COOPERSTOWN—The Otsego County Sheriff’s Office welcomed Otsego County Veterans’ Service Agency Director Phil Couse, Binghamton Vet Center Director Cornell Morris and Vet Center Veteran Outreach Program Specialist Jason Davis recently, to learn more about services available for veterans and to receive literature and contact information for department patrols.
According to a recent release from the Sheriff’s Office, Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional counseling to eligible veterans, service members including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families.
HARTWICK SEMINARY – A Kansas man has been charged with attempted murder after he allegedly drove off the roadway and intentionally struck a pedestrian, according to Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr.
George K. Wang, 23, Lawrence, Kansas, was driving a 2013 Hyundai on Route 28 in Hartwick when he allegedly drove onto a grassy area at the front of Cooperstown Commons; the car struck a pedestrian.
“The victim was walking on the grass,” said Devlin. “He had to move out of the lane several feet in order to hit him.”
COOPERSTOWN – The County of Otsego’s investigation into Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s
correctional officer son ended when Ros Devlin resigned from his father’s department.
But to the sheriff, it isn’t over.
Tuesday, Sept. 29, the sheriff announced a DVD from the investigation is missing, and he’s asked District Attorney John Muehl to investigate the matter.
In an interview, the sheriff said, separately, he’s also asking the county to amend the final report into his son’s case to remove material implicating his son which the father said is inaccurate.
The sheriff also said he’s been told the DVD ended up in the hands of someone outside the county.
“That raises the question of where it is, and can the county assure that it is secure and accounted for,” Devlin said.
The case against Ros – that he made threats against fellow officers, and to cause a disturbance at Oneonta and Milford schools – surfaced in the spring of 2017 and was settled by his resignation the following year.
According to County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, who was involved in the investigation, the Public Safety Committee “determined that they had returned everything. We have no reason to keep it,”
“Everything we received has been returned,” said Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, who chaired the PSLA in 2017. “We have no reason not to return the originals.”
County Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said he suggested to Devlin that, if the evidence couldn’t be found, to bring the matter to Muehl.
Muehl did indicate that he has plans to investigate the situation.
The final report of his son’s case, Devlin said in the interview, “included an incident that did not occur,” he said. “I asked them to correct it and put an amendment in the full report, which they did not do.”
The report said Inv. William Henn was present at an interview where one of Ros’ coworkers reported being “frightened about statements made by Ros Devlin at the jail, but feared retaliation.”
Henn wasn’t present at the interview, the sheriff said, and disputed the report of Undersheriff’s Allison’s participation as well.
“I was hoping the board would resolve these issues,” said Devlin. “But they didn’t.”
Ros resigned in December 2018, shortly after his father was re-elected as Sheriff.
“In my office, we have to account for every piece of evidence,” said Devlin. “If they can’t account for it, why can’t they?”
COOPERSTOWN – Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. wants to assure the public that the law applies to everyone – even cops.
“Police officers are not above the law,” he said. “They have a responsibility as well.”
A yet-unnamed Otsego County Sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after state police reported a child and adult were injured when the gun he was carrying in his pocket accidentally discharged while he was dining Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Grape and Grog in Camden, Oneida County.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, Troop D, based in Oneida, was attempting to schedule an interview with the deputy, who has retained legal counsel. His name has not yet been released and charges have not yet been filed.
“The sheriff’s department has been cooperative throughout the whole investigation,” said Trooper Jack Keller, Troop D public relations officer.
According to Keller, the deputy was seated at a table when he accidentally discharged one round from a handgun he was carrying in his pants pocket.
“We’re still trying to determine why the gun went off,” said Keller.
He said the bullet exited through the bottom of the deputy’s pocket, through his wallet, and ricocheted off the concrete floor.
Though it was initially believed that the girl was injured by a concrete chip, investigators now say she may have been struck by the bullet.
“The little girl was at the table next to his with her back to him,” Keller explained. “When the gun went off, the bullet may have gone past her elbow and her right hip, then struck the ground.”
He said that the woman sitting next to her, who was also injured, described that she felt “like her foot was on fire. She thought it was fireworks.”
Both injuries were minor and treated by EMS at the scene.
According to Devlin, a second off-duty deputy was also at the scene, but has not been charged or put on administrative leave.
The weapon was not a department-issue weapon, said Devlin. “We encourage our deputies to carry even when off-duty,” he said. “We’re police officers 24/7, and there are situations we are expected to respond to.”
For a deputy to carry while off-duty, he said, the weapon has to be an inspected, approved firearm, and the deputy has to qualify to use it, just as he would his service weapon.
And above all, he stressed safety when carrying a loaded weapon. “Firearms should be properly secured and carried on a person,” he said.
The deputy will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state police investigation. He is also currently under an internal review from the Sheriff’s Department.
NEW LISBON – A high-speed chase involving an Oneonta man accused of burglarizing an Edmeston home ended when the suspect collided with an Otsego County Sheriff’s Department cruiser, according to Aga Dembinska, Troop C public relations officer.
Jesse M. Souza, 30, Oneonta, was allegedly seen by State Police at Richfield Springs leaving the scene of a burglary on Coutny Route 20 in Edmeston. Troopers attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but Souza allegedly failed to comply, and lead troopers on a pursuit through several Otsego County roads and into Allen Road in the Town of New Lisbon.
COOPERSTOWN – Otsego County Sheriffs arrested a New Lisbon man after he allegedly choked a female victim and attempted to set her house on fire, according to Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.
Joshua Donnelly, 32, New Lisbon, was arrested following a domestic dispute where he allegedly choked a woman in her home. “He crumpled up paper all over the house and tried to light it on fire,” said Devlin. “She put out the fire before it had the chance to burn and fled the scene.”
COOPERSTOWN – If you see something, Governor Cuomo suggests, say something.
“We’ve been contacted about businesses having too many people in the store, people not wearing masks, that sort of thing,” said Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr.
As part of Cuomo’s executive order, complaints can be lodged by citizens if they see non-essential businesses open, non-emergency private construction work, or gatherings where more than 10 people are present. The complaints are anonymous, and local law enforcement is sent out to investigate.
In addition to the deputies, the county’s Code Enforcement Office is responding from complaints against contractors.
COOPERSTOWN – A farmer was arrested after Otsego County Sheriff’s deputies, responding to a neighbor’s concern about animal cruelty, found dead animals on his New Lisbon farm.
Christopher M. D’Amato, 54, was arrested and charged with animal cruelty after deputies were called to the scene, where, while walking around the property, observed dead sheep and alpacas, deputies said.
Other farm animals, including horses, were found to be neglected, they added.
EMMONS – A man was found dead when Oneonta firefighters responded to a call about a barn fire at 130 Riverstone Road, according to Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.
The Oneonta Fire Department was called to the scene of a fully involved barn fire at 11:20 p.m. last night. Schenevus, Milford and Pindars Corners all provided mutual aid, and they were on the scene until 4 a.m. this morning.
ONEONTA – Within three days of being released from the custody of the Otsego County Corrections under the state’s new bail reform, James C. Sitts, 39, Laurens, allegedly stole a pick-up truck from a residence in Laurens.
“He was awaiting trial on two home invasions,” said Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. “But under the new law, he was released on Dec. 31.”
Though in custody of Otsego County since December 2018, Sitts had been held on the count of burglary in the second degree at the Delaware County Jail, as the Otsego County Jail is undergoing repairs. “The jail put stipulations on his release,” said Devlin. “But, of course, he violated them. I figured it would take a little longer, but we hit the ground running.”
On Friday, Jan. 3, sheriff’s deputies arrested Sitts after they received a report that a pick-up truck had been stolen in Laurens. The truck was found in another location, and Sitts was then arrested and charged with grand larceny, third degree, and criminal possession of stolen property, third degree, both class D felonies.
“The truck that was stolen was owned by someone who was self-employed,” said Devlin. “His tools were inside. So now the victim can’t work, doesn’t have the tools of his trade. He needs to make a living. This is exactly what we feared would happen.”
Sitts was remanded back to the Delaware County Jail, but because he had committed a felony while out on another felony, he was given the same bail as had been set for his previous charge, $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond.
“Sitts has been incarcerated 16 times,” said Devlin. “This isn’t someone who made an error in judgment one time. He’s been in and out of jail for years.”
Across the state, police departments and jails are dealing with the new laws. In Cohoes, Anthony Ojeda, 38, was released from jail after being charged with second-degree manslaughter, in the death of his 6-week-old son; in Cortland. Shawn Fagan, 52, was given an appearance ticket for felony second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon after he shot a woman in the mouth with a pellet gun.
“It’s common sense,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “If the people who made this law didn’t see this coming, maybe they shouldn’t be the ones making laws.”
Devlin is also struggling with the new discovery requirements, which state that all evidence must be turned over to the defense within 15 days of arrest.
“My deputies spent two hours scanning documents on this stolen truck case,” said Devlin. “Even a normal traffic ticket that might take 20 minutes now takes two hours of paperwork. We’re completely overwhelmed.”
But on Monday, Jan. 6, Governor Cuomo admitted there are some issues in the law that need working out.
“There’s no doubt this is still a work in progress and there are other changes that have to be made,” he said. “The Legislature comes back next year and we’re going to work on it because there are consequences that we have to adjust for.”
“At the very least, we need to give judicial discretion on whether someone should be released or not,” said state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford. “What’s the risk of releasing someone. What’s
the risk to the community? My sense is there’s a groundswell of support for doing something there.”
COOPERSTOWN – Even with $230,000 in emergency funding allocated by the Otsego County Board of Representatives to fix the leaking roof of the county’s Public Safety Building, it could still be six to eight weeks before inmates are returned to the jail. Still, by making use of foam roof repair or other means, the repairs will likely be done to a high standard.
“We have one estimate done and we’re waiting for another,” said Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. “We’ve also asked the architect that’s working on some other projects at the jail to give us a price for expanding services.”
COOPERSTOWN – The Otsego County jail has been temporarily closed and inmates relocated after leaks were discovered, putting inmates and staff at risk, according to a media release by Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr.
Accordng to Devlin, the cause of the leaks has been identified and are in the process of being repaired, but all inmates have been transferred to facilities in nearby counties.
According to Devlin, hunters on the state land near the area of Adams Pond Road and Mason Road on the Plainfield State Land came across a Honda-CRV sitting “a few hundred feet” back from the road on Sunday morning.
TOWN OF MARYLAND – The stench could be smelled for a mile.
More than two dozen dead cows in various states of decay were found in a barn on Route 7 in the Town of Maryland last night, after Otsego County Sheriff’s deputies were alerted to the conditions on the farm.
“It appears they all starved to death,” said Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. “There was no food or water. It’s despicable.”
15 live cattle, as well as goats and pigs, were seized from the farm, and another 17 were put into the pasture while arrangements for relocation were made.