by Bob LaRue
October 17, 2014
CANTON – Second-degree murder charges were dismissed yesterday against Oral “Nick” Hillary – accused in the death of 12-year-old Garrett Phillips of Potsdam three years ago this month. St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome Richards issued a scathing decision, accusing the prosecution of circumstantial evidence, improper questioning and injecting their opinions before the grand jury that served up the indictment against Hillary. Said Richards, "It is particularly troubling to the court that in this serious case, which is so heavily dependent on circumstantial evidence, the prosecutors' improper questions and direct and indirect expressions of opinion and use of numerous exhibits without proper foundation may have impaired the integrity of the proceedings." However, Richards left open the possibility of the case being re-presented to a new grand jury panel.
At an afternoon press conference, Hillary continued to maintain his innocense and said he was “relieved” by the judge’s ruling. He described the last three years as “surreal.” However, Hillary remains subject to court restrictions previously imposed, while the future of the case is being decided.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain says she will appeal the dismissal and reportedly sent legal notice to the defense. She has 45 days in which to either appeal or present the case before a new grand jury. Rain issued a statement yesterday saying, “We will not let this decision stand. I firmly disagree with the Judge’s decision and I will pursue every possible course of action to ensure justice for the family of Garrett Phillips.”
MASSENA – Sears officially announced yesterday that it will be closing up its store and auto center at St. Lawrence Centre Mall, after the holidays in January. The 51 store employees learned of the planned closure and the loss of jobs the day before. Sears officials say they plan to begin liquidation sales on Halloween, at the end of the month, with a tentative closing date of January 18th, even though their current contract runs through August 1st, 2015. Sears also announced this week that they would closing their store and auto centers in Ithaca and Auburn.
POTSDAM – Potsdam village police say they are currently investigating the validity of claims made by the owner of a local advertising firm – which they have not identified – who, during the month of August, solicited funds from several businesses in the Potsdam area. Police say they made contact with several business owners who indicated a male subject solicited them for advertising space in a soon‑to‑be‑produced brochure that would promote Potsdam-area businesses. Police are looking into the claims and are asking any village business having contact with this subject to contact their department at 265‑2121.
ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation designating yogurt as New York State’s official snack – a product that is also produced at a dairy plant in North Lawrence. In a press statement, Cuomo designation is “a fitting recognition of the importance of this state’s yogurt industry, which has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, making New York the top yogurt producer in the nation.” The tremendous boon in Greek‑style yogurt has been the catalyst for the dairy industry's revitalization in New York.
ALBANY – St. Lawrence County experienced and increase of approximately 100 jobs in September, or about two-tenths of a percent from September of last year. Franklin County saw an employment decline of about one percent during the same period, according to the latest figures released yesterday by the New York State Labor Department. Labor officials say New York State gained 4,500 jobs last month, creating an all-time high of 7.6 million jobs statewide. The state’s unemployment rate also dipped from 6.4 to 6.2 percent, the lowest level since October 2008.
ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday convened state agency leaders, along with regional hospital and healthcare representatives, to outline the State's plans for Ebola preparedness. The governor designated eight hospitals statewide to treat potential Ebola patients. Additionally, the State Health Department issued a Commissioner's Order to all hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, and ambulance services, requiring that they follow protocols for identification, isolation and medical evaluation of patients requiring care. As part of the State’s preparedness plan, unannounced drills currently occurring at hospitals and health care facilities will be expanded to college campuses, as well as subway and mass transit areas. The governor said state agencies will continue to work together and make adjustments to the plan, as necessary, in the weeks and months ahead to best protect New Yorkers.
POTSDAM – The Potsdam Town Council has accepted the 2015 tentative budget, pending a public hearing and final approval in three weeks. Town officials say the final spending plan will meet the state-mandated two-percent property tax cap. Meanwhile, the town’s total assessed property value has increased $6.3 million in the past year to $535 million. The town board will conduct a public hearing on the preliminary spending plan on November 6th, with final adoption planned for a meeting to follow. Also that evening, the town will hold a separate hearing on the annex of two parcels of property at Damon Field from the town to the village of Potsdam. Officials say the annexation will help in securing grants for the airport to assist in its expansion.