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Buffalo-area man ordered to pay surcharge after felony count reduced to violation

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MASSENA - A Buffalo-area man charged in early January with possessing just over a pound of marijuana was ordered to pay a $105 surcharge after the initial felony count was reduced to a violation.

Village police had charged James G. (Jamie) Spotted Elk Jr., 40, of 2388 Upper Mountain Road, Sanborn, and Nancy L. Best of 724 Division Ave., Apt. 1, Niagara Falls, with felony counts of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana following a traffic stop on Jan. 11. Best was also charged with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Prosecutors had previously filed a motion seeking to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Spotted Elk had entered the guilty plea after he was offered the opportunity to plead guilty to a disorderly conduct violation in a plea bargain agreement with the district attorney’s office.

Acting Massena Village Justice James M. Crandall also sentenced Spotted Elk to time served. He had been incarcerated for 30 days following his arrest, according to court documents.

Spotted Elk had two prior felony convictions.

He was sentenced to one to three years in state prison in August 1996 for a second-degree attempted criminal mischief conviction and two to four years in state prison in February 1999 for a criminally negligent homicide conviction, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Services website.

According to newspaper reports from the time, Spotted Elk had initially been charged with manslaughter following the May 2, 1998 shooting death of Dustan Printup, 19, in a vehicle on Mount Hope Road on the Tuscarora Reservation. Spotted Elk was reportedly struggling for the weapon with another person in the vehicle when the weapon fired.

U.S. Border Patrol agents had initiated the Jan. 11 traffic stop that led to the drug charges in Massena on Route 37 at the Route 420 intersection. Agents said they had seen the rental vehicle being operated by Best leave an area where they had observed suspicious behavior involving a snowmobile a short time earlier.

Spotted Elk initially told agents he had been visiting a cousin in the prison in Chateaugay, but later admitted he been on the reservation shortly before the 1:20 a.m. traffic stop in Massena.

Agents said during the traffic stop they noticed Spotted Elk was leaning way back in the passenger seat of the 2012 Ford Fusion, and he told officers he was too tired to move his seat back up.

They said a Border Patrol K-9 unit responded to the traffic stop, and a plastic bag containing 1.1 pounds of marijuana was located on the floor on the passenger side of the back seat. Agents turned the case over to Massena Village Police.

In other recent court action before Judge Crandall:

• Jason C. Brown, 23, of 65 Kinnie Road, Massena, pleaded guilty to a reduced count of driving while intoxicated. The court directed the probation department to conduct a pre-sentence investigation and scheduled sentencing for Nov. 19.

Massena-based state police had charged Brown with aggravated driving while intoxicated following a traffic stop at 3:44 a.m. June 14 on County Route 42 in the town of Massena.

He had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 percent. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent of higher is considered proof of intoxication in the state. A DWI charge is elevated to the more serious aggravated DWI offense when the blood alcohol content is 0.18 percent or higher.

• Jan Y. Bergeron, 37, of Sainte Charles Borromee, Que., was fined $25 and a $105 surcharge after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of marijuana in a plea bargain agreement that satisfied a misdemeanor count.

Massena-based state police had charged Bergeron with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana Aug. 25. He reportedly was found to have approximately 23.5 grams of marijuana, along with a psilocybin mushroom under his driver’s seat. He was turned over to troopers following a secondary inspection conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the U.S. port of entry in Rooseveltown.

St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney A. Michael Gebo had cited prosecutorial issues when he requested the dismissal of the controlled substance count. He said the paperwork accompanying the charge was insufficient to gain a conviction. The prosecutor said there was no evidence the alleged mushroom had been field-tested to determine it was illegal and the controlled substance had not been properly identified.

• Malekka A. Oakes, 17, of 55 River Road, Akwesasne, was granted a six-month adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.

New York State Park Police had charged Oakes with unlawful possession of marijuana on June 29 at Robert Moses State Park.

Police said they found three marijuana cigarettes in Oakes’s bag after responding to a complaint of a female smoking marijuana in an area near the beach gazebo.

The marijuana violation will be dismissed if Oakes remains arrest free for the next six months.

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