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Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail guards gone wild this week, plus a very sleazy Texas sheriff, some entrepreneurial Fresno narcs, and the latest problems with the evidence room in Galveston. Let's get to it:

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Is something missing from the evidence room?
In Fort Worth, Texas, a former Montague County sheriff pleaded guilty January 29 to extorting sexual favors from a woman as the price of avoiding a drug charge. Former Sheriff Bill Keating, 62, went down for a November drug raid at a home where the victim and her boyfriend lived. The boyfriend was arrested on outstanding warrants and removed by sheriff's deputies, who then searched the house and found meth paraphernalia. Sheriff Keating shooed the remaining deputy out of the bedroom, closed the door, and told the victim, "You are about to be my new best friend." He then threatened to arrest her on drug charges unless she "assisted" him by performing oral sex on him on multiple occasions and becoming a snitch for him. She eventually went to outside authorities instead, and now Keating is headed for the big house. He will be sentenced in May, when he faces up to 10 years. But that may just be the beginning of the story. Local prosecutors said they expected to indict Keating and as many as a dozen jail employees on charges they had sex with prisoners and smuggled in contraband to the county jail.

In Galveston, Texas, drugs have gone missing from the police evidence room -- again. Police Chief Charles Wiley reported January 29 that when officers went to destroy drugs that had already had their day in court, they found small bags of marijuana, cocaine, hydrocodone, and Xanax were no longer there. When they began checking on evidence for cases still pending, they found more missing drugs. Prosecutors have now put on hold all pending drug cases that rely on drug evidence until they can verify the evidence still exists, just as they did last year, when another cache of missing drug evidence led to the dismissal of 21 cases, the firing of the police chief and a detective, and the indictment of a clerk who worked in the evidence room. Reforms were supposed to have been put in place after last year's scandal, but it's not clear they have been. If they have, it doesn't look like they're working.

In Fresno, California, two Fresno Police Department narcotics officers were arrested last Friday on auto theft charges. A third faces misdemeanor charges for providing false information to investigators in the case. Officers Paul Cervantes, 32, and Hector Becerra, 33, both detectives in the Major Narcotics Unit, are accused of misusing confidential informants to lure drug dealers, then stealing their cars. They now face felony auto theft charges. Officer Richard Epps is accused of lying to investigators. Prosecutors said at least one case has had to be dropped because the pair were involved, and more could follow. A fourth Fresno narc, Ubaldo Garza, was not arrested, but investigators seized about 10 vehicles from his home. Garza also owns a business where investigators said they observed activities "consistent" with a "chop shop," where stolen cars are dismantled and their parts sold. On Wednesday, Fresno police announced they were shutting down the entire narcotics unit pending a review.

In Levittown, New York, Jail Guard Accused Of Selling Drugs To Inmates" target=_blank_>a Nassau County jail guard was arrested last Friday for smuggling marijuana, Oxycontin, and cigarettes in for prisoners. Luke Holland, 42, is accused of reaping $9,000 for numerous drug sales to inmates over a nine-month period. Holland is charged with receiving reward for official misconduct in the second degree, a Class E felony carrying a maximum of four years in prison. Holland has been suspended without pay by the Nassau County Sheriff's Department and is free on cash bail.

In Augusta, Georgia, a Richmond County deputy sheriff was arrested January 29 for selling marijuana to inmates at the Richmond County Jail. Deputy Michael Arrington, a two-year veteran of the department, was arrested at the jail and is being held there out of general population. He faces felony charges for marijuana distribution and "crossing a guard line with drugs."

In New Castle, Indiana, a prison guard at the New Castle Correctional Facility was arrested Monday for helping an imprisoned cocaine dealer escape. Maurice Melton, 38, is accused of silencing a door alarm at a minimum security dorm to help the inmate escape, then driving him to Indianapolis. Prison officials said Melton expected to be paid for his help. But now, Melton has been demoted from correctional facility guard to Henry County Jail inmate. The New Castle prison is privately operated by the CEO Group (formerly Wackenhut), and Melton is a CEO Group employee. He has been suspended without pay, too.

In Walla Walla, Washington, a former Washington State Penitentiary prison guard was sentenced last Friday to more than three years in prison for delivering heroin, cocaine, methadone, and marijuana to an inmate. Former guard Camren Jones, 20, must also pay $13,000 -- the cost of locking down the prison to search other inmates for drugs. Jones will likely serve his sentence out of state for his own safety.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another jail guard gets caught, a Michigan narc cops a plea, so does an Arizona cop, and a North Carolina deputy is going to prison. Let's get to it:

In Boston, Texas, a Bowie County jail guard was arrested last Friday after she got caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Bowie County Correctional Officer Amber Nicole Hinds, 20, went down when jail authorities ordered a search of all employees entering the jail. Hinds moved to the back of the line, and her fellow guards ratted her out. Authorities found marijuana on her person when they searched her. The charges she faces are as yet unspecified.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former South Tucson police lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $560,000 from the city and the police department. Richard Robles Garcia admitted taking funds from 2004 to 2008, when he was fired after an audit. He used his position as head of the department's evidence room and asset forfeiture program to turn the funds into his own personal bank, using them to pay off gambling debts, he admitted.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor narcotics officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge of drug trafficking. Andrew Thomas Collins, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. He faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, plus a fine of $2,000. Collins was arrested in February 2008 after being caught in possession of crack cocaine and other drugs. He admitted repeatedly failing to report seized drugs, instead keeping them for himself and falsely reporting he had made controlled drug purchases. Local prosecutors have announced they had to drop a number of drug cases because they were tainted by Collins.

In Yadkinville, North Carolina, a former Yadkin County deputy was sentenced to at least 34 months in prison Monday for embezzling funds from the department, peddling Oxycontin, and falsely telling people he had cancer in a bid to raise funds for his "treatment." Former Deputy Darrell Thornton pleaded guilty to 10 counts of embezzlement, two counts of attempting to traffic in opium and OxyContin, one count of obtaining property by false pretenses and common-law forgery. The pleas were part of a deal with prosecutor Fred Bauer in which eight counts of larceny by an employee were dropped and all the guilty pleas were merged into four charges for sentencing. Thornton stole $4,200 in drug buy money, as well as receiving $1,800 from a fundraiser for his nonexistent cancer and its supposed treatment. His attorney said the one-time narcotics officer had developed an addiction to Oxycontin in the course of treatment for medical problems.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

No crooked jail guards this week, but we do have a nice variety of law enforcement and prosecutorial misbehavior. Let's get to it:

In Fairview, Oklahoma, a former Custer County Sheriff was convicted last Friday on rape and bribery charges for coercing sex from female inmates and drug court defendants. Former Sheriff Mike Burgess, 56, was convicted of 13 felonies, including five counts of second-degree rape and three counts of bribery by a public official. Testimony included that of several former female inmates who testified they feared they would be sent to prison if they did not provide sexual favors to the sheriff, as well as two female drug court participants. Burgess sexually assaulted one of them in his patrol car after arresting her for a drug court violation. The jury recommended Burgess be sentenced to 94 years in prison, but sentencing is not until March 24.

In Oakland, California, 11 police officers, including two sergeants, were fired January 15 for their roles in falsifying search warrant affidavits in drug cases. The police officers would make a drug buy, then seek a search warrant from a judge, telling him the substances had been tested when they hadn't. Oakland Police discovered the problem during an internal affairs investigation and went public at the end of September. Now, the city faces lawsuits from at least seven people claiming Oakland police "have repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of citizens by fabricating information in reports (and) providing false and/or intentionally misleading information in warrant affidavits to the court." A number of pending cases have been dropped, too.

In Muncie, Indiana, the Delaware County prosecutor must repay $168,092 unlawfully seized in drug cases, a circuit court judge ruled last Friday. Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney collected the seized assets and attorneys' fees in confidential agreements without a court order. Indiana state law requires a court order, and it requires that asset forfeiture proceeds be divided between state and local government and schools, but McKinney instead deposited the funds into accounts for the Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force and the Muncie city police department. McKinney has 30 days to come up with the money. Deputy Prosecutor Eric Hoffman also has to repay $17,164. The judge in the case said both men had perpetrated "a fraud on the court" by their actions.

In Huntsville, Alabama, the city, the police chief, and a former officer are being sued by a man who claims the officer planted marijuana in his car and then arrested him for marijuana possession. Officer Wesley Little and another officer, Ryan Moore, were indicted in May 2008 on criminal evidence tampering charges in the case, and the charges against Quincy Turner were later dropped. Little and Moore were investigated after Little was overheard saying "there could be some marijuana inside the vehicle if it needed to be." Both Little and Moore resigned from the Huntsville Police Department in June, but now, the good citizens of Huntsville are likely to pay for their out-of-control employees' misdeeds.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Dallas deputy gets busted, so does a Sacramento jail doctor, and a crooked cop in Miami is headed for prison. Let's get to it:

In Dallas, a Dallas County sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday on federal felony drug charges. Deputy Standric Choice, 36, is accused of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams. Choice was arrested with two other men after meeting with an informant and plotting to rob a cocaine dealer and steal his four kilo stash. Unfortunately for Choice and his crew, the cocaine dealer was actually another agent. Choice was busted at the Dallas Sheriff's Department when he went to work after the robbery.

In Sacramento, California, the medical director of Correctional Health Services for the Sacramento County Jail was arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of writing bogus prescriptions for Oxycontin, the powerful prescription pain reliever. Dr. Peter Dietrich had been under investigation since July 2008 because of the large number of prescriptions he had been writing. Authorities were uncertain whether Dietrich was consuming the pills himself or diverting them into illicit markets. He has since bailed out of jail and is on paid administrative leave. (Of course, there's always a chance that Dietrich was practicing pain medicine the way it should be, as opposed to what is tolerated -- always something to bear in mind with opiate prescribing.)

In Miami, a former Miami police detective was sentenced January 8 to nine years in federal prison for his role in protecting what he thought were shipments of cocaine and stolen goods. Jorge Hernandez had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He was one of two Miami police officers arrested last May in an FBI sting in which an undercover agent lured them into using their police car to escort shipments of supposed drugs and stolen goods.

Southeast Asia: Philippines President Names Herself Drug Czar, Orders Random Testing of All High School Students, More to Come

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo named herself the country's drug czar Monday and ordered government agencies to prepare for battle against big-time drug traffickers. But in the meantime, she has announced new marching orders on another front: student drug testing. As one of her first acts as drug czar, she ordered random student drug testing for every high school in the country, public or private.

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Philippine president and top drug war demagogue Gloria Arroyo
The immediate cause of Arroyo's seizure of the reins of drug control policy was the "Alabang Boys scandal," in which three Ecstasy traffickers managed to get initially acquitted despite the strong evidence against them, leading to suspicions of crooked prosecutors. Arroyo this week ordered five prosecutors suspended pending further investigation.

But problems in the Philippines' drug war policing go much further than the Alabang Boys. Filipino drug fighters have compiled a dismal record in prosecuting drug evidence, due apparently, to equal parts incompetence and corruption. Of the nearly 100,000 cases filed by the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the last five years, nearly 78,000 are still unresolved.

Arroyo has pledged to change all that. "Governments that delay action against illegal drugs, or regard it as a routine police matter, do so at their own peril," Arroyo told a Monday cabinet meeting. "A country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law and order institutions tainted and corrupted. I will temporarily act as czar, or overseer, of the war against illegal drugs," Arroyo added, stressing that the campaign would include boosting law enforcement and prosecution.

On Tuesday, Arroyo showed she meant business by sending Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita out to tell reporters she had ordered law enforcement agencies to prepare an order of battle against traffickers. "Our law enforcement agencies involved in the campaign must come up with specific actions against those who are known big-time people involved in drug trafficking. It follows without saying, the President wants immediate identification of those who could be subject of this campaign and bring them before the bar of justice," Ermita said at the Palace news conference.

Anybody involved in drugs is fair game, he warned. "There will be no sacred cows on this. The drive will go all the way. Anyone who will be involved, whoever they may be, they will have to account before the law."

But it is high school students who will first feel the tender mercies of Arroyo's newly reinvigorated war on drugs. The Department of Education announced this week that while it had already planned to reinstitute random drug testing of students -- the Philippines did it between 2003 and 2005 -- it was now moving ahead at an accelerated pace to suit Arroyo's wishes.

And testing of students may be just the beginning. Some Philippines political figures are talking about drug testing employees of outsourced call center workers, others are calling for testing university students, and the government is currently considering drug testing all government employees.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Border Patrol agent cops a plea, another jail guard gets busted, a mystery is solved in Alabama, and one remains in Minnesota. Let's get to it:

In Laredo, Texas, a former Border Patrol officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting bribes to escort a load of drugs through Zapata County. Leonel Morales, 30, admitted in federal court that he took $9,000 ensure that 20 kilograms of cocaine made it safely through the county. The guilty plea came in the face of prosecutors prepared to introduce audio and video recordings of Morales planning, negotiating, and coordinating the drugs' movements. Morales faces up to 15 years in prison and remains in custody while awaiting a March 18 sentencing hearing.

In Decatur, Alabama, a Decatur police sergeant faces theft and additional charges after disappearing last Friday, only to show up in Las Vegas, where he was arrested. Police Sgt. Faron White allegedly stole $70,000 in drug money from the department's narcotics office, then attempted to cover up his crime by trashing his office to make it appear he had been assaulted and kidnapped. His family reported him missing Saturday, and local police spent several days searching the Tennessee River and surrounding areas looking for him. Also arrested as an accomplice was Sarah Richardson, who picked White up at the police station Friday night and drove him to Nashville to catch a flight to Las Vegas. According to a police affidavit, Richardson was aware White had stolen the cash stash and helped him so he could "avoid apprehension."

In Kissimmee, Florida, an Osceola County jail guard was arrested last Friday on charges he smuggled drugs into the jail. Guard Eric Sosa, 30, become prisoner Eric Sosa after he left the jail during a break to buy marijuana from an undercover officer. He is charged with drug possession with the intent to sell, as well of introduction of contraband into a county facility and other charges.

In Lewiston, Minnesota, the acting mayor has reported that money, drugs, and documents are missing from the Lewiston Police Department's evidence locker and close to $50,000 in city funds are unaccounted for. Police discovered that drugs seized as evidence and "a couple of thousand bucks" were missing from the evidence locker when they took an inventory nearly a year ago upon the hiring of an interim police chief. The evidence locker, which can be opened only with a key, was in the police chief's office. The Winona County District Attorney's Office is investigating. The acting mayor also told the city council that $50,000 given to the city by the fire department is unaccounted for, as are many official documents, including minutes of council meetings from 2005.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another jailer gone bad, another deputy with problems, and a murky tale from Tennessee involving cops, docs, guns, and pills. New year, same old same old. Let's get to it:

In Rogersville, Arkansas, a Hawkins County Jail guard was arrested last weekend for allegedly smuggling drugs to an inmate. Jail officer Phillip Roberts, 18, was charged Saturday with introducing drugs into a penal institution. He went down after a tipster told the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit that he would be delivering specific drugs to a specific inmate. Roberts confessed during a Saturday interview with detectives, and the specified drugs were found in the cell of the inmate named by the tipster. The inmate has also been charged. Roberts has been suspended without pay. He and the inmate both face up to three to six years in prison.

In Idaho Falls, Idaho, a former Fremont County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Tuesday for stealing money and prescription drugs from the sheriff's office. Bradley Holjeson, 25, got 60 days in jail and five years probation for his sticky fingers. He started with bail bond money, then moved on to pills.

In Cleveland, Tennessee, two Cleveland Police officers have been arrested and a third will be once he gets out of drug treatment in a messy investigation linking the December 18 arrest of a local physician on charges he illegally prescribed painkillers and other drugs to a November shooting where one Cleveland police officer was shot by another. Officer Dennis Hughes was arrested December 22 and Officer Jonathan Hammons was arrested the following day. Hughes is charged with two counts of aggravated assault, aggravated perjury, and filing a false police report. Hammons is charged with aggravated perjury and filing a false police report. A prescription pill bottle found in Hughes car after Officer Chris Mason was shot in the hand came from the office of the indicted doctor. It belonged to Officer Nathan Thomas, who faces arrest once he gets out of drug treatment. Investigators said that since arresting one of the doctor's employees on drug charges in 2006 they had been aware of reports that at least one Cleveland police officer was selling Oxycontin and hydrocodone tablets, but had not developed sufficient evidence to make arrests before now. It remains unclear exactly what happened with the shooting.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two cops are headed for prison in New Mexico, and one in California. Let's get to it:

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, two former San Juan County law enforcement agents were sentenced December 11 to six years in prison each for their roles in a drug distribution ring. Former New Mexico State Police Officer Keith Salazar and former San Juan County sheriff's deputy Levi Countryman each pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. According to court documents, the pair took bribes from drug dealers to provide them with information about police, including the identities of snitches (confidential informants) and narcs (undercover officers).

In Santa Ana, California, a former California Highway Patrol officer was sentenced Tuesday to nearly six years in prison after he admitted stealing 64 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1 million from a CHP evidence locker. Joshua Wendell Blackburn, 33, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine for sale of cocaine, transportation of cocaine, commercial burglary and a sentencing enhancement for possession of more than 40 kilograms of cocaine. Blackburn, a seven-year CHP veteran, broke into the evidence locker when other officers were called away to a late-night traffic accident and carted off three suitcases full of cocaine. He got caught when investigators figured out he was the only one near the evidence locker when the coke went missing. Blackburn's attorney said he was depressed over strife in his marriage.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Sodomizing SOB NYPD cops get indicted, a New York Health Department narc gets in trouble, so does a Michigan State Police narc and a Texas jail guard, and Rod Blagojevich isn't the only thing crooked in Chicago. Let's get to it:

In New York City, three NYPD officers surrendered Tuesday to face felony charges for allegedly sodomizing with a police radio antenna a man they suspected of marijuana possession. Officer Richard Kern is charged with aggravated sexual abuse and assault, while Officers Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales have been charged with hindering prosecution and official misconduct. All three were also charged with misdemeanors related to falsifying records. They were indicted last week by a Brooklyn grand jury investigating charges by tattoo shop employee Michael Mineo that when he fled into a subway station after the trio accused him of smoking pot, they tackled and handcuffed him, pulled down his pants, and sodomized him. Mineo was ticketed for disorderly conduct and upon release, and was hospitalized for several days for what hospital discharge papers diagnosed as "anal assault."

In New York City, a state Health Department supervising narcotics investigator was accused in a report by the state inspector general of being a "rogue" officer. According to the inspector general's report, Louis Crisafi, 49, had a yen for fentanyl lollipops, once fired his weapon accidentally while taking a prisoner to jail and never reported it, had lied about his credentials and employment history, staged amateurish and dangerous sting operations, interrogated suspects despite their protests they wanted lawyers, and conducted private self-defense counseling on state time. Crisafi came to the attention of investigators when the New York Times published a photo of his illegally parked yellow Corvette in a story about the abuse of government-issued parking permits. The report concluded: "Ths employee is clearly unfit for a law enforcement position, having shamelessly broken the laws and rules he was hired and pledged to uphold." Crisafi is currently on sick leave, but faces disciplinary action and possible criminal charges for violating suspects' rights.

In Monroe, Michigan, a Michigan State Patrol narcotics officer was placed on paid leave December 4 after police searched his home. Lt. Luke Davis was a member of the multi-jurisdictional Monroe narcotics investigation office. It is unclear what, if anything, they found, but the State Police said they were investigating "an allegation of potential misconduct." Davis was quick to trumpet his non-involvement with possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs, although he has yet to be accused of that. The results of the search and attendant investigation will be sent to the state Attorney General's office.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former Cameron County Sheriff's Department jail guard was arrested December 3 for allegedly smuggling drugs into county jails. Gabel Jacques Gonzales is charged with Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana and felony third degree attempted introduction of a prohibited substance into a correctional facility. Gonzales went down after conspiring with two people to obtain an unspecified amount of marijuana to smuggle into county jails. Unfortunately for him, his partners turned out to be a confidential informant and a DEA agent.

In Chicago, a former Chicago police officer was convicted December 3 of conspiracy for stealing thousands of dollars from drug dealers. Mahmoud Shamah and his partner, Richard Doroniuk, were also accused of stealing $30,000 from a police evidence locker in 2006. Doroniuk testified that he and Shamah routinely carried crack cocaine to plant on suspects, paid informants for bad information, and even bribed a judge to approve an arrest warrant.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A big corruption bust in Chicago, an ugly story out of upstate New York, and a sticky-fingered narc in Michigan, plus a former Schenectady police chief cuts a deal and heads for prison. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, 15 police officers and two men who posed as police officers were indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute large amounts of cocaine and heroin. The indictments were the result of an FBI sting that had crooked police officers and sheriff's deputies delivering cocaine shipments, acting as armed guards, and advising drug dealers about the availability of marked police cars for drug deliveries. Those charged included 10 Cook County sheriff's correctional officers, four suburban Harvey police officers and one Chicago police officer. The two others claimed to be law enforcement officers but were not, federal officials said. Fourteen were arrested or surrendered Tuesday, and were being immediately brought before US Magistrate Judge Michael Mason. Two -- Ahyetoro Taylor, 28, of Joliet and Jermaine Bell, 37, of Lynwood, both Cook County sheriff's officers -- are on active duty with Army National Guard units in Afghanistan. Warrants were issued for their arrest. If convicted on the federal charges, each faces a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence and a maximum of life.

In Buffalo, New York, a Niagara Falls police officer was arrested Tuesday on charges he sexually assaulted two women and trafficked in cocaine, sometimes while in uniform. Officer Ryan Warme, 27, faces federal civil rights and narcotics conspiracy charges. According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Warme forced one woman to perform oral sex on him when he came to her apartment after she called police about an abusive ex-boyfriend. A second woman reported that Warme broke into her apartment in 2006 while she was sleeping and raped her. She told investigators she saw him walk back to a police car after the assault. In between sex crimes, Warme was apparently busy dealing in cocaine. Investigators said he bought coke at least five times while in uniform.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a former Benton Harbor narcotics officer was arrested November 30 for stealing drugs he seized while on duty. Andrew Collins, 26, is charged with one count of cocaine possession and one charge of possession with the intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine. Collins is also accused of reporting false "controlled purchase" drug buys to improperly obtain search warrants and to embezzle funds from the police department. He resigned in February, when police seized cocaine from him. He now faces between five and 20 years in federal prison.

In Schenectady, New York, former Schenectady police chief Gregory Kaczmarek pleaded guilty Tuesday to being part of a sprawling cocaine and heroin distribution ring. Kaczmarek was able to cop a plea to cocaine possession and is now looking at two years in prison, instead of the 25 he could have received. Kaczmarek and his wife, Lisa, were part of a ring that regularly shipped drugs from Long Island to Schenectady. Lisa Kaczmarek also copped a plea to attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance and will do six months in the local jail.

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