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District attorney argues staff cannot cover all St. Lawrence County courts

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MASSENA — The district attorney argues St. Lawrence County’s size hinders her staff’s ability to attend every criminal arraignment.

District Attorney Nicole M. Duvé said her office does not have enough staff members for each court in the 32 towns and 13 villages, making it more difficult for her office to be involved in every criminal case.

She called it an “enormous struggle” to juggle which courts her staff can attend.

“It’s a county of enormous size with a great number of courts,” Ms. Duvé said. “The courts meet more often than I have people to cover them.”

Ms. Duvé’s remarks came in response to a letter written by village Police Chief Timmy J. Currier in which he asked, “What is wrong with the justice system?” in the county.

Mr. Currier pointed out about 27 percent of felony charges and 41 percent of violent felony charges result in incarceration in the county jail,Canton, which is well below the rates in neighboring counties.

“I respect that one of the goals of the justice system is to rehabilitate individuals, but we also have to protect our community, and one of the steps to do that is to lock up repeat offenders,” Mr. Currier said.

Mr. Currier’s comments were largely prompted by a New York City man’s arrest last week — and his ability to post $6,500 cash bail and return to the streets minutes after his arraignment on criminal mischief and unlawful imprisonment charges.

St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Viacheslav Mareyev was present at Patrick R. Lloyd’s arraignment and had recommended bail of $2,500 cash on the unlawful imprisonment charge.

He added the suspect had an address history in Manhattan and suggested he was a substantial flight risk.

The court set bail at $5,000 on that charge.

Mr. Currier said Mr. Lloyd has 25 arrests, including 11 felonies, on his rap sheet, most of which occurred in other counties.

Mr. Lloyd was charged last week with felony first-degree unlawful imprisonment and misdemeanor third-degree assault, stemming from a Feb. 16 incident in which he and 18-year-old accomplice Miranda M. Green allegedly attempted to abduct 17-year-old Catherine A. Berry.

Both females in the case are Massena residents.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray acknowledged the size of St. Lawrence County “could very well be” part of the reason for its lower rates of conviction and incarceration than neighboring counties.

According to the Justice Department, the county’s conviction rate was 72.5 percent for felonies and 70 percent for violent felonies in 2011.

That rate is far below the conviction rate of neighboring counties, such as Lewis and Franklin, for that year.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence County is geographically the largest county in the state and one of the largest in the continental United States east of the Mississippi River, with a population density of about 40 people per square mile, according to the 2010 census.

Mr. Gray, who criticized the district attorney for offering too many plea bargains and demanding too little jail time, suggested county officials look at dissolving town and village courts and setting up a small number of regional courts.

Mr. Gray said several decades ago, an attorney from Massena broached the idea of eliminating town and village court offices and creating about six regional courts in their place.

“That idea made sense then and it makes even more sense now,” Mr. Gray said.

Ms. Duvé said ongoing cuts in state and federal funding may affect her office’s ability to prosecute cases throughout the large, rural county.

“I don’t think anything is going to get better,” she said. “Everyone is trying to pool their resources to do the most theycan.”

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