CANTON — Oral “Nick” Hillary, the man charged with the 2011 murder of Garrett J. Phillips in Potsdam, was released on bond and under the supervision of the probation department following a hearing Friday morning before St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards.
Hillary 39, of 131 Leroy St., Potsdam, appeared before Judge Richards with his attorney, Christopher Renfroe of Renfroe, Driscoll & Foster, New York, in what was a last minute hearing in order to receive the bail bonds and finalize the terms and conditions of his release.
Hillary, has been charged with second-degree murder, accused of strangling Garrett Phillips in the boy’s home, 100 Market St., between 4:56 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Oct. 24, 2011.
In a nearly vacant courtroom, Garrett’s uncle, Brian A. Phillips, grandfather, Robert J. Phillips, and cousin, Kobe B. Phillips, sat idly by as Judge Richards reminded Hillary of the restrictions he was under, including the surrendering of his passport and passport card.
Brian A. Phillips, who started the Justice for Garrett reward fund, said the family had been told by District Attorney Mary E. Rain that the hearing was expected to take place on July 30, but received a call early Friday morning saying the plans had changed due to Mr. Renfroe’s ability to make it to court. The short notice, he said, kept other family and friends from being present.
Assistant District Attorney David A. Haggard told Judge Richards that it was the People’s position that Hillary remain in jail without bail.
After receiving the bail bonds from Empire Bail Bonds bondsman Giuseppe Newton, of New York City, Judge Richards put Hillary under oath. Hillary, a Jamaican native, told the judge he had no Jamaican passports or passport card and was told that he must be present for all future proceedings and, if not, those proceedings will continue without him, even sentencing, if he were to be found guilty after a trial.
Hillary, who was transported to court by St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies Friday morning, had his handcuffs removed and walked out of the court’s front doors, with his girlfriend, Stacia L. Lee, both smiling. They declined to comment on his release.
Mr. Renfroe also declined to comment.
Mr. Phillips said he believed the district attorney’s office did all they could in the matter, and while they have been good about explaining the process, there was little explanation Friday. He added that the Judge’s decision seemed “cut and dry” and that Mr. Haggard and Ms. Rain were not happy with the decision.
Ms. Rain did not return calls, emails or office visits seeking comment on the Judge’s decision or Hillary’s release.
“This is just a sad day for everyone involved,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s hard to believe that our system, in my opinion, is that screwed up.”
Mr. Phillips said in the consistent talk concerning Hillary’s freedom, he wants to know “where’s Garret’s freedom?”
“Hopefully in the future we will get justice for Garrett,” Mr. Phillip’s said. “With the result that the judge has made, it seems that we are fighting the system also.”
Hillary is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 19.