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Guyette seeks deal to avoid prison for alleged embezzlement

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CANTON — The former Potsdam Town Court clerk accused of embezzling more than $117,000 is trying to reach an agreement that will keep her from prison.

Mary Jo E. Guyette, 43, of 1221 County Route 35, is charged with third-degree grand larceny and falsifying business records. According to her attorney, Edward F. Narrow, a plea agreement is in the works with the St. Lawrence County district attorney’s office that may result in no jail time.

The charges follow an investigation by state police and the state comptroller’s office, which allegedly revealed that beginning in June 2009, Ms. Guyette altered court financial documents to hide the theft of $117,120. She was suspended with pay in June when the discrepancies were found, and was fired Sept. 11.

On April 21, Pierrepont Town Justice Robert G. Camp ordered the case up to County Court, where it was expected to be brought before a grand jury. On Friday, Mr. Narrow said Ms. Guyette wants to plead to a Superior Court information that would charge her with the top count of third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, thus avoiding a grand jury indictment.

“I think we have the foundation for a plea,” Mr. Narrow said. “There will be no reduction by the district attorney. Our main concern was negotiating a fair sentence for Mary Jo.”

Mr. Narrow said his client had no criminal history before this case and was seeking a probationary sentence of five years along with restitution of $117,000, which he said was agreed upon by both District Attorney Mary E. Rain and Ms. Guyette.

“We know the DA is willing to work with us in seeking the appropriate disposition that takes into account the defendant’s lack of criminal history, the need for punishment for the conviction of the felony offense and balancing the need for the town of Potsdam to get their restitution,” Mr. Narrow said.

Ms. Rain said no deal is certain until a judge agrees. First, a judge must be found to handle the case.

Ms. Guyette’s mother worked as a secretary for St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards when he was the county’s district attorney, creating a conflict. Ms. Rain said it is expected that he, along with other judges in the county, will recuse themselves from the case, raising the possibility that it might be handled outside the county.

“I’m looking for a felony plea and restitution, and I need to get this before a judge before I can say it is a deal,” Ms. Rain said.

“The judge has to be a part of the plea bargain,” she said. “Until then, it is just an agreement between two attorneys. Sentencing is totally up to the discretion of the court.”

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