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Cortland Standard

Local News

Kevin Conlon
Managing Editor
news@cortlandstandard.net

Friday
March 29, 2013
Page 3

DWI death
brings man
6-month
jail term
By MARK FERDINAND
Staff Reporter

mferdinand@cortlandstandardnews.net

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Homer Police Chief Dan Mack is retiring after 27 years with the department.

Homer police chief retiring

Daniel Mack has worked for the village department 27 years
By MARK FERDINAND
Staff Reporter

mferdinand@cortlandstandardnews.net

HOMER — After 27 years with the police department, village Police Chief Daniel Mack is retiring from his post after this week.
Mack said he will be taking a much needed
break before moving on to other things, but will
still live in the area and help at the police department when needed.
Mack, 51, began his career as an officer in Homer in 1986 and was promoted to sergeant in 1992.
He took over the top spot when then-Chief David
Sampson retired in 1999. While he qualified for
a comfortable retirement after he hit the 20-year
mark, Mack stayed on seven more to help the force
and village, which he calls his “extended family.”
“I’m looking forward to relaxing a little bit, and
looking for something else to do,” said Mack. He
said he is looking into a position in the Department of Homeland Security or a similar office, doing part-time work.
“The police department is in great shape and the
guys here are highly qualified,” Mack said. “I went
over things with them and they’ll be fine.”
The position’s salary is $65,000 per year. Mack
will retain 50 percent of that as pension.
Mack has overseen the department as it grew
and developed significantly over his nearly 30
years there, and was responsible for a catalogue of
improvements.

During his tenure as chief, Homer went from a
part-time to a full-time police department by adding an overnight shift and more part-time officers.
When he started, Mack said the department had
two full-time and three part-time officers. With his
departure, it still only has three full-timers, but it is
up to about 10 part-timers, including three crossing guards and a clerk.
The department also switched offices from the
current Village Hall on South Main Street to a
more spacious building at 43 1/2 James St., once a
19th century railroad depot.
Mack also oversaw the addition of three more
police cars to the force (there are now four), shotguns and Tasers.
“Before I took over. we couldn’t even carry
night sticks,” Mack said.
He also saw that his officers were better trained
and expanded the department’s services to the
community.
Cpl. Roland Eckard became a field training officer and police instructor qualified to train others
in the field.
Patrolman Christopher Parrow serves as a firearms instructor and Patrolman Michael Howell is
the school resource officer for the Homer Central
School District. Mack saw that these officers got the
training required to be qualified for these position.
“He gets the whole picture and did a real
good job,” said Eckard. “He has the faith of the
officers.”

Eckard, who served with Mack for the past six
years, said his colleague was due for some rest.
Sgt. David VanOrden will serve as the officer in
charge until the Village Board selects a replacement. Mack said he has recommended VanOrden
for the job.
“I’m going to miss him; I’ve enjoyed working
with him,” said VanOrden, who has served with
Mack for 23 years and picked him to be the best
man at his wedding. “He’s put in a lot of years and
done an excellent job.”
VanOrden said staying fully staffed has always
been the biggest challenge, as losing even one officer represents a quarter of their full-time core.
Taking vacations or days off has always been difficult, he said.
With no individual departments, Homer officers
are responsible for road patrol, criminal investigation and all other police duties. Mack is accomplished in all of them, said Eckard.
“The village is going to be losing someone who
has dedicated a lot of time to this village at his
own expense,” he said. “There’s very few things
he’d ask an officer to do that he wouldn’t do himself.”
Eckard grew up in Homer and knew Mack as an
officer when he was just a boy. He has since grown
to know him as a colleague and a friend.
“He chased me around when I was a kid, and
now we chase people around together,” Eckard
said.

Police/Fire Log
Police: Ponderosa College student
worker threatened accused of pulling
customer with knife out a shotgun
CORTLANDVILLE — A steak
house employee was accused of
threatening a customer with a butcher knife after a heated exchange
Thursday, according to the Cortland
County Sheriff’s Department.
At roughly 6:30 p.m. at the Ponderosa restaurant on Route 13 in Cortlandville, Virgil C. Brown, 51, of 43
Union St., got into an argument during which Brown took a knife from
the kitchen area and threatened a customer with it, according to police.
Sheriff’s officers arrived after
Brown’s co-workers called 911.
Brown surrendered the butcher knife
and was arrested without further incident, police said. There were no
reported injuries.
Brown was arraigned in Cortlandville Town Court on charges of
third-degree criminal possession of
a weapon, a felony; second-degree
menacing, a misdemeanor; and second-degree harassment, a violation.
Police are asking anyone who
might have witnessed the incident to
contact the Sheriff’s Department at
607-753-3311.

A SUNY Cortland student was arrested by city police Thursday for
threatening three people with a shotgun on Clayton Avenue, city police
said.
Police said Kevin F. Jean-Charles,
23, of 31 Clayton Ave., Apt. 2, got into
an argument with three people and
pointed the firearm at them during the
exchange. He then left the scene.
At around 9 p.m., police obtained a
warrant for his arrest after receiving a
call from the people Jean-Charles allegedly threatened. Police went to his
apartment but did not find him there,
but they did find the shotgun, which
was unloaded, according to Lt. Richard Troyer. Police also found ammunition for the weapon in the room.
Jean-Charles was later located by
SUNY University Police walking
around on the college campus, and
he was arrested around 3 a.m., Troyer
said.
He was charged with six total misdemeanor counts, three for second-degree menacing and three for fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Jean-Charles stayed overnight in

the lockup and was being arraigned
this morning in City Court.

3 charged with
drunken driving

Accused: Ryan L. Bell, 19, of
Groton
Charges: Driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor; following
too close, operating a motor vehicle
without inspection certificate, violations
Details: Bell got into a property
damage accident Wednesday afternoon on Route 222 in Cortlandville
after he was following too closely
behind another vehicle, state police
said.
Police interviewed Bell and determined he was intoxicated, resulting
in his arrest at 3:46 p.m.
Legal action: Bell was arraigned
and released to appear in Homer
Town Court at a later date.
———
Accused: Brian T. Tobias, 19, of
North Tower Road, Cincinnatus
Charges: Driving while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated with
a blood-alcohol content at or above
0.08 percent, misdemeanors; obstructed driver’s view, no plate lamp,
violations
Details: Tobias was arrested by a

Cortland County Sheriff’s officer as
the result of a traffic stop on Route
41 in Cortlandville.
He was pulled over on Saturday
when police noticed he had an unlighted license plate and was suspected of being intoxicated. Police
said he registered above the legal
limit on a breath test and he was arrested at 2:06 a.m.
Legal action: Tobias was arraigned and released to appear April
29 in Cortlandville Town Court.
———
Accused: Misti M. Conger, 33, of
700 Northcliffe Road, Apt. 30, Cortland
Charges: Driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor; refusal to take
a breath test, unsafe speed, moving
from lane unsafely, violations
Details: Conger struck a tree while
traveling on Randall Street about
1:30 this morning, according to city
police. She was interviewed and suspected to be intoxicated, but refused
a breath examination. Conger then
failed standard field sobriety tests
and was arrested for DWI, police
said. She was not injured and her car
was not severely damaged.
Legal action: Conger was held
overnight for arraignment this morning in City Court.

A McGraw man who pleaded guilty to driving
drunk and causing the death of a McGraw woman last August will spend six months in Cortland
County Jail followed by five years of probation.
Accompanied by his family, Gary L. Strout Jr.,
41, of 26 W. Center St., was sentenced by County
Judge Julie Campbell on Thursday as the family
of the woman killed in the accident looked on.
Janet Cochran, 55, was killed after Strout’s
Dodge pickup truck strayed into her lane and
struck her Volkswagen Jetta head-on while she
was westbound on Route 41 in Polkville.
Strout admitted in February to being intoxicated during the incident, which occurred on the
afternoon of Aug. 29. He pleaded guilty to firstdegree vehicular manslaughter, which can carry a
sentence of up to 15 years in state prison.
Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth McGrath
read from a letter sent by Cochran’s husband
Fran, pastor of McGrawville Baptist Church.
The letter stated that Cochran bears “no hostility” toward Strout, and sees him as a “good man
bearing the consequences of his actions.”
“The months ahead will be difficult for you all.
My family and church family at McGrawville
Baptist want you to know we are here to support
you,” Cochran’s letter stated. “God bless your
lives.”
The pastor said he wants to give Strout the
chance to get help for his alcohol problems, and
does not want to see him separated for long from
his wife and three children, who sat in the court
chamber behind him, crying at times. The youngest were led out by a court officer so they did not
have to see their father handcuffed.
Campbell read from a presentencing investigation, saying Strout has minimal criminal history
and “does not appear to pose a risk of harm to the
community.” She said he has had a steady work
history and is a military veteran.
A few weeks prior to the crash that killed Cochran, Strout’s father died and he used alcohol to
cope, according to the report prepared by the Probation Department.
He also had a previous conviction for driving while impaired in 2004 after the death of his
youngest son, Campbell said.
Strout admitted to taking his eyes off the road
momentarily to light a cigarette, but McGrath
said he has downplayed his involvement in the
collision to the Probation Department, referring
to it as “bad timing.”
“The conclusions were very straightforward,”
said McGrath, referring to an accident reconstruction report by state police.
The report found that Strout’s vehicle had
veered 6 feet over the yellow line when he struck
Cochran, she said, and that he was traveling
about 15 mph over the 45 mph limit in that zone.
Strout’s blood-alcohol content was 0.11 percent
from having a few beers that morning, according to police. Strout sat rigid and silent during the
proceeding.
“I have nothing to say your honor,” he responded when Campbell gave him a chance to speak.
In addition to the split sentence, Strout must
comply with mandatory substance abuse counseling and cannot be in possession of drugs or
alcohol. If he violates the terms of his probation,
he can be resentenced to anywhere between five
and 15 years in prison. Strout’s driver’s license
was also revoked.
Both families declined to comment after the
sentencing.
In other court news, a Cortlandville woman
who pleaded guilty to selling cocaine last year
also received a reduced sentence from Campbell.
Elizabeth Empey, 28, was sentenced to five
years of probation in exchange for her guilty
plea to third-degree criminal sale of a controlled
substance, a felony punishable by up to 25 years
in prison. Campbell said Empey’s presentencing
investigation was hopeful, showing she had voluntarily sought treatment and taken responsibility
for her actions.
“You are not the typical pattern I see. Usually
they negotiate with me; they say if you put me on
probation I will do this,” Campbell said.
Public Defender Ed Goehler said Empey is
employed and undergoing counseling for drug
addiction, and that sending her to jail or prison
would have impeded her progress.
“She’s really on the right path now,” he said.
Empey was charged with two counts of selling
cocaine for two instances last May. She tearfully
told Campbell that she has since lost her apartment and moved in with her mother and was hoping to start fresh. “I know what I did was wrong; I
know I made a mistake,” she said.


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