By FELICIA KRIEG Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh sex offender was sentenced Monday to six years in state prison after he tested positive for opiates.
Joseph M. Harris, 45, had been sentenced earlier by Clinton County Court Judge Timothy Lawliss to six months in County Jail and 10 years of probation with sex-offender terms and a requirement to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), after he pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse, a felony.
After his sentencing, he was released into the supervision of the Clinton County Department of Probation, since he had already served the jail time, Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Domenica Padula said.
And Harris took part in a random drug test on June 19, which resulted in the sentence to state prison.
OCT. 3, 2012, INCIDENT
Harris’s sex-abuse conviction stems from an incident that happened on Oct. 3, 2012, during a supervised visit at the Clinton County Department of Social Services.
The Social Services employee saw Harris “put his hands between her (the infant’s) upper thighs on top of her diaper with his finger by her crotch area and made a rocking motion,” according to a statement given to Plattsburgh City Police.
Harris then took his hands off her diaper and stroked himself, the statement said. The baby was less than a year old at the time of the incident.
A conviction of first-degree sexual assault does not require that the victim be touched without clothing but does require that the perpetrator execute the abuse for the purpose of either the perpetrator’s or the victim’s sexual gratification.
LEVEL 3 OFFENDER
“Mr. Harris was held fully accountable under the law in looking at what we could prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt,” Padula said.
“As a prosecutor, I took an oath to hold people accountable under the law as it is written.
“Accordingly, there were things about Mr. Harris that concerned us but would have never been allowed to be divulged in a courtroom as part of a trial but could be considered at sentencing after a violation of probation hearing and during a SORA determination, which ultimately happened in his case.”
Based on information that Lawliss had about Harris, he decided to classify him as a Level 3 sex offender, despite the Probation Department’s recommendation that he be ranked at Level 1, Padula said.
Level 3 is the most serious category, indicating that a “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists,” according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice’s website.
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