PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County Legislator Simon Conroy and County Sheriff David Favro differ when it comes to the details surrounding incidents alleged to have occurred toward the beginning of Conroy's time as an inmate at Clinton County Jail.
On March 6, Plattsburgh City Police arrested Conroy on a bench warrant issued by City Court after he failed to appear for his sentencing Jan. 20 on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and fourth-degree stalking.
He was sent to Clinton County Jail on $20,000 bail, Conroy said.
The following day, Favro previously told The Press-Republican, the legislator damaged a fire alarm sprinkler head, intentionally plugged up toilets and flooded cell areas, and used ink to write "ridiculous derogatory remarks" over painted walls.
Conroy was subsequently charged with third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, for the alleged damage to the sprinkler head; two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor; and one count of making graffiti, a misdemeanor.
Addressing the alleged incidents, Conroy claimed he was trying to request use of the phone to get himself bailed out, became frustrated when he was not allowed to do so and felt "wrongly imprisoned."
“I would call it a nonviolent protest of the conditions I was being held in.”
Favro said Conroy was given the same opportunity to use the phone as anybody else and, per the sheriff's directive, was not treated better or worse than any other inmate.
He explained that inmates who are "behaving appropriately and not violent" are able to make phone calls when they get in for the purposes of letting someone know they are in jail and making bail.
But, the sheriff said, what complicated that for Conroy was that he was a high COVID risk — Facebook posts indicate Conroy was in Mexico and New York City for much of January and February — so, as with any other inmate, they had to isolate him and minimize his movements.
CAMERA CLAIM DISPUTED
Regarding the accusation that he damaged a fire sprinkler, Conroy said he thought it was a camera, so he waved at it to get someone’s attention and, when he touched it, it exploded.
Favro said the sprinklers in the cells look like traditional sprinklers, with red activation fluid and a spiked wheel to diffuse the water. He does not believe Conroy thought it was a camera at the time.
"He could have waved at it from the ground. He had to actually climb up to be able to get to it. Why would he need to get that close if he truly felt it was a camera?"
Conroy further claimed that, following the alleged sprinkler incident, he was handcuffed, a sergeant threw him against the wall — he said he still cannot sleep on that shoulder — and he sat in a "cold, wet cell for a long, long time."
Favro said he was not aware of any of that, but that it was possible Conroy was in a cold, wet cell for a period of time. Based on his recollection, the officers got both the cell and legislator cleaned up and moved him to a different cell.
The sheriff said it is possible Conroy was handcuffed when he was moved depending on his behavior, as it is typical to handcuff someone for their own and officers' safety.
Conroy contended he was a perfect inmate for the remainder of his time in the jail.
Favro agreed that there was an attitude change after Conroy was delivered charges.
"He did start to comply. He did start to understand he can’t behave like that."
Conroy was bailed out March 25.
Conroy and his Plattsburgh-based attorney, Kristofer Michaud, appeared in Plattsburgh Town Court before Justice James Joyce Tuesday. The court date was for both the alleged jail-related incidents and charges connected to a December traffic stop, including second-degree obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor.
State Police have said they pulled Conroy over for multiple traffic infractions, at which time he became "belligerent and hostile" and refused to provide proper documents. Conroy has said no obstruction occurred.
In court, Michaud and Conroy provided Joyce with a summary of Conroy's compliance with probation and mental health treatment since he was bailed out of the jail a couple weeks ago.
They also confirmed Conroy "passed" his 730 examination, whereby two independent clinicians deemed him competent to assist in his own defense, the attorney added.
Conroy's conditions included surrendering his passport to Michaud, which has occurred, according to Michaud.
REJECTED PLEA OFFER
The two also rejected a plea offer put forward by the special prosecutor, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Meredith Larsen, which would have called for Conroy to plead guilty to the felony, thus disqualifying him from completing his term as a legislator under Public Officers Law.
Michaud said they requested and received a two-week adjournment to April 20. They intend to continue negotiations with Larsen and hope the accusations can be resolved at the misdemeanor level.
The attorney said Conroy had no contact with the criminal justice system until his mid-40s, and has only been charged with one felony that would have been a misdemeanor if the damage estimate was $115 lower.
"Keep in mind, this allegedly happened during a breakdown brought on by Simon's sudden and unexpected incarceration," Michaud said.
"However the jail arrived at that figure, Simon is willing to pay it, but a felony conviction would do nothing for the community, and would only worsen Simon's depression and anxiety. Like so many who struggle with mental health, Simon needs the community's support and compassion, not a felony conviction."
Conroy said he had gone to Mexico to deal with delinquent tenants at apartments there, and that a scheduled return flight would have brought him back to the area in time for his City Court sentencing.
However, he claimed, he was bitten on the leg five times by a black widow, and was not allowed on the plane due to swelling. Subsequently, he continued, his passport was stolen, further delaying his return.
Michaud explained that, through a deal negotiated by Conroy’s former attorney, Dave Gervais, in City Court, Conroy received one year of interim probation last year. Had he been successful, he would have been given the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea to resisting arrest and stalking, and plead to a violation-level offense.
Conroy's next appearance in City Court, before Judge Timothy Blatchley, is slated for 8:30 a.m. Monday, May 3 and will address the alleged violation of interim probation, Michaud said, adding that Conroy could be sentenced on the misdemeanors that day.
Conroy said he plans to plead guilty to missing his court date in City Court, and that he is not concerned about the charges related to the December traffic stop.
“As far as the jail, sure I plead guilty, I understand. I caused problems in the jail but I was held there unjustly.”
According to the Clinton County website, Conroy is currently assigned as chair of the legislature's Buildings and Grounds Committee, and sits on the Transportation, Human Services and, like all legislators, the Finance committees.
Asked if Conroy's chairmanship and memberships remained in place, Legislature Chair Mark Henry (R-Area 3) said some adjustments have been made in committee assignments, and more are forthcoming with the arrival of newly-elected Area 9 Legislator Josh Kretser.
"Currently, Legislator Conroy is a member of Finance, Human Services and Transportation."
Asked specifically if the change to Buildings and Grounds was related to Conroy's ongoing charges, Henry reiterated his comments, adding, "All committee assignments reflect the prerogatives of the chair."
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