Allen’s informant status highlights Thibodeau hearing

Two former Oswego County Sheriff’s Office investigators testified Thursday that Heidi Allen provided no substantive confidential information to police, but Gary Thibodeau’s defense team argued she was still in danger because her confidentiality had been breached.

Allen went missing in April of 1994 — last seen at the D&W Convenience Store in New Haven — and Thibodeau’s conviction of kidnapping her has come under fire with witnesses naming new suspects and the defense team arguing Allen’s perceived status as an informant gave others a motive.

Allen’s confidential informant identification card — called a “pedigree card” by investigators — was dropped and later found sometime in 1992, according to sheriff’s office records.

Much of Thursday’s testimony centered on whether this index card — which contained a code name, personal details and thumbprints — was discussed or seen publicly, or gave the impression Allen was an informant.

Investigator Christopher Van Patten said he interviewed Allen on Dec. 11, 1991, after hearing from former judge Russell Sturtz — Allen’s uncle and a friend of Van Patten’s — that she wanted to share some information on illegal drug use in the county.

“It was basically rumor mill,” Van Patten testified, “what she heard on the street.” It was Van Patten — whose patrol included the D& W, where he sometimes used the payphone — who had control of Allen’s pedigree card, though he said he did not know when or how exactly he had dropped it.

Van Patten testified he never worked with Allen again or had any further contact with her. He said he found out about the lost card in late January of 1992, when Sgt. John Cox assigned deputy Michael Montgomery to retrieve the card from the D& W, where owner Kristine Duell had called in after finding it.

The card was then put in Van Patten’s mailbox at the sheriff’s office, according to Va n Patten.

During cross-examination, he told federal public defender Lisa Peebles he never notified Allen or her family about the lost card. He also told Peebles that his training on working with confidential informants was limited.

Van Patten confirmed with chief assistant district attorney Mark Moody that the pedigree card gave no indication of Allen’s status as an informant.

But the investigator also told Peebles that anyone seeing the card would have no idea what Allen was doing for the sheriff’s office, with Peebles arguing a drug dealer seeing the card would be “concerned,” or have a motive to harm Allen.

Investigator Michael Anderson testified he interviewed Allen and her boyfriend Brett Law sometime after Van Pat-ten had met with her. Like Van Patten, Anderson said Allen’s contribution as an informant was nothing of significance.

“It was kid stuff,” said Anderson, noting the conversation took only around 15 minutes. He said he never got any names out of Allen and never met her again. He said the conversation never led to any investigation or arrests.

The defense team questioned whether a confidential informant would be in danger if their confidentiality were breached.

“Generally speaking, yes,” Anderson testified. But he said an informant should only be notified that they’d been compromised if they were indeed, “an active informant.” Anderson said, however, that he would have performed more follow up to discover how the card was lost and the circumstances of its discovery.

He also told Peebles he wasn’t aware of any sheriff’s office “standard operating procedure” in dealing with informant confidentiality being breached back in the early 1990s.

Duell testified she could not recall exactly when she found the pedigree card, and said she spoke with no one but her mother about it. She said she did not share it with Allen, an employee and a family friend.

Duell and her mother agreed not to tell anyone, and she decided to call the sheriff’s office, who picked it up in January of 1992 — little more than a month after Allen first met with them — according to sheriff’s office records.

Duell testified she did not know Michael Bohrer, with Peebles asking questions about regulars visiting from Spinners, the nearby bar and hotel where Bohrer testified he lived for a time.

Judge Daniel King told attorneys Thursday morning he had ruled against allowing testimony from three witnesses related to Bohrer’s 1981 false imprisonment conviction, according to the defense team.

Peebles wanted to recall Bohrer to the stand, saying his 1981 abduction of Catherine Schmitt in Wisconsin — when he grabbed Schmitt from behind and attempted to force her into a car — was similar enough to the Allen case that it would have been admissible in trial.

Prosecutors argued the cases were dissimilar, with no connecting factors or evidence, and the testimony should not be allowed.

King indicated Wednesday that he was leaning against allowing testimony on Bohrer’s 1981 case, because the defense appeared to be impeaching its own witness, which is not allowed.

His written ruling denying the testimony was not immediately available at the Oswego County Court Clerk’s office.

In January, Bohrer was on the stand for two days of emotional testimony involving a psychic, visions, his businesses and connections to the Thibodeaus and other newly named suspects James Steen and Roger Breckenridge.

Bohrer told the court he personally investigated the Allen case for 20 years, collecting tips and documents in an a large black briefcase.

Several times throughout the hearing, the defense team has attempted to bring Bohrer’s prior record — and other allegations of violence against women — before the court.

But each time, prosecutors have objected over relevancy and hearsay, with King largely sustaining their objections and shutting down the testimony.

King also ruled against allowing the defense to question former District Attorney Donald Dodd over trial transcript questions regarding Allen’s fingerprints.

King said the testimony was unnecessary because the transcript speaks for itself, but said in fairness to the defense, he would review the sections of the transcript they wanted to ask Dodd about.

Former ADA: All evidence in Allen case turned over

Staff Report

Former assistant district attorney Donald Dodd took the stand for more than five hours Wednesday, a day featuring heated exchanges over filing procedures and evidence disclosure in the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves a new trial for his conviction of kidnapping Heidi Allen.

Prosecutors have tried to establish that Dodd and the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office investigators were thorough in ensuring Thibodeau’s defense attorney received all evidence in the case. The defense team, however, paints a picture of suppressed evidence and mismanaged files.

Dodd was adamant about two things: that all of the sheriff’s office investigation files were turned over to Gary and Richard Thibodeau’s attorneys — including documents related to Allen giving confidential information to investigators — and that Allen never actively worked as a confidential informant.

“Heidi Allen provided confidential information, I believe, on one occasion in 1991,” Dodd testified. “She never worked as a confidential informant.” Dodd made the distinction in line with what prosecutors have argued, that Allen provided some information to investigators but was not consistently tipping investigators off to criminal activity.

Thibodeau’s defense team, pointing to an informant identification card dropped in the parking lot of the same New Haven convenient store where Allen went missing, argues the perception of Allen as an informant gave other suspects a motive.

They also argue documents related to Allen giving confidential information were not properly disclosed to Thibodeau’s lawyer, Joseph Fahey.

Fahey testified in February he was unaware Allen was an informant and would have “raised holy hell” if he saw such documents in the middle of Thibodeau’s trial.

Cross-examining Dodd — and former Inv. Terry Whipple Tuesday — Bianco tried to establish that investigators didn’t place enough importance on Allen’s status as a confidential informant.

On Tuesday, Whipple said he was informed, “there was nothing to it,” in reference to Allen’s informant card being dropped. Dodd said he did not recollect whether the informant card itself was ever given a “lead number.” Dodd said, however, that Allen’s informant status was discussed openly in a pretrial proceeding Dec. 8, 1994, and that very day, he told investigators to provide him “the full file and record to find out if Allen at any time provided information as a confidential informant.” The next day, three investigators provided statements to Dodd revealing Allen had provided some information confidentially. Dodd said the statements were then photocopied and turned over to defense counsel.

“In fact, those documents were turned over personally to Fahey on Dec. 14, 1994,” Dodd testified.

Dodd said he spoke with both Fahey and William Walsh, Richard Thibodeau’s attorney, “on more than one occasion, to the best of [his] recollection,” about Allen providing confidential information.

Both attorneys came to the District Attorney’s office in March of 1995, where Dodd says the “entire” investigation file, including documents on Allen giving investigators information, were made available to the defense teams.

But Bianco questioned whether certain information about Allen’s informant status was not given to defense lawyers until the middle of Gary Thibodeau’s trial; Dodd said discovery was always ongoing.

Bianco also engaged in testy exchanges with Dodd over his record keeping, with both of them — and eventually Judge Daniel King — expressing frustration.

Dodd said he had no control over what items were assigned lead numbers, and made clear there was a required procedure, which included marking all original documents in the sheriff’s office case file with green ink to notify they were copied and turned over to defense counsel.

But Bianco pointed to cover letters without Oswego County letterhead, copies without green ink, or documents excluding specific references to Allen being an informant.

“They supposedly have this system where they stamp things, then they don’t,” said Bianco to King. “There’s a green marker, then there’s not.” Dodd asserted only originals were marked with green ink, and repeated that defense attorneys were shown, and given copies of, the entire case file, and received further discovery documents as time went on.

Bianco asked about a January 1995 court proceeding in which Walsh asked for more than 100 lead sheets and asked the court whether there should be a hearing on sanctions over Dodd’s sharing of evidence.

Bianco asked if Dodd didn’t think the original defense team was “entitled” to review the grand jury minutes from Richard Thibodeau’s trial.

Dodd later told Moody during redirect examination that he opposed disclosure of the grand jury minutes because the District Attorney’s Office didn’t have them completed yet, and because no indictment had been filed.

He said by law there’s no requirement to disclose grand jury minutes until after an indictment has been filed.

Bianco claimed Fahey — when asking for discovery documents in December of 1994 — was asking specifically for the confidential informant identification card.

“He was asking for the actual file and the actual file wasn’t given to him,” said Bianco.

“That’s absolutely incorrect,” replied Dodd, who said he couldn’t speak to what was in Fahey’s mind at the time, and “nor can [Bianco].” Dodd maintains Fahey asked for any information related to Allen providing confidential information, and a week later received everything the sheriff’s office had in the file at the time.

There was also some testimony on Michael Bohrer, with Dodd saying investigators ran a national criminal background check on Bohrer, which showed no record of any convictions or active warrants.

He did acknowledge to Bianco, however, that “you could still have a criminal record with an agency not entering it into the national system,” he said.

Dodd said investigators ran the background check on Bohrer because someone with a similar name — Michael Bort — was on Thibodeau’s lawyer’s witness list.

Dodd called Bohrer “part of the overall investigation,” saying he had been interviewed by the sheriff’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Dodd said it “absolutely” would have been significant for him to know Bohrer’s criminal record if he had one, just as it’s important for him to know information on “any suspect as part of the investigation.” But Dodd said he did not think “that was the case here,” and Bianco, after attempting to once again introduce more details of Bohrer’s 1981 false imprisonment conviction, was told to change her line of questioning by King.

King still needs to rule on whether to hear testimony from the victim in Bohrer’s 1981 conviction, and also whether to allow questions to Dodd regarding trial discussion of Allen’s fingerprints.

The hearing resumes today, from 8:45 a.m. to noon. After this week, the proceeding con-tinues April 7.

Fulton’s monthly garbage fees to rise in May

By Matthew Reitz
Fulton residents can expect to begin seeing a $2 increase in their monthly garbage fees this spring.
A quiet public hearing on the fee increase preceded the Common Council meeting on Tuesday night.  A few residents showed up to voice their opinions, but seemed content with the explanation given by Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. and the Common Council.
City officials said they were cornered into raising the fees by an increase in the county’s rates.
“If it was up to me, we would lower it $2 per month,” Woodward said, “but it is what it is.”
First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon said the county keeps “double dipping” with local taxpayers.
“The county is hurting, and they keep passing it on to the municipalities,” said Kenyon. “It’s the same taxpayers that just keep paying.”
Members of the council noted that after the $2 monthly increase, the costs for Fulton residents will still be markedly lower than those in the City of Oswego and other area municipalities. Oswego residents pay significantly more at $71.11 per quarter than residents of Fulton will pay after the increase ($51 per quarter), councilors said.
The council voted unanimously to approve the $2 per month increase.  It will go into effect May 1.
The council also unanimously approved a series of food truck permits for Indian Point and Bullhead Point, which included Shannon’s Hotdogs, Dingo’s Lakeside Ice Cream and Tricky Dick’s Roadside Grill.  Woodward noted that the vendors would still need to go through criminal background checks to be granted a license.
The council also transferred $9,000 for demolition funds that Woodward said had initially been “transferred out of the wrong account.”
“This is just putting it back,” Woodward noted.

New pizza place coming to Valvoline building

Pictured is the former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton. The vacant facility is now being renovated into a pizza shop. Matthew Reitz photo
Pictured is the former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton. The vacant facility is now being renovated into a pizza shop.
Matthew Reitz photo

By Matthew Reitz

The former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton will soon be looking a lot different.
Pathfinder Bank, the owner of the property, has hired Rowlee Construction to repurpose the vacant property into a pizza shop, which will also feature a drive-up Pathfinder ATM kiosk on the site.
Dennis Merlino of the Fulton Planning Commission said the project has been “completely approved” by the commission.
“They answered all questions and addressed parking, landscaping, and signage (concerns),” Merlino said. “They want it to be an attractive, appealing property to enhance the look and feel of Fulton.”
Taber Rowlee, of Rowlee Construction, said the project is underway and will take approximately three months to complete.
Rowlee said the construction has “started on the inside with infills and structural modifications.” The project will “dress-up the building as it sits there now,” according to Rowlee.
Plans include stonework on the exterior wall base and the addition of a façade on top of the building to give it curb appeal.
The project will also be “adding new landscaping” and cleaning up the area, according to Rowlee.
Rowlee mentioned that a “national chain” would be moving into the building, but added that he was “not at liberty to say more.”

$24 million Pathfinder Courts renovation to begin this summer

Fulton Housing Authority Executive Director David Fontecchio points out the senior housing complex at Fulton Pathfinder Courts campus, which is slated for a series of renovations beginning this summer. Colin Hogan photo
Fulton Housing Authority Executive Director David Fontecchio points out the senior housing complex at Fulton Pathfinder Courts campus, which is slated for a series of renovations beginning this summer.
Colin Hogan photo

By Colin Hogan
A $24 million endeavor to upgrade the Pathfinder Courts apartment facilities, which will do away with their public housing status but will keep them in the low-income rental range, is now slated to move forward this summer.
The apartments, which were established as state-sponsored public housing in late 1960s and early ’70s under the Fulton Housing Authority (FHA), currently include a 50-unit senior housing complex and 60 family housing units. When they were first established, FHA’s operating expenses were, in part, funded by state subsidies for public housing authorities. In the late 1990s, though, the state discontinued those subsidies, leaving FHA to operate solely on its rental income.
FHA officials say, over the years, this has left them with no meaningful funding opportunities to make capital improvements to the aging properties. As they now approach the end of those facilities’ 50-year mortgages, the housing authority will turn the properties over to a new not-for-profit entity, consisting of the same staff and administration who currently run the properties, which will operate the facilities under a low-income housing model.
“At this point, with all that needs to be done, we decided that we had to privatize,” said FHA Executive Director David Fontecchio.
Fontecchio said this will change how tenants’ rents are determined. Currently, tenants pay no more than 33.3 percent of their income toward rent, which includes utilities. On average, the housing authority collects about $342 per unit each month under that arrangement. As a low-income housing facility under the new not-for-profit agency, rates will be established individually based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) low-income rent guidelines, he said.
Among the many improvements planned to the facilities is incorporating some handicap-accessible units, which the properties currently do not have. Fontecchio said, because apartments meeting those specifications require more space, the total unit count will be reduced. He said the buildings are currently filled to about 60 percent capacity, so having fewer units in the end won’t affect any of the tenants.
The project will also include upgrades to the buildings’ façades, and the removal of asbestos-based materials throughout the facilities.
Other improvements include repairing hazardous sidewalks, fixing drainage issues, providing outdoor lighting that meets safety guidelines, a new security system, upgraded fire alarm systems, improve electrical service to buildings, new roofs and siding, better insulation, updated kitchens and bathrooms, new furnaces and water heaters, added carpeting and an upgraded playground.
“We’re basically going to make them like new housing — as new as new can be when working with an existing footprint,” said Bruce Levine of 3d Development Group, a Buffalo-based development firm that specializes in public housing, which has been coordinating the endeavor since it first came up a couple years ago.
Levine said the total construction cost is expected to be over $16 million. When adding in the cost of relocating residents for the construction period, asbestos removal, legal and bank fees, and other miscellaneous costs associated with the endeavor, Fontecchio estimated a total of $24 million. In spite of the steep price tag, though, Fontecchio said Pathfinder Courts will probably only end up borrowing about $1.5 million of that.
The biggest portions of money for the project will come from the federal government and the state’s Public Housing Modernization Program, Fontecchio said, with several other funding sources supplementing it, as well.
Levine said, when all is said and done, he expects he’ll have lined up seven different sources of funds.
“New York state is kicking in a considerable amount of money through various pots of money it has — Public Housing Modernization, Homes for Working Families, public housing tax credits, we’re even getting money from the Department of Justice settlement with the big banks,” Levine said. “So we’re getting money from all sorts of different sources.”
Both Fontecchio and Levine are hoping to have all the funding arrangements finalized by the beginning of May. Residents in buildings that are to be worked on would then be relocated to other apartments on the campus during construction. Fontecchio estimated that residents could expect to be in their temporary locations for about six months before being moved back into their finished buildings.
In all, Levine estimated a construction period of 24-28 months.
Fontecchio said he has requested that Levine’s contractor use Oswego County-based subcontractors for the project in order to pump the money being used into the local economy.
As public housing, the Pathfinder Courts buildings were exempt from local taxes. Under the new arrangement, they will continue to operate without a local tax obligation through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with the city. That agreement will also apply to the other local taxing agencies — Fulton City School District and Oswego County — according to Fulton City Clerk/Chamberlain Dan O’Brien. O’Brien noted, however, that Pathfinder Courts has always paid, and will continue to pay local taxes on its land.
When asked of the possibility of the new agency opting to charge market rates for the apartments in the future, rather than a low-income model, Fontecchio said an agreement is in place with the federal government that would ensure these apartments stay at low-income rates for at least the next 30 years.

Lenora M. Gustavson

Lenora M. Gustavson, 71, formerly of Liverpool and Lacona, passed away March 15 at her daughter’s home. She was born May 11, 1943 in Lacona, N.Y., the daughter of the late Wilbur and Nina White VanGieson. She was educated in Sandy Creek School. She retired from Crouse Hospital housekeeping department and the Byrne Dairy store in Liverpool. She was married to Richard E. Gustavson who died in 2008.
She is survived by her children, Laurie (Keith) Ludlow of Fulton, Joseph (Diane) Salisbury and Burton Samphier of Henderson;13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; two sisters, Billie Kay Stowell of S.C., and Mina Whitmore of Watertown. She was predeceased by two sisters, Mary Snyder and Hannah Murray, and an infant son, Jeffrey.
Funeral services will be held Saturday March 21, 2015 at 3 p.m. ay the Summerville Funeral Home 1997 Harwood Dr., Sandy Creek. Calling hours Saturday 1 to 3 p.m. prior to the service. Spring burial will be in Depauville Cemetery. Memorial contributions can be made to Hospice of Central New York P.O. Box 69 Syracuse, N.Y. 13208 or American Cancer Society P.O. Box 7 East Syracuse, N.Y. 13057.

Claudia J. Ferlito

Claudia J. Ferlito 3 001Claudia J. Ferlito, 68, of Fulton, N.Y., passed away at University Hospital, Syracuse, after a long illness.
Born in Syracuse, on March 27, 1946 to her late parents, Olive M. (Tidwell) Sprague and Harrison W. Sprague, Sr., Claudia was a homemaker. She loved to knit and to do gardening, spending time outside and fishing. She loved to help people, her dogs Susie and Brandy, were loved. Country music and dancing were enjoyed by her. Baking for her family and friends was an important part of her life. Claudia’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren were held deeply in that special place in her heart.
She was predeceased by her two brothers, Bob and Bill Sprague; a sister, Betty Reed.
Surviving are her husband, Robert W. Ferlito of Pennellville; her son, Louis A. Massey, Jr. of Antwerp; her daughter, Claudette J. Alvez and her companion, Michael Ward, both of Gouverneur; a dear nephew, Raymond Sprague of Pennellville; her sister, Carol Y. Hollenbeck of Mexico; 10 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Calling hours are on Saturday March 21 from noon until 2 p.m., and then from 4 until 6 p.m. in the Allanson-Glanville-Tappan Funeral Home, 431 Main St., Phoenix, NY 13135. The funeral service will be the next day, Sunday, at 2 p.m. in the funeral home with the Rev. Jeff Hodge officiating. Spring burial in Pennellville Cemetery, County Rt. 54, Pennellville, NY 13132
Contributions in Claudia’s memory may be made to American Caner Society, P.O. Box 7, East Syracuse, NY 13057.

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