May 24, 2007
Stockton gets six months in jail
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Jeff “Chip” Stockton exits the Cortland County Courthouse today after sentencing. Stockton got six months in Cortland County Jail for a drunken driving accident that led to the death of a woman.
CORTLAND — A former city police officer was sentenced to six months in County Jail and five years of probation this morning in Cortland County Court for driving drunk and hitting and injuring two women, one of whom died two weeks later of her injuries.
County Court Judge Julie Campbell sentenced Jeffrey “Chip” Stockton, 38, of 16 Frank St., Cortland, to the jail term and ordered him to prepare a drunken driving presentation that he would give at every high school in the county.
He could have been sentenced to as many as seven years in state prison.
“The court is aware that Mr. Stockton did not leave the scene. He has accepted responsibility for what happened,” Campbell said. “This case in some ways shook the confidence and security we all had in our police officers to lead exemplary lives.”
Stockton pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter and second-degree vehicular assault, felonies; driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor; and failure to exercise due care, a violation, on April 5 when he admitted to striking the two pedestrians — Lyn Briggs, and Melody Benn, both 55 and both of 65 Central Ave., Cortland.
The accident occurred Nov. 17 at the intersection of Central Avenue and Church Street. Briggs died two weeks after the crash, while Benn suffered life-threatening injuries.
About 60 people were present in court this morning for the sentencing, including friends and family of Stockton and the victims.
Briggs’ family, Benn and District Attorney David Hartnett all asked that Stockton be given state prison time for the crimes.
Hartnett asked the judge to impose a sentence of 2 to 6 years. He said Campbell should impose the sentence in order to send a message to the community.
“If the message is clear enough, people will listen,” he said. “There can be no other sentence from my perspective if you take the life of another.”
With Briggs’ daughter, Lisa Breed, standing next to her, Janet Sharpe — a friend of the family — read a statement Breed prepared.
In the statement, Breed told the court how the Briggs family suffered during the weeks after the crash, forced to choose between surgeries that would leave Briggs in a vegetative state or letting her mother die.
She described her mother as a person who loved life, helped people as a nurse and spent her free time gardening and writing poetry.
“I have been told that he was driving toward her and that she knew she was going to be hit,” Breed said in the statement. “She pushed Miss Benn out of the way and yelled her name.”
Benn also spoke at the sentencing, telling Campbell that she is still in constant physical and emotional pain, and that she suffers from visual impairments, memory loss and survivors’ guilt, among other ailments. She told Stockton that she forgives him for his reckless behavior but that he should receive prison time.
“I am grateful for you for stopping and calling the accident in. People say you are a good person and good people make mistakes,” she said. “I want you and your family to know that I forgive you.”
Stockton spoke briefly on his own behalf. He said he was sorry and that he wished he could take back the night of accident.
His attorney, Mark Suben, called him a “good but imperfect man.”
“There are no words that I can offer the Briggs family,” Stockton said. “I can only grant them one wish — I will live with this for the rest of my life.”
Stockton was a city police officer for seven years. He resigned from the force four days after Briggs died.
As part of the sentence, Stockton also is ordered to pay a total of $14,030 in restitution as well as another $1,500 in court fees. Stockton is out of jail without bail. Campbell released him after the proceedings and ordered him to appear at the County Jail on June 4 to start his jail term.
Stockton was indicted on the charges he pleaded guilty to, along with charges of second-degree manslaughter, a felony, and DWI with a blood-alcohol greater than 0.08 percent, a misdemeanor, in February. Hartnett dismissed those charges in exchange for Stockton’s guilty plea.
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Seward wants better tracking of sex offenders
State Sen. Jim Seward came to Cortland Wednesday to raise what has become a hot-button issue: how does the state monitor registered sex offenders who have served their time and have been reintroduced to society?
Seward (R-Milford) was touting plans to locate registered sex offenders that have fallen off the radar in New York state.
There are more than 1,000 registered sex offenders who have failed to comply with requirements that they report their addresses to local law enforcement agencies, and are essentially “missing,” Seward said.
“We can’t allow sex offenders to melt into the background of our communities and roam our streets,” he said.
Seward offered three proposals aimed at locating registered sex offenders who have failed to report updated addresses:
* Establishing a special investigative unit within the State Police focused solely on tracking registered sex offenders.
* Creating a “missing sex offender” Web site that would immediately identify Level 2 and 3 sex offenders whose addresses cannot be verified, similar to New York’s “100 Most Wanted” Web site.
* Creating a “PREDATOR” — Protect, Deter, Alert, Track and Report — alert system, similar to the Amber alert system that would immediately alert local law enforcement agencies and the news media of Level 2 and 3 sex offenders who are unaccounted for.
Representatives of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department and the Cortland City Police were on hand at Seward’s news conference supporting his proposals.
Police Chief Jim Nichols noted that, of 109 registered sex offenders in Cortland County, there are two the city is seeking with active warrants for failure to verify their addresses.
Currently Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders are required to report their address to local police agencies any time their address changes, Nichols said, while they are required to report to the state once every year. Level 3 sex offenders, deemed to be the highest risk to the community, must report to local law enforcement every 90 days and to the state once a year.
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Yaman beach set to open for the season
The sun had only just moved directly overhead, and the water of the 4 1/2-acre man-made lake at Yaman Park looked increasingly inviting as Michelle Turnbull and Barb Dady watched their children play in the shade of the nearby playground.
The two enjoyed using the playground in city-owned Yaman Park, off Clinton Avenue, because it was small enough for each of their two boys.
“There’s only a couple of them,” said Dady, of Kinney Gulf Road in Cortlandville.
New to the area, Turnbull, who lives on Bowling Green Road in Cortlandville, hopes to be a regular at the park beach after it opens for the season Saturday.
“That’s actually how we met; I was asking her when the beach opened,” Turnbull said.
“We usually come a few times a year — to play in the sand, mostly. He just walks into the water, very slowly,” Dady said as her 3 1/2-year-old son, Will, presented her with a pretzel for her approval as a snack.
The beach and changing rooms area were a flurry of activity on Wednesday as the city Youth Bureau’s lifeguards cleaned and painted and picked up and power washed.
“They’re prepping the facility for its opening — placing buoy lines, painting picnic tables, putting the raft in place and cleaning up the beach,” said Youth Bureau Director John McNerney.
Taking a break from blasting the sand free of the steps leading down to the beach with the noisy high-pressure power washer, Yaman Beach head lifeguard Sally O’Brien said six lifeguards work at the beach during the week, and seven work during weekends.
The park will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Memorial Day weekend and Aug. 19.
The 400-by-80-foot lake is chlorinated during the beach season.
SUNY Cortland names Oswego professor education school dean
Gerald Porter an associate professor at SUNY Oswego, has been named dean of SUNY Cortland’s four-year-old School of Education, effective July 9.
Porter is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at SUNY Oswego, where he also served as assistant dean in the School of Education from 2000 through 2005.
He replaces Edward Caffarella, who will return to teaching after having served as dean since 2003 of the then-newly created School of Education, which had been formed from a group of academic departments that split from the School of Professional Studies. SUNY Cortland, originally the Cortland Normal School, was founded in 1868 for the purpose of teacher education.
As dean, Porter will oversee four academic departments offering degrees at both the baccalaureate and master’s level: Educational Leadership, Foundations and Social Advocacy, Childhood/Early Childhood Education, and Literacy. He will supervise the Office of Field Placement, the Center for Educational Exchange, the Access to College Education program, the Liberty Partnership program, the Migrant Education Outreach Program, and the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs.
His responsibilities include helping the school meet its National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education requirements. He will be involved with the college’s new school of education building, on which construction is set to begin this year.
Porter earned a bachelor of science in psychology from Regent’s College (Excelsior College) in Albany. He has a master of science in educational psychology and statistics, a Ph.D. in educational psychology and statistics, and a certificate of advanced studies in school psychology from SUNY Albany.
College to host forum on keeping grads in N.Y.
The exodus of young people from upstate New York has long been a major problem identified by area community members, business leaders and politicians.
This September at SUNY Cortland, the issue will be discussed on a statewide scale at a summit arranged by Silda Spitzer, wife of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
The “I Live New York Summit” will be held Sept. 18 at SUNY Cortland and will bring together business leaders, elected officials, young professional groups and students to discuss how to curb the trend of young people leaving New York state.
“This is not a new issue, but it’s something the first lady feels very strongly about, and she wants to bring together all the various stakeholders to try to look at ways to address this problem as one unit,” said Jennifer Givner a spokeswoman for Spitzer.
Between 1990 and 2000 the population of 25- to 29-year-olds decreased by 29 percent in the 52 upstate counties outside of New York City, according to census data.
Between 1995 and 2000, also according to the census, upstate New York experienced a net loss of 110,000 college graduates to other states.
And while a recent survey conducted by the Business Council of New York State suggested that two-thirds of SUNY graduates want to remain upstate, only four in 10 find jobs here, and only three in 10 expect to be in New York in 10 years.