October 20, 2021

Courts in Cortland County slowly reopening

Courts in Cortland County and the rest of the 6th Judicial District are reopening but face a backlog of cases, said Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti.

Courts closed to the public in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Perfetti said.

That has left many cases on the docket unheard by judges — and one trial halted in mid-testimony. Judges did handle some matters, like arraignments, virtually starting March 23.

Now begins the process of hearing items in court, such as child support proceedings filed before April 1 and criminal preliminary pretrial evidentiary hearings. However, many other tasks will continue to be done virtually, including juvenile delinquency hearings and persons in need of supervision, states a release from the 6th Judicial District.

County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin said her office has been keeping up with the court filings.

“It’s not been overwhelming at all,” she said. “If it had been six months, it would be a whole different story.”

She said at first only essential filings having to do with someone’s safety in civil cases could be filed.

“Anything that had to do with mental health or guardianship,” she said. Criminal cases could also be filed.

Many people could also file things electronically or drop them off in a slot set up at the county courthouse.

Toward the end of May, attorneys were able to begin filing documents on cases already in the system. A week later, the clerk was able to accept new case filings, she said.

Perfetti said town courts will resume in July on a limited basis.

Here’s where some high-profile cases stand:

Rape trial — Raymond C. Cole Jr. was in the middle of a trial in March when courts closed, indicted July 19 on three counts of first-degree rape, six counts of second-degree assault, five counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and four counts of first-degree unlawful imprisonment. He is accused of locking a woman in the basement at his residence on 13 Brown Ave. in Cortland between May 30 and June 3, injecting her often — up to 30 times — with a narcotic “bath salt” know as Molly and repeatedly raping her. The drugs eventually sent her to the hospital for days. That case is expected to resume Aug. 18.

Downtown assault — Brian S. Sanders, Perfetti said he is waiting for grand juries to reconvene again in the case of Brian S. Sanders of Preble, who was accused of beating a man so severely he was sent to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse in critical condition.

Sanders, of 6594 Route 281, was arrested in September and charged with first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Sanders was arrested around 6 p.m. Sept. 2 after he assaulted Harold F. Hall, 55, near 44 Main St, according to police documents.

Multiple witnesses told police they heard Sanders yelling at Hall, some saying the comments were about Hall being gay and making reference to an incident when Sanders was 18, before Sanders attacked Hall, causing head injuries, and repeatedly slicing him with a torn-apart soda can.

Stand-off with police — Zachary Clark, 26, was charged in late March with four felonies following a 12-hour standoff with police following a police shooting on Elm Street: first-degree assault, aggravated assault on a police or peace officer, first-degree reckless endangerment and menacing a police or peace officer.

Police said he shot an officer and then proceeded to have a 12hour standoff with police in late March on Elm Street.

Perfetti said a mental exam found Clark was competent and he is awaiting a grand jury.