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Potsdam man pleads guilty to falsely reporting incident

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POTSDAM — A Potsdam man charged with sending emails to police under a fake identity to falsely accuse three men in the murder of 12-year-old Garrett J. Phillips has been fined and placed under a one-year conditional discharge after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count.

Potsdam Village Justice Nicholas J. Pignone fined Richard J. O’Hanlon, 65, of 18 Sisson St., $700 and a $205 surcharge for a third-degree falsely reporting an incident conviction in a plea bargain agreement that satisfied several other charges related to the same series of incidents.

Mr. Pignone also placed O’Hanlon under a one-year conditional discharge with a stipulation that he stay away from the Woodgate Public Library.

Potsdam Village Police had charged O’Hanlon in September with two counts of falsely reporting an incident, two counts of third-degree identity theft and two counts of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, all misdemeanors.

Police received two emails, one on Dec. 5, 2011 and a second on Aug. 8, 2013, falsely naming William R. Beebe, Norman Gardiner and Craig Foley as those responsible for Garrett’s death on Oct. 24, 2011.

O’Hanlon said he acted out of revenge against the men, with whom he said he had “trivial” disagreements.

“I didn’t really think about the way it would affect the family of Garrett,” Mr. O’Hanlon said last fall. “I was just that upset with the individuals.”

The emails, sent from public libraries in Potsdam and Woodgate, were done on a fake account created by O’Hanlon under the name of James Blair, the brother of his ex-girlfriend Nancy Matthews, without his knowledge or permission. O’Hanlon posed as Mr. Blair and later as Mr. Gardiner, falsely confessing to involvement in the murder with Mr. Beebe and Mr. Foley, in emails he sent to Potsdam Police Chief Kevin Bates, Lt. Mark R. Murray and Sgt. Joseph Smith.

O’Hanlon told police that he was distressed with personal problems. The bizarre messages referring to the boy’s murder included references to Elvis and the Antichrist.

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