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Arguments in Hillary bail to be heard in county court today

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CANTON — Arguments to keep the man accused of murdering Garrett J. Phillips in jail will be heard today in St. Lawrence County Court.

Oral “Nick” Hillary, 39, of 131 Leroy St., Potsdam, is charged with second-degree murder, accused of having strangled 12-year-old Garrett in his Potsdam home in 2011.

St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards initially set Hillary’s bail at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond. On May 19, Hillary appeared in court with Empire Bail Bonds bondsman Giuseppe Newton, of New York City, who told the judge he had secured three pieces of property that would cover Hillary’s bond.

The hearing was rescheduled for 1 p.m. today so Hillary’s attorney, Christopher Renfroe, New York City, could be notified.

According to a memorandum of law to be filed with St. Lawrence County Court, the properties secured for Hillary’s bond will not cover the amount.

District Attorney Mary E. Rain filed two orders to show cause May 19 seeking either to increase his bail or keep him in jail with no bail.

However, the memorandum, obtained by the Times, concentrates on supporting the second order to show cause, requesting an examination of the value of the three properties offered for bond.

The total value of the three pieces of real property secured by Empire Bail Bonds has to be at least twice the total amount of Hillary’s bond, equaling $300,000. Empire Bail Bonds valued them at a total of $279,127, according to the memorandum.

Additionally, the appropriate documents were not submitted with the court for the properties, the memorandum states.

“When a bail bond is presented as security, defense counsel must provide the people with the deed to the property, a recent title search, an appraisal, a statement setting forth any mortgage or liens on the property and any other relevant records,” none of which was presented, the memorandum states.

“Based on our independent investigation, the three properties offered are either ‘upside down’ with no equity or so encumbered as to render them unavailable to be pledged,” the memorandum states.

Additionally, the document states, there is a concern as to how the bond would be collected if Hillary were to jump bail. Empire Bail Bonds, through Mr. Newton last week, guaranteed the court that if Hillary jumped bail it would provide the court with $150,000 cash.

“However, based on the documents provided to the district attorney’s office this is only a theory and in practicality does not bind Empire Bail Bonds and Insurance Company, INC to such financial obligation,” the memorandum said.

The burden to collect both the $150,000 and Hillary, if he were to jump bail, falls entirely on the district attorney’s office. The amount of time and energy needed for collecting that money is “potentially more expensive than if St. Lawrence County just provided the $150,000 to the court itself,” the document said.

Judge Richards will have to determine, based on the memorandum and arguments by both sides, whether he will return Hillary to St. Lawrence County jail and if so, on either an increased bail or no bail at all. Ms. Rain argues that Hillary poses a flight risk because he has lost his job at Clarkson University, Potsdam, and holds a Jamaican passport.

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