield broke down in tears and was given until the afternoon to decided to move forward with sentencing.

“I’m not trying to do 15 years for something I didn’t do, for a ring that was $150,” Mr. Whitfield told Judge Richards.

After hearing a list of volunteer work that Mr. Whitfield said he participates in as a means to turn his life around, Judge Richards took pity.

“I believe that you have tried to change since you were charged with this crime, but you have to pay for what you have done,” he said.

The judge reminded Mr. Whitfield that he had seven felony convictions since 1994. He told Mr. Whitfield he would reduce his sentence to five years in prison and five years of parole. Mr. Whitfield was also ordered to pay $375 in fines, fees and surcharges.

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