Schenectady drug suspect released in mix-up
Lawyers given one week to find Green for hearing
SCHENECTADY A drug defendant ordered held without bail by a Schenectady County judge was instead released from the Albany County jail last month, authorities said.
The defendant, Jermaine Green, who gave police an address in Bridgeport, Conn., remains free, and his whereabouts are unclear.
Albany County sheriff’s officials said this week that they never got the order to hold the man, while Schenectady County sheriff’s and court officials said the order was among two messages conveyed in a document delivered to the Albany County jail with the prisoner.
Those messages, Schenectady County officials said, were to lift the original arrest warrant and to hold him without bail. But just one — the message lifting the original arrest warrant — was recorded at the jail.
That resulted in Green being released after posting bail on unrelated Albany County charges. His Schenectady defense attorneys have been given until next week to find him and bring him to court.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said this week that his department had no reason to hold Green after he had posted bail. The wording of the document indicated that the arrest warrant was lifted, meaning Schenectady didn’t want Green any longer.
Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago in court this week called it a misinterpretation of the document’s intent. She gave Green’s attorneys one week to find him.
Schenectady County Undersheriff Gordon Pollard suggested Thursday that a simple rubber stamp could help prevent the situation from happening again.
The 42-year-old Green was released from the Albany County jail Dec. 23, five days after an acting Schenectady County Court judge ordered him held without bail. Schenectady County Court officials didn’t learn of Green’s release until recently, when they went to put his case on the court calendar — he’s scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
“I expect your investigators to go out and actively look for him,” Drago told defense attorney Lauren Mack.
Drago declined a prosecution request for a new arrest warrant because Green was released through no fault of his own.
The release appeared to center around a sequence of events in which Green was held in the Albany County jail, transported to Schenectady County Court by Schenectady County corrections officers for arraignment and then returned to Albany County.
Green was initially arrested in Colonie on Dec. 10 after a traffic stop. During that stop, police discovered Green was wanted in Schenectady County on an indictment charging him with four drug-related felonies. Green is accused of possessing and selling cocaine on Second Avenue in Schenectady.
Green was transported to Schenectady County Court on Dec. 18 and arraigned on the drug charges by Judge Richard Giardino. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
Schenectady County corrections officers then returned Green to the Albany County jail in the afternoon with the commitment document. However, the Schenectady County Court decision to hold Green without bail did not make it into jail records.
Drago attributed it this week in court to a mistake at the jail, a misinterpretation of the section of the document that read “Vacate Warrant.” Apple later responded to a suggestion that his officers made a mistake by saying the message to hold Green without bail was not conveyed in the document returned with him.
What was clearly included, Apple said, was an order to “Vacate Warrant,” meaning the original arrest warrant was lifted and Schenectady County no longer wanted Green. Pollard said Thursday the operative part of the document is at the bottom, which reads: “Bail was not fixed.”
To make the message clearer in the future, Pollard said, he will purchase a simple large “hold” stamp Monday and instruct his desk officers to stamp commitment orders being delivered to other counties. Apple indicated that his officers use a similar stamp.
“It seems to work,” Apple said in an email. “I understand mistakes happen, but we try to keep it simple.”
Green remains in good standing on the Albany County charges, which relate to driving without a license and illegal possession of a billy club. He posted bail of $7,500 in that case.
His next court date in Colonie is Wednesday, the same date as his next Schenectady County Court appearance.