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Former Gouverneur mayor drops motion; had argued he didn’t get benefit of plea bargain agreement

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CANTON - The former mayor of Gouverneur opted to withdraw his motion seeking to have his sentence vacated after the county court judge warned him he could be exposing himself to a much longer prison sentence.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards had sentenced Christopher A. Miller, 32, in April to 2 to 4 years in prison for swindling two Gouverneur residents out of more than $20,000 in a real estate scheme. Miller, formerly of 171 Rowley St., was sentenced as a second felony offender after his guilty plea to a fourth-degree grand larceny count.

Judge Richards had called for Miller to be placed in the Department of Corrections six months shock incarceration program.

If he had been successful in his completion of the military-style treatment program, he would have been eligible for early release and served the balance of his sentence on parole.

The sentence was the part of a plea deal with District Attorney Mary E. Rain’s office. Mr. Miller was originally charged with third-degree grand larceny for his April 2012 sale of a home at 31 Edith St. to Ronald and Heather Sliter for $50,000. The land contract was fraudulent because he failed to mention he co-owned the property with Dylan T. Liebenow, who did not approve the transaction.

The plea deal both reduced his original charge and satisfied two uncharged crimes that included a real estate transaction he brokered without a real estate license for another property he did not technically own.

Miller also sold properties at 18 and 24 South St. to Kyle J. Travis for $85,000. He had purchased the South Street apartment houses from Mark E. Hendrick, who held a $110,000 mortgage on them and had started foreclosure proceedings on them before Miller sold them to Mr. Travis.

Miller, in the motion he filed with the court, said the Department of Corrections had ruled he was not eligible for the shock incarceration program.

He argued his sentence should be vacated since his plea was made without knowing the plea agreement could not be honored. He suggested his guilty plea was conditioned upon the belief he would be eligible for release from prison after completing the 180-day shock program.

“He believes his sentence should be set aside, and his new sentence should be equal to the time he would have served if he had entered the shock incarceration program,” defense attorney Christopher Nye said.

“I did what I promised,” Judge Richards said. “He got what he bargained for. How am I bound by an administrative decision made by the Department of Corrections? What does Mr. Miller think he is going to get out of this?”

The county court judge said if he vacated the sentence and placed Miller on the trial calendar, the Gouverneur man could face a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years and a maximum of 5 1/2 to 11 if found guilty of the grand larceny and offering a false instrument counts contained in the indictment.

Mr. Nye, suggesting the court’s initial sentence demonstrated the judge had a “heart of gold,” said he could resentence Miller to the Willard program, a substance abuse treatment program that would allow him to be released under parole supervision after completing that 90-day program.

Judge Richards said that option was not on the table.

“I’ve tried shock. I’m not going to sentence him to Willard. This was not a drug crime. When we considered this prior to his plea, I refused to consider Willard. Nothing has changed,” he noted.

The county court judge said Miller’s former attorney, John Hallett, had convinced him to consider adding the shock incarceration program option in the sentence.

“It was originally 2-4 straight. I did what I promised to do,” he reiterated.

Miller then was granted a brief adjournment to discuss the case with his attorney and, when Mr. Nye returned to the courtroom, he informed the court Miller had decided to withdraw his motion. He said Miller has a 1-year-old daughter and wants to get his sentence served so he can be back on the streets to see his child grow up.

The Gouverneur man, tears rolling down his cheeks, confirmed he was prepared to withdraw his motion.

“I can’t risk missing my child grow up. I can’t. I’ll do the 2-4,” he said.

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