Weekly top reads: Man dies at Conquest boat launch, rebuilt Auburn McDonald's, Cayuga County crime stories
The Citizen staff
The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
Man dies in Conquest boat launch incident
Authorities are investigating the death of a man who was pulled from a vehicle just before it drifted into the water at a boat launch in Conquest on Friday.
According to county 911 dispatchers, a call at 2:28 p.m. reported that a vehicle had submerged into the waters surrounding Haiti Island in the area of Route 38 and Haiti Road.
The Conquest, Port Byron and Weedsport fire departments, AMR Ambulance, Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to the scene, along with divers from the Auburn Fire Department. The Cayuga County Coroner's Office was later called to the site.
Witnesses at the scene described seeing a man have some type of medical episode while either placing a boat trailer into or taking it out of the water. A witness pulled the man from the vehicle, which fell into the water and fully submerged, and administered CPR along with another bystander but were unsuccessful, witnesses said.
Divers with the Auburn Fire Department recovered the vehicle from the water.
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Rebuilt Genesee Street McDonald's in Auburn set to reopen Friday
After closing down this May for a complete teardown and rebuild, the Genesee Street McDonald's restaurant in Auburn is reopening Friday Oct. 11.
The new structure is a complete redesign of interior and exterior of the restaurant, and includes a number of new features designed to enhance the customer experience, owner Courtney Feehan said.
One of the most immediately noticeable new features is the touchscreen ordering kiosk. As soon as guests enter the restaurant, they'll be greeted by a guest experience leader, a new position created specifically to help guide guests through the process of customizing their order with the kiosk.
If a guest requests their order to go, they'll receive a number to pick it up at the counter as usual. But if they decide to eat in the restaurant, they can sit a table of their choosing and the guest experience leader will personally serve the order.
There are a number of improvements inside the kitchen as well. The grills now feature touchscreen technology, fryers have expanded capacity, and new hoods have been installed to better cycle and filter air.
"This restaurant is built to handle a lot of capacity," Feehan said.
Once the food comes off the grill, it goes to what's called the optimized preparation line. After a worker assembles and packages an item, it's then placed onto a conveyor belt and sent directly to the pick up area for servers and cashiers.
The Genesee St. location is the first among the seven other McDonald's Feehan and her husband own to feature the new production line, and the same is true for the new dedicated dessert and beverage area.
The dessert and beverage area keeps the machinery for coffee, ice cream and specialty items separate from the main kitchen, which Feehan said helps improve preparation time as well as quality.
Despite being almost 1,000 square feet smaller than the previous 6,020-square-foot building, the restaurant still includes a PlayPlace. Feehan said she fought hard to keep a PlayPlace since the community had grown attached to the previous one.
Although the building is new, customers are likely to see some familiar faces, as all of the original employees were offered positions at the Feehans' other restaurants and given the chance to return to the Auburn location as it reopens.
"We really are very appreciative of the employees for their flexibility," Feehan said. "Everyone was really excited to open and that's probably the best part."
The restaurant is scheduled to open at 5 a.m. Friday, and will feature a number of promotions in the coming weeks to welcome customers back, Feehan said.
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Auburn Schine Theater owner awaiting grant money to resume work
The Auburn Schine Theater has been quiet for more than a year, but the owner of the historic downtown theater hopes to resume work on it soon.
Michael Licata, vice president of theater owner Bowers Development, said Friday that the contract for the project's $1 million Restore NY Communities Initiative grant has been tabled for the November meeting of the Empire State Development Board of Directors. Additionally, the $1.2 million grant awarded to Bowers through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council is scheduled to go before the board in early 2020. A representative of Empire State Development confirmed the dates, and said both grants are following the standard timetable.
Licata, who is also the Schine project manager, said Bowers has been waiting to continue work on the art deco theater until the two grants are approved by the state.
"If you do certain things before the state grants the funds, the money you spend isn't eligible for recovery," he said.
Licata said work on the Schine could resume as soon as Bowers receives approval for the Restore NY grant, which was awarded to the city of Auburn on the developer's behalf. He cautioned, however, that weather could delay that work, as it mostly concerns the exterior of the theater. Shoring up its windows, marquee, ticket booth and front vestibule is next on the developer's list of priorities.
AUBURN — Walking into the Auburn Schine Theater two years ago, most developers would have be…
"We can't do a lot of the interior work until the building is airtight," Licata said. "It's in good shape, but not great shape."
For that reason, Licata said the timetable for the Schine's completion ranges from fall 2020 to spring 2021. The project's budget remains about $6 million.
Led by President Bryan Bowers, Bowers Development bought the Schine from the Cayuga County Arts Council in December for $15,000. The East Syracuse developer plans to rehabilitate the theater as a multi-use performing arts and civic center, adapting its auditorium to meet modern needs but restoring the historic character of architect John Eberson's 1938 creation.
Speaking to The Citizen in March, Bowers said the remainder of the cost of the Schine project will be covered by historic tax credits and bank and private financing. Licata confirmed that Bowers still intends to apply for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the project as well. The developer previously received $800,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the city of Auburn to remove the theater's asbestos and other hazardous materials in early 2018. That was the last significant work on the theater, which has been in the process of restoration since 1998.
Licata said Bowers is working with architect Crawford & Stearns, of Syracuse, to finalize its plan for the Schine.
The plan requires approval by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which wants the theater to be restored as faithfully as possible. The office said it was "very pleased" with an early version of the plan, obtained by The Citizen through a Freedom of Information Law request in early 2018. An updated version of the plan was not available. A recent FOIL request for all Schine records and correspondence dating back to May 30, 2018, produced only two documents from the office, both pertaining to its approval of the theater's sale to Bowers.
Licata said he understands frustration with the pace of work on the Schine, but he asked for patience given the architectural treasure at stake.
"A project like this we have to do right, not right now," he said. "Projects like this are, pardon the pun, marquee projects. You have to do them correctly."
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Mourning love of her life, Trumansburg war widow prepares for their baby
TRUMANSBURG — On a late summer Saturday, a procession of fire engines, motorcycles and squad cars escorted a van down Main Street, greeted by clusters of flag-waving folks. By the time the caravan had arrived at the American Legion hall, a crowd had gathered; lines of police, firefighters and the military parted to form a path of honor.
Krista Johnston stepped from the van — an impossibly young widow. She wore her husband's favorite blue-and-pink Hawaiian shirt; it seemed too big even over her pregnant belly.
Sgt. James Johnston, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, had been killed along with a Green Beret on June 25 in Uruzgan Province in south-central Afghanistan. Two months later, his adopted hometown had come together over a holiday weekend to pay tribute, and to say goodbye.
In fact, Johnston hadn't lived here long. But he'd quickly adopted the rituals and rhythms of small-town life. He was No. 55, a tenacious lineman for the Trumansburg Blue Raiders, taking the field under the Friday night lights. He was the gung-ho volunteer firefighter. He was JJ, Jamie or Texas (a nickname he'd acquired because he constantly boasted about his roots).
He also was the loyal friend, the comic relief, the Hawaiian shirt aficionado, the blisteringly honest high school sweetheart-turned-husband of Krista, whose own father was so fond of him he called him the "son I never had."
And now, he was Trumansburg's contribution to the list of some 2,300 American dead in the war in Afghanistan.
Those deaths have been easy to overlook. Though the recent cancellation of peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban has attracted headlines, Afghanistan's war has long been relegated to news briefs. It's the nation's longest war — the youngest enlistees weren't even born 18 years ago when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and the hunt began for Osama bin Laden. But the bloodshed has seemed far distant, unless it claimed a son, a friend, a lover.
With its celebration of James Gregory Johnston, the war came home to this hamlet in upstate New York.
At the legion hall, 24-year-old Krista watched the time-honored military traditions: the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps and the presentation of a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol. The next day, the hall had been transformed for a baby shower with towering piles of gifts amid pink and blue balloons, as Krista entered wearing a Hawaiian floral dress with a white-and-gold "mother-to-be" ribbon tied around her midsection.
At the intersection of life, death and a never-ending war, there is this: a love story.
It seemed inevitable James Johnston would become a soldier.
As a toddler, he'd play in the triple-degree Texas summers in cargo shorts and heavy-duty camouflage, digging foxholes in his front yard. His mother, Meghan Billiot, recalls he once asked to have a toy driver's license created for him with the designation "Special Forces" and code name Silver Falcon.
Jamie sometimes wore Army fatigues for Halloween; other times, he was Robin Hood or Superman. His costumes varied, his message didn't. "He was always that person who was saving somebody," his mother says. "He always wanted to stand up for people who were the underdog."
He was comfortable around guns; his father, Richard, bought him his first rifle at age 10 and he became an expert marksman.
The military suited him, too. "He liked the fraternity, the sense of belonging," his father says.
And as the son, grandson and nephew of veterans, Jamie had generations of family to turn to for knowledge, advice — and inspiration.
He was just five days shy of his 7th birthday when terrorists attacked America, killing nearly 3,000 people. Though the horrifying images of the crumbling World Trade Center played in an endless loop on TV, he wasn't old enough to understand the nation was heading into war: On Oct. 7, 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, setting out to topple the Taliban, crush al Qaida and find bin Laden.
A decade later, Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan during a dramatic nighttime raid by a team of Navy Seals. But the battles, the bombings and the debate over troop size continued as the freckle-faced kid who pretended to be a soldier grew up to be one.
When Johnston stepped foot onto Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last spring he was a sturdy 24-year-old, a six-year Army veteran and an ordnance specialist who'd completed rigorous explosive training.
His career path had never been in doubt. He told everyone he met after moving to New York — Johnston' father, then a paramedic, had relocated there — that he planned to enlist after high school. "He kept preaching the military 24-7," says Roger Lauper, chief of the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company, where Johnston recruited his father to join him as a volunteer firefighter.
Johnston's parents had split when he was very young and his mother says when her son mentioned enlisting, she urged him to consider all military options. Above all, she says she cautioned him not to rush into anything.
"I wanted him to live a little bit, to take some time off," she says. "To be honest, he told me he felt he wasn't going to make it to old age and he wanted to experience things as fast as possible. I said, 'Wait, you might feel that way, but your destiny's not set in stone.' ... He did everything in fast forward."
On Saturday, hundreds of people, some wearing Hawaiian shirts and plastic leis in Johnston's honor, lined a pathway next to bricks etched with the names of local boys who'd gone to war, some never to return. The gathering was a combination barbeque and day of remembrance.
On one wall, a slide show of photos captured the many sides of James Johnston:
The animal lover, posing with a parrot perched atop his head, checking out a zebra from his car window at the Topsey Exotic Ranch & Drive Thru Safari, near has Texas home. The soldier, in fatigues, laughing with Army buddies. And maybe the most important role, Krista's partner, smiling together on Mount Rainier, looking into each other's eyes on their wedding day in 2014, she in strapless white, he in shades and a baseball cap, after they married at the Destin, Florida, courthouse.
The two met in high school. Their first date amounted to little more than Krista skipping school to hang out with Johnston at his home after he'd been banged up during football practice.
She liked his easy smile, his jokes, his courtly Southern manner; he first called her Miss Krista and opened doors for her. Soon, they were inseparable, two outdoorsy types, zipping around the woods, splashing in the mud in a four-wheeler, hunting deer. Krista's family, the VanDerzees, had lived in the same place for generations. Jamie, the newcomer, was Texas proud, bragging that the heat, the scenery, the trees — everything was better back home
Johnston was brutally honest without being mean, the kind of guy who'd tell a friend if he thought she was wearing something that didn't look good on her.
"He could not lie, even if it got him in trouble," says Fred VanDerzee, his father-in-law.
He always spoke his mind. "Whenever you asked his opinion, he was going to give it you straight, no shortcuts, no 'this is to make you feel better,'" Krista says.
Paula Kovach, Johnston's aunt, describes Krista as his perfect partner, "grace under fire. She would handle his bluntness and give it right back."
But Jamie was a romantic, too. In 2014, while training in Florida, Krista visited, and he immediately insisted they stroll down the beach. Friends walking ahead picked up a bottle, urging a reluctant Krista to open it. Grudgingly, she did. Inside was a message: "Will you take my last name?'"
She turned around to find Jamie on one knee. "I think it's probably the sweetest thing he's ever done," she recalls.
They married two months later and planned for a delayed wedding bash, in Texas, naturally, ideally in an open field with a big tree, maybe on their five-year anniversary. But Afghanistan intervened.
Johnston had deployed just a month after returning from almost a year-long tour in Korea — he'd initiated his Hawaiian shirt tradition there to lighten the mood.
Despite his easygoing ways, he had a stubborn streak, too. A soldier friend recalled he once spent a half hour lying on the floor protesting an order he didn't like. And at his memorial at Fort Hood, a former platoon leader said when Johnston was ordered to do some tasks, he'd sometimes say: "'Sir. That's dumb ... Fine I'll do it, but I'm going to complain the whole time.'"
Johnston saw his deployment as a chance to serve with his buddies, improve his career opportunities and use his skills, Krista says. "He felt he hadn't done enough."
Krista had learned she was pregnant the day before her husband was deployed. It was an especially emotional moment, she says, because they'd been trying to start a family for two years and she'd miscarried recently. But how to deliver the news? Jamie loved gifts, so she printed a message on a piece of paper, framed it, put it in a box and handed it to him that night.
Jamie opened the box, stared at the message, then turned around with tears rolling down his face. "It was the first time I'd see him cry in the seven years we'd been together," she recalls. She cried, too. The next morning, he headed to war.
Nine weeks later, Krista told Jamie they'd be having a girl.
He started pondering post-military life. He talked with his mother about returning to Galveston, Texas, to join her charter fishing operation, even though he wasn't crazy about fishing. He called his father-in-law to discuss possible business ventures.
On June 25th, Krista and Jamie did what they'd done since he arrived in Afghanistan. He messaged her that he'd be going on an operation. "Be safe. I love you," she'd responded, and she awaited word that he had returned safely.
This time, there was silence.
Johnston and Master Sgt. Micheal Riley, a Green Beret, were killed in combat; the military said they died from injuries sustained in small arms fire, but did not elaborate.
Two-and-a-half months later, on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Johnston's unit returned from Afghanistan.
Krista and Richard Johnston were among those waiting at Fort Hood. Six months earlier, she'd said goodbye to her husband at that same spot.
Amid the reunions, there was a surprise for Krista — a tribute to her husband, bold and colorful, befitting his personality.
As James Johnston's buddies stepped off the bus, each man wore a Hawaiian shirt.
After Jamie's death, Krista decided to name their daughter after him. Friends and family will assemble a book of stories and photos that will help her learn about the man she'll never meet. Krista will have plenty to say, too.
"She'll know he was my best friend," she says, and "the love of my life."
Krista says she'll also be guided by her husband 's words after a friend, also an explosive specialist, was killed last year in Afghanistan. He vowed then to focus on his buddy's life, not his death.
Jamie, she says, "would want us to remember that he lived a happy, fun-loving life."
Krista will raise Jamie Avery Grace Johnston in Texas and introduce her to their menagerie that includes two dogs and three mini pigs.
She hopes their baby girl will resemble her father. "I would love to see his dark hair, freckles and dark brown eyes," she says. She's sure Jamie will inherit his personality, too.
"I know that she's going to be sarcastic and I know she's going to stand up for herself," she says, "and she's going to be just as strong as her father."
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FBI investigating 'alarming and illegal' internet posts by Port Byron students
The FBI is investigating "alarming and illegal" internet posts by students in the Port Byron Central School District.
District superintendent Neil O'Brien on Friday alerted parents that the FBI, New York State Police, and Social Sentinel, a security software system the district subscribes to, "all give us warning signs regarding the content that some of our students are posting on social media."
O'Brien said Saturday that these social media posts include nude photos, but said he couldn't talk about specifics.
O'Brien said in a weekly newsletter sent by email Friday night that over the past several weeks, he has seen, or been informed by law enforcement about, "students posting images and words that are alarming and illegal. It is beyond eye-opening to have the FBI involved, but some of the items are exploitative, and will result in prosecution for the adults involved.
"I write this week asking for assistance," O'Brien said. "We frequently speak to the students about the dangers of social media, and have counselors and administrators work with individuals who have been adversely affected by it, but we alone cannot keep up with the issues. There needs to be conversations with and expectations from parents that help ensure that students understand that it is never alright to post nude pictures of yourself or friends. It is never alright to allow someone to make you do something that is harmful, or that violates your personal privacy or values."
O'Brien said that "based on the issues we’ve encountered over the past year, there have been too many instances of our students being involved in inappropriate posting on social media, or involved in other activities that violate personal privacy and, in some cases, the law."
"I leave you with two thoughts," the newsletter states, "One is the fact I have to write in generalities to protect student privacy, and not share too much. The second is that both the volume and the subject matter of these stories would make you cringe and cry. There are far too many of them, and some are just heartbreaking. It can only be arrested when all of us take a stand, and are willing to speak with our kids honestly and from the heart. Having people arrested might mean that someone pays a price, but for the victims, that cost is way too high."
On Saturday, O'Brien said the district has been dealing with social media issues for years and that schools across the country deal with inappropriate posts from students.
"Unlike the days of old when you'd pass a note to somebody in school and so forth, social media opens the whole world. And there are bad actors all around the world who prey on young people, and so social media's a gateway," O'Brien said. "It's not about Cayuga County, it's not even about New York, it can be around the world. That's the scary part."
Ribbon-cutting event planned for new Auburn VA clinic
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for a recently opened veterans outpatient clinic in Auburn.
The event will be held Friday at the clinic, which is located at 47 E. Genesee St. and opened in August, according to a news release from the Syracuse Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Syracuse center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave the contract for the Auburn clinic to the Virginia-based health clinic operator STG International last year.
The company was picked over Auburn Community Hospital, which held the contract for the clinic for over 20 years. STG International was selected as a part of the Department of Veteran Affairs federal solicitation and award selection process, in which clinic contracts are bid every five years. The company proposed converting the new facility which formerly housed a Rite Aid pharmacy, into a clinic. Renovations took place earlier this year.
The news release said the new facility allows for "more timely access to primary care, diagnostic services, behavioral health and group therapy, and other services in an appropriately-sized, efficient facility for more than 1500 enrolled Veterans."
Michael DelDuca, ambulatory care line manager at the Syracuse medical center, said in the press release that the new Auburn clinic permits "for significant expansion of specialty care and services provided at the former location."
“Our overall goal is to provide as many services as possible to our Veterans in their community to eliminate, where possible, the need to travel to the Medical Center in Syracuse”, DelDuca said in the news release.
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Why central New York troopers publicly release so many security photos
New York State Police troops put out press releases every day, but the one covering most of central New York stands out for its frequent publication of retail store security photos.
Through the first nine months of 2019, New York State Police Troop D issued 31 press releases with security camera photos of people who are suspected of crimes — mostly misdemeanor-level larcenies. Fourteen of those releases were about larcenies that occurred at a single retailer: the Walmart in Watertown.
Troop D, which has jurisdiction over seven counties that include Onondaga and Oswego, overwhelmingly uses the most security photos in its investigative process, a review by The Citizen found. Among the other 10 troops that cover the rest of the state, none used security photo press releases more than 11 times.
Security camera photos differ from mug shots, which are taken only after someone is charged with a crime, with the arrest being a matter of public record. However, state police stopped releasing mugshots in April due to a provision in the 2019-2020 state budget that banned the release of booking photos unless there was a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Jack Keller, Troop D public information officer, said there are no specific guidelines that his troop follows to determine whether a security photo should be used in a press release. He said his troop has been “very successful” with identifying the people depicted in such photos after the releases are shared with the public.
Keller also credited social media with helping troopers to identify suspects, but the state police Facebook page only has two posts with security photos of larceny suspects — neither of which are in Troop D's jurisdiction.
“The idea here is to get information for identification purposes only,” he said. The photos are usually obtained by a trooper after the trooper first responds to a report of a crime, Keller said.
Sometimes the person identified in the photo is found to not actually be involved in any alleged crime, Keller said, and police will then issue an updated press release. Keller also said an updated press release would be issued when suspects are identified so that people don't continue to call in.
Another public information officer for a different state police troop — Kerra Burns of Troop G — said there are no policies of any kind that are specific to individual troops. All troops adhere to the overarching Division of State Police policies.
However, she said the choice to publish security camera photos in press releases was a matter of a public information officer’s “preferred method of getting information out.” For comparison, Burns’ troop did not include any such photos in their press releases during the last nine months.
Troop G, which is based in Latham and covers 10 counties in a jurisdiction east of Troop D, tends to distribute information on suspects via a local news segment called “Perp Patrol” on WRGB in Albany. But the pictures on “Perp Patrol” tend to be mugshots.
Troop D publishes more photos of suspected larcenies from the Walmart in Watertown because that location provides the photos to investigators more frequently than other locations, Keller explained.
Management of the Watertown Walmart, where 14 of the security photos made public by state police were taken, deferred all questions to its corporate office, which did not return The Citizen’s requests for comment.
Other police agencies approach the use of security camera footage differently.
Roger Anthony, deputy chief for the Auburn Police Department, noted that the department released a security photo of Generation Bank robbery suspect Dustin W. Hall in June.
"I wouldn’t say we do it on minor, low-level offenses like petit larcenies and so on. I think we more or less use it for more significant investigations. Not to say that we never would," he said.
With lower offenses that tend to happen at retailers, Anthony said the department usually identifies suspects through internal emails with neighboring law enforcement agencies.
"I’m going to say more often than not, you don’t see those come out media-wise because we’re able to identify the person in the video before we get to that point," Roger said.
David Elkovitch, a defense attorney practicing in Cayuga County, said the practice of publishing photos of people from security footage is fine if it works for law enforcement as an investigative tool.
But, he said, if no charges were brought against the pictured person, “It ought to be public somewhere. Probably the same way that they published it.” He said it should be publicized if it was the wrong person, as well.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in asking the public for help, but just make sure you investigate it properly. And if you got the wrong person, admit that you’re wrong,” Elkovitch said.
Auburn co-defendants get more prison time for not appearing at original sentencing
Amy Kocur and Kenneth Shelton Sr., formerly of 15 Madison Ave. in Auburn, were each supposed to be sentenced on July 23 to three years of incarceration followed by two years of parole.
Instead, Judge Mark Fandrich put out a bench warrant for their arrest when the pair never appeared in court. They were picked up Aug. 7 on the warrant, according to Cayuga County arrest records, and appeared before Fandrich again on Wednesday morning.
Brittany Grome Antonacci, senior assistant Cayuga County district attorney, asked that Fandrich double 63-year-old Shelton's prison sentence from three to six years in prison.
Antonacci said she received information from drug task force officers that the co-defendants were actually on the run and "hotel hopping" to avoid sentencing — which David Zukher, counsel to both defendants, contested.
He called doubling the sentence an "absurd request" and stressed a number of points: that Shelton is addicted to drugs, that he was looking for his missing step-daughter and that neither of his clients re-offended.
"I wasn't on the run," Shelton said in a statement to the court, going on to say that he misunderstood when he was supposed to be sentenced. He also talked about his drug relapse after he was released from prison 21 years ago.
"I don't doubt that you have issues related to drugs," Fandrich said, but pointed out that — even if Shelton had the date of sentencing wrong — he didn't turn himself in at any point.
"I do believe an enhancement of your sentence is in order," Fandrich said. He sentenced Shelton to five years in prison followed by three years of parole. Shelton was also ordered to pay $860 in restitution to the task force.
Kocur, 48, appeared in court immediately after Shelton and acknowledged for the record that she was previously convicted in Seneca County of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance in 2008.
Antonacci said in court that Kocur, as a previous felony offender, faces a maximum of 24 years in prison. She asked Fandrich to give Kocur a 5-year sentence for not appearing at her original sentencing date.
"The fact is they could've given themselves in at any time," Antonacci said.
Zukher said his argument for Shelton applies equally to Kocur and noted that she was not gone long enough to be considered jumping bail. "This defendant is a drug addict," he said. "I ask your honor to not punish her for a disease."
Ultimately, Fandrich extended her three-year sentence to four years in prison followed by three years of parole. Kocur will also have to split the $860 in restitution with Shelton.
Kocur pleaded guilty May 21 to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a narcotic drug, both class B felonies.
Dixon admitted in court on Wednesday that on three separate occasions in 2018 she sold heroin to an undercover task force agent and possessed heroin with the intent to sell it.
Eventually wiping away tears, Dixon pleaded guilty to all nine counts in her indictment: four counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, class B felonies; four counts of third-degree criminal possession of a narcotic drug, also class B felonies; and one count of fourth-degree conspiracy, a class E felony.
She was promised concurrent sentences of four years — instead of the maximum of nine — for each charge, in exchange for her guilty plea. Fandrich said he would order a shock camp component, but it would be up to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to grant it.
'She was a gem': Longtime downtown Auburn shop owner to retire
AUBURN — Dina Favaro is hanging up her sewing needle.
After 37 years of hemming pants and mending seams, the owner of Dina's Alterations will close her downtown shop in December.
But Favaro, who will soon turn 80, already stopped taking new work this summer. On a sign in the door, she wrote that she has enough old work to keep her busy through the end of the year.
Sitting Thursday in the Genesee Center shop, surrounded by shirts hung over seat backs and jeans piled atop ironing boards, Favaro said some of those clothes have sat there for a couple years. Their owners told her they could wait until whenever the seamstress got to them. Some of them may have even been forgotten. Still, she doesn't want to retire with any loose ends.
"Like it or not, I gotta finish," she said in her grandmotherly Italian accent. "I don't want to close with a bad reputation."
That relationship with her customers made Favaro a beloved part of the Auburn community. Louis Contiguglia, whose law office is located around the corner from Dina's inside Genesee Center, brought his clothes there for about 20 years. So did his wife, Carol. They both praised Favaro for her warm manner and wise advice about the alterations they asked her to make.
"She was a gem," said Louis, who noted that he was currently wearing a pair of pants Favaro fitted for him. "If she felt I was going the wrong way, she had a nice way of turning me around."
Favaro opened her shop on Nov. 2, 1982. But she began working with clothes much earlier in her native Bari, Italy.
The second oldest of three boys and four girls, Favaro became the assistant of a nearby tailor when she was 8. She spent about four years there, learning the ins and outs of working with fabric.
It was also in Italy that Favaro met her first husband, an American, and had a son. The family later moved to Boston, but the marriage ended after five years. In another few years she met her second husband, Sergio Favaro, and moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where they had four daughters. Sergio would pass away in 2008.
With Sergio and her five children, Favaro at one point returned to Italy, which she called "her dream." They lived with her family in Bari, and Sergio's in Abruzzo. But he wanted to move back to America, so he proposed settling the family in the area where she enjoyed visiting his relatives while on vacation: Auburn.
A few years later, Favaro was 47 and looking for her first job in the city. "Italian men don't believe in women going to work," she said. And her English was limited, so her job opportunities were, too.
Then, a friend who knew Favaro could sew recommended she open a shop downtown.
"The talent you have, you don't need to speak English," Favaro said her friend told her.
Within a year, Favaro had paid off the money she borrowed to open her shop in Genesee Center. Making wedding gowns, a passion of hers, was part of the business for its first few years, but Favaro soon found alterations easier on her schedule, and more profitable. She worked by hand at first, but steadily collected a few sewing machines.
Favaro also collected several longtime customers, particularly from Auburn's professional class, she said. And she's proud that her work for them put her children through college. But after 37 years, she wants to spend more time with those children, as well as her 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Favaro also plans to travel to Italy, where her son lives.
And as the seamstress prepares to thread her last needle, she's grateful for the people who made Dina's Alterations possible.
"I'm going to miss everybody," Favaro said. "I love my job, I love people. That's it."
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Woman who drove into ditch in Scipio charged with felony DWI
A Snyder woman with a previous drinking and driving conviction was arrested Saturday evening after her vehicle veered off the road in the Cayuga County.
Mark O'Donnell, public information officer for Troop E of the New York State Police, said troopers responded to a call on Oct. 5 about a vehicle in a ditch in the town of Scipio near Mosher Road. The driver was identified as 55-year-old Jean M. Lane. According to state police, she was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16%, twice the legal limit.
Troopers charged Lane with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% with a prior offense, a class E felony, and the misdemeanor of first-offense driving while intoxicated.
Information about Lane's prior conviction or whether she sustained any injuries was not immediately available, O'Donnell said. Lane was given an appearance ticket after her arrest, according to the state police blotter.