Police launch pre-dawn sweep after 9-month investigation

HUDSON–A combined force of over 50 officers from the Hudson Police Department, units from the State Police and Columbia County sheriff’s deputies arrested 19 people in and around the city early last Friday morning. All of those arrested were charged with multiple felony counts for the sale of narcotics based on an investigation that began last spring.

By mid-afternoon Friday, December 20, Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said the total number of people arraigned on the charges had reached 19 of the 20 suspects police sought. Information released by police and county District Attorney Paul Czajka identified 10 men and 8 women ranging in age from 24 to 52. All but one man from Catskill were listed as having Hudson addresses. One person arrested was not named by Friday afternoon, and the person the police are still looking for also was not identified.

Officials said two people charged as part of this investigation were already being held in jail on other charges.

The officers involved, supported by a State Police helicopter, an armored vehicle, K-9 units and Catskill Police, had three search warrants in Hudson and Greenport and made the arrests at 12 different locations, all without incident. “There were no injuries to officers, defendants or the public,” Chief Moore said at an afternoon press conference.

The search warrants were for homes where police say narcotics were bought and sold leading to a total of 49 drug charges against the 20 individuals.

Arraignments in the case began around noon Friday before County Judge Richard M. Koweek at the temporary County Courthouse in Claverack. Each of the defendants appeared individually before the judge, who ruled on their requests for bail made by Public Defender Robert Linville after the indictments presented by the district attorney were unsealed.

Of the four defendants who were the first to appear in court, only one, Eres Shakesphere, 34, had bail set–in her case, $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. The judge noted that she has no criminal record. The judge denied the requests of the others arraigned Friday morning and they will be held at the Columbia County Jail until the next hearing on the cases January 14.

Mr. Linville entered pleas of not guilty for all four of the first group arraigned: Ms. Shakesphere; Shakera Simmons, 34; Kimel R. Robinson, 37; and Ashley Leigh Ramsey, 30.

The others indicted and named are Heather L. Allen, 32; Rodney E. Branton, 41; Lamar Carter, 31; Hector Louis Davila, 49; Earnest Hartfield, 38; Brandon A. Hicks, 26; Lavone Leroy McClendon Jr., 26; John H. Miner, 47; Michelle Lee Moskaluk, 24; Cleveland Spann Jr., 45; Virginia M. Stroud, 34; Victoria A. Teator, 50; Harvey N. Thomas, 52; Virginia Ann Tompkins, 47. Mr. Minor’s address is listed as Catskill.

Answering reporter’s questions, Chief Moore said there were no weapons or cash seized at the time of the arrests. About six grams of heroin were seized during the arrests, but that did not include the narcotics allegedly sold by the defendants during the investigation.

He said there was no evidence that gangs or other organized criminals were involved with the alleged drug sales. The arrests were not confined to any section of the city.

Two of the women arraigned Friday morning said they have children. Chief Moore said later that no children were removed from their families as the result of the arrests. He said the children were being cared for by their relatives.

The chief said those arrested were not drug users with small amounts of marijuana or cocaine. He characterized the people arrested as “poisoners who profit from the drug trade.”

He said the investigation began last March 25, a week after he started work in his post as chief of the Hudson Police Department. He contacted the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) as part of an effort to assess and address the city’s drug problem. State Police Lt. Greg Thomas, who attended the press conference, said the team he heads is based in Albany and helps local police departments in 11 counties in this region conduct undercover drug investigations.

Mayor William Hallenbeck Jr. spoke briefly at the opening of the press conference, saying that the arrests marked an effort to provide “better quality of life in the City of Hudson.”

Despite the satisfaction expressed by police over the success of the operation, Hudson Alderman-elect Tiffany Garriga (D-2nd Ward) was not happy about the scale of the raids. She said that there were “over a thousand comments on Facebook in Hudson” from people upset about or frightened by the hovering helicopter and large police presence. “Are we in Afghanistan?” she asked.

The chief and Common Council President Don Moore both said they had not heard any complaints about the arrests or the use of the helicopter as of Friday.

Hudson Police Commissioner Gary Graziano, speaking with Alderman-elect Garriga after the press conference, said that having a helicopter was part of State Police procedure for large operations like the one Friday morning, which began when about 50 officers gathered at an undisclosed location outside just the city before launching their search for the 20 suspects. He said one of the functions of the helicopter was to be able to evacuate anyone who might be hurt during the operation. He also said it was a part of the process that Hudson did not control.

Ms. Garriga did not appear swayed by his explanation.

Chief Moore praised all those involved in the investigation and the arrests. He said every member of the HPD had participated in the plan, and he singled out HPD Detective Jason Finn for spearheading the investigation for the department. He also thanked Capt. Michael Jankowiak, zone commander of State Police Trook K, Zone 1, the Troop K BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) and the Major Crimes Unit, the State Police Aviation Unit, the State Police Canine Teams and York State Troopers; the Catskill Police Department; the county Sheriff’s Office; and The Greenport Rescue Squad.

He said he did not yet have a figure for the cost of the nine-month investigation but he expects the costs will be covered by federal funds generated by seizures in drug cases.

A Hudson Police Department spokesman said Monday, December 23 that he was not aware of any further arrests related to this investigation.

Addressing his department’s effort to improve the quality of life in the City of Hudson, Chief Moore said, “I think this is a good start.”

 

 

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