QUEENSBURY — Former local star athlete and gym proprietor Gordon “Denny” Wilhelm IV pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge Wednesday and was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in state prison for having more than a pound of cocaine in Queensbury one day last summer.
Wilhelm, 28, of Glens Falls, admitted he had 17 ounces of cocaine last Aug. 26 when State Police pulled him over on the Northway, shortly after he purchased the drugs in the New York City area.
He told Warren County Judge John Hall he was addicted to drugs and apologized as he was sentenced.
“I’ve let myself, my family, the community and this court down, and for that I am truly, deeply sorry,” he said.
His lawyer, Peter Moschetti, told Warren County Judge John Hall that “terrible” drug addiction that “clouds his judgment” was behind his client’s crime and that he took full responsibility for what he did.
Wilhelm will spend 5 years on parole after he is released from state prison.
Hall agreed to recommend that he be allowed to participate in the state prison system’s Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment (CASAT) program.
Hall, who had presided over a 2011 felony heroin case that resulted in Wilhelm participating in the judge’s felony drug treatment court, told him he hoped he would take advantage of the opportunities to address his drug problem and help others when he returns to the community.
“You have the potential to be a real force in our community, a force for good,” Hall told him.
Wilhelm pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a felony. That was a reduced charge from the first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance count he had faced.
Wilhelm was arrested Aug. 26 after State Police said they seized more than 17 ounces of cocaine from him after a traffic stop on the Northway in Queensbury that followed a drug investigation involving State Police, Glens Falls Police and Warren County sheriff’s officers. One package contained 17 ounces and two smaller packets contained several grams each of the drug, officials said.
Police believe he had purchased the drugs downstate and was returning to the Glens Falls area to sell them. He was questioned by police after the seizure and gave investigators a lengthy videotaped statement about his involvement in the drug trade, authorities said.
Police said he became involved in drugs shortly after being discharged from probation for the 2011 arrest.
Wilhelm agreed to forfeit $5,822 in cash that police seized from him the day of his arrest.
Wilhelm was a star football and basketball player at Glens Falls High School before going on to college at the University of Albany and Castleton University.
In recent years, the 6-foot-5 former quarterback and power forward ran The Athletic Academy at Global Fitness in Glens Falls, a gym that had become very popular with local youth athletes.
A woman who was with Wilhelm was also charged, and the case against her remains pending.
Catherine A. Peacock, 31, of Queensbury, faces two felony counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance. Carusone and her lawyer, Martin McGuinness, said it was unclear where her charges were headed as of Wednesday.
With a prior felony conviction from the 2011 drug case in Warren County Court, Wilhelm may have to serve up to 8 years of the 9.5-year term, though he could qualify for release after 6 or so years depending upon what prison programs he is allowed to participate in.
He could have faced up to 24 years in prison on the weightiest charge for which he was indicted, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Seventeen percent of boats inspected around Lake George in 2017 required decontamination to remove aquatic invasive species — a slight decrease from the previous year.
A total of 1,869 boats required cleaning, according to a report released Tuesday by the Lake George Park Commission. This is slightly less than the 1,920 vessels cleaned in 2016, which equaled 18 percent of inspected vessels requiring decontamination.
A total of 6,684 boats have been decontaminated since the program began in 2014.
The most prevalent invasive species that was found was Eurasian milfoil, which was on 70 boats. That is about the same as the 69 boats in 2016.
The number of boats with zebra mussels more than doubled, from 11 to 29, and those with curly leaf pondweed were trimmed by more than two-thirds, from 17 to 5.
The inspection program had 31,168 contacts with boaters in 2017 — up slightly from the 31,128 the prevous year. Around 25 percent of boats already had a boat inspection seal. About one-third of those — 10,801 trailered boats — did not have a vessel inspection control seal, which required a full inspection.
In all, 244 vessels arrived at an inspection station with visible plant or animal matter attached to the vessel or the trailer, compared with 127 in 2016, according to the report. There were 110 visible aquatic invasive species found on boats, which is about 0.38 percent of the boats arriving in Lake George.
The program was in operation from May 1 through Oct. 31 at seven regional inspection stations.
The inspection program is working well and went very smoothly, according to David Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission.
“We’re still seeing a lot of boaters coming to Lake George. The majority of them are meeting the ‘cleaned, drained and dry’ standard, which is great,” he said.
The boats that have invasive species are decontaminated at no charge to the owner, Wick added.
Wick said the number of different types of invasive species found tends to fluctuate, but it is a good indicator of the types of invasives being found throughout the Northeast.
He attributed the increase in zebra mussels to the large number of boats coming from Saratoga Lake. The Saratoga Lake Association and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which manages the boat launches, are trying to address the issue, he said. They would have to do decontamination upon exit from the lake, which is difficult to do from a logistical and time standpoint, he said, adding that there are stewards that take a look at the boats on the way out.
“They try to do their best to not export invasive species to other lakes,” he said.
Boats came from 449 different water bodies in 24 different states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. After New York, the boats came from 55 different water bodies in New Jersey, 46 in Massachusetts and 34 in Connecticut.
Wick said there are no major changes planned for the program in 2018. The only exception would be if the new rest area between Exits 17 and 18 is completed. A boat-washing station is going to be included there. Once that station comes online, the commission would eliminate its inspection site at the Lake George trash transfer station, Wick said.
Boat registrations are a bit down from 2016, which was a banner year with good weather and very little rain, Wick said. It was slightly wetter last year. He attributes the high numbers to an improving economy.
“Our inspection program in no way detours anyone from coming to Lake George, and we think that’s thanks to the funding coming from the governor’s office and the local partners to keep this program free,” he said.
The program costs about $630,000 and is funded through $350,000 from the state Environmental Protection Fund, $100,000 from Warren County and $30,000 each from the village of Lake George and the towns of Bolton and Queensbury, Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Association.
Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender said 2017 was another successful year for the program. The LGA had started a voluntary program before the Park Commission implemented a mandatory one.
He added that it is good that inspectors are also checking sanitary systems on boats.
“It’s a great contact with boaters and a great way to check to make sure the sanitary tanks are not discharging,” he said.
Invasive species found in Lake George boats
Source: 2017 Lake George Aquatic Invasives Species Prevention Program Final Report
Species 2016 2017
Eurasian milfoil 69 70
Zebra mussels 11 29
Curly leaf pondweed 17 5
Water chestnut 11 12
Rusty Crayfish 1 0
Variable leaf milfoil 0 1
Snail 0 0
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Saying he was contrite and made remarks “unbecoming of any servant,” Planning Board Chairman David Linehan resigned Wednesday.
“Please know that I now consider the remark made to Trustee (Nick) Bodkin at last month’s meeting as prehistoric and unbecoming of any servant (public or private),” he wrote in a resignation letter that he also emailed to The Post-Star. “I sincerely apologize to you Brigid (Martin), Mayor Gutheil and Trustee Bodkin — with a contrite heart — because all of you are sincere in your efforts to better the Village of South Glens Falls. I most of all will need to apologize to friends of the (World Wide Web) who are also deserving. The many apologies will be a heavy lift — but I do believe anything is possible.”
Linehan had asked Bodkin, as the Village Board representative, to consider choosing a man for the next appointment to the Planning Board. There are currently three women on the five-member board, with a vacant seat for an alternate member.
Linehan defended his request Monday by citing the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Good and Evil. He said that story indicated that men are “a little more considerate and mindful of what the rules are.”
But the mayor said gender would not be a factor in any appointment, and the Conference of Mayors said gender also could not be a legal factor.
Linehan faced quick criticism from others, who viewed his remarks as sexist.
Board member Brigid Martin, who was the most recent appointee and pushed the board’s gender ratio to 3-2, asked him to resign.
Martin said he should resign because his comments were “bigoted.” She worried that he might not treat women as well as men when they present projects to the board, and said it was possible he would “not put the law before his faith.”
“I do not see how the board can do the people’s work with such direct gender bias,” she said.
Linehan said he now saw his remarks very differently.
“I obviously need to practice my faith a bit more diligently. Believe me when I say that a good and contrite confession is on another agenda,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
In his last act as Planning Board chairman, he asked members of the board to attend Wednesday night’s Village Board meeting and give the board a status update on a zoning change request.
Linehan was first appointed to the Planning Board in 1987 and had been the chairman for nearly 30 years.
Linehan had, until now, an unblemished record and was well respected by applicants and Planning Board members, some of whom said they had assumed he was joking when he said he wanted a man to be the alternate member.
While Linehan made it clear he was not joking, he took an unusual step and did not blame the newspaper for printing his controversial remarks. In his resignation letter, he thanked a Post-Star reporter for her work.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would allow the recreational use of marijuana, putting the state on course to become the first in the country to legalize pot by an act of the Legislature rather than through a referendum by voters.
By voice vote, the Senate agreed to the proposal that would make it legal for adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana but does not set up a system to tax and regulate the production and sale of the drug. The House approved the bill last week, and Gov. Phil Scott has indicated he will sign it.
"Today the Vermont Senate moved Vermont one step closer to a rational approach to marijuana," Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, said in a statement. "Tens of thousands of Vermonters will no longer feel like they're committing a crime for their private, responsible use of marijuana."
Senators who voted against the bill didn't ask for a roll call. It takes effect July 1.
"I think this is a very exciting criminal justice reform for Vermont. There have been terrible harms that have happened in the name of marijuana prohibition that have disproportionately affected poor people and people of color for far too long," said Laura Subin, director of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.
Once the bill takes effect, Vermont will become the ninth state in the country, along with the District of Columbia, to approve the recreational use of marijuana and the only area where the law wasn't created by the vote of residents. Vermont does not allow referendum votes.
Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws, said Vermont and the District of Columbia are the only jurisdictions without a tax and regulation structure as part of their marijuana legalization laws.
The legalization laws in Maine and Massachusetts call for tax and regulation structures, but they have not yet been set up, although personal marijuana use and possession are legal in those states.
The Vermont bill would allow adults 21 and older to possess of up to 1 ounce of marijuana and have two mature marijuana plants or four immature plants.
Last spring, the Legislature passed a similar bill, but Scott vetoed it because the Republican thought it didn't do enough to protect children from marijuana and enhance highway safety. Lawmakers changed the proposal to address the governor's concerns, but there was not enough time left to pass it.
Democratic state Sen. Richard Sears, who has been working for marijuana legalization for years, said the bill passed Wednesday was an important first step.
"A lot of work has taken place, but we're still not there yet," Sears said. "I don't think we're there until we see a tax and regulated system."
He said it would be OK if Vermont went for a year or so without a tax system. A commission formed by Scott last summer to study the issue is scheduled to release a report in December with suggestions on how the system could be set up.
Not everyone was happy with the bill's passage. Aubree Adams traveled to Vermont from Pueblo, Colorado, tell lawmakers she believes legalization in her state has had unintended consequences. She works with the group Moms Strong, whose mission is to educate the public about the harms of marijuana, according to its website.
"I'm here as a living witness ... to let you know the legalization of marijuana means promotion, it's not a solution to prohibition," she said. "Vermont has already decriminalized so it's a false narrative that the lobbyists and the marijuana promoters are giving Vermont and the Legislature."