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Watertown man faces prison term for cocaine possession

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A Jefferson County Court trial of a Watertown man accused of possessing cocaine on two occasions was canceled Monday after he admitted the crimes.

Rajsheem L. Richardson, 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Jury selection was scheduled to begin in the morning for a trial in the matter, but the pleas negated the need for one.

Mr. Richardson was charged in an indictment handed up in June with possessing more than 8 ounces of cocaine in April 2012 at an apartment on Institute Street in Adams. Police had gone to the apartment to investigate a reported odor of marijuana and instead located cocaine with an estimated street value of $130,000. Three other people were indicted along with Mr. Richardson.

When police attempted to arrest Mr. Richardson June 14 on Holcomb Street on the indictment warrant, it was claimed that he ran from police, discarding cocaine as he fled. Police alleged that he had 14 grams of cocaine in his possession at that time.

Mr. Richardson is expected to be sentenced May 24 to 5 years in state prison, followed by three years of additional supervision upon his release.

He is an ex-convict, having served about three years in state prison for a second-degree attempted assault conviction in County Court. He admitted in September 2010 that he tried to seriously injure Arthur L. Hayes III on April 24, 2007, at the since-closed Club Renaissance on Route 3 in the town of LeRay.

Police charged that a knife was used to stab Mr. Hayes, a Fort Drum soldier who suffered an injury that required open-heart surgery. A second soldier also suffered stab wounds in the incident.

Mr. Richardson initially pleaded guilty in that case to first-degree assault and was sentenced to five years in prison. He appealed the conviction to the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department, arguing, among other things, that there was not enough evidence on record to support his guilt. The appellate court agreed, stating, among other things, that there were three witness statements taken in the case and each tended to point more toward Mr. Richardson’s innocence than his guilt.

Given the ruling, Mr. Richardson asked Judge Kim H. Martusewicz to review the grand jury minutes in the case and rule whether the evidence within was sufficient to support a charge of second-degree attempted murder, the top count in an indictment handed up in June 2007. Upon review, Judge Martusewicz dismissed the count “in the interest of justice.”

Mr. Richardson then agreed to plead guilty to an amended count of second-degree attempted assault. However, because he already had spent more than three years in custody, or more than the maximum amount called for in his indeterminate sentence of 1 to 3 years, he was released a few days later.

In other court activity Monday, Zachary T. Remington, 18, Watertown, was sentenced to 3 years in prison, followed by 10 years’ post-release supervision, for a Feb. 22 guilty plea to first-degree attempted criminal sex act.

He admitted that he used force to have sexual contact with a 12-year-old boy in the town of Ellisburg. He also was ordered to register with the state as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

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