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Local
Redden asks judge to reconsider murder plea deal

QUEENSBURY — The Glens Falls man who pleaded guilty last month to killing a woman and her 4-year-old daughter has sent a series of letters to Warren County Judge John Hall and lawyers in his case in recent weeks, seeking to change his plea deal.

Bryan M. Redden wrote that “I did not fully understand” the proposed plea deal when he pleaded guilty Jan. 11, and that he did not want to serve up to life in prison, officials said.

He asked Hall to schedule a court date before his sentencing next month to “put on the record my lack of understanding,” and wrote that he would rather have a cap on his sentence of 50 years instead of up to 44-years-to-life.

Glens Falls double murder

Redden wrote that he did not understand that sentences for the murder charges could run concurrently instead of consecutively, and he “may not have entered the plea that I had.”

But he added that his earlier statements in court were not “falsified” or perjured.

“If you would please allow me to come before the court to put on record my lack of understanding, while also considering the sentence stated above, I would appreciate it,” he wrote.

Under state law, murder charges are punishable by mandatory sentences of up to life in prison, so his sentence cannot legally be capped at a determinate number.

Redden’s lawyer, Martin McGuinness, acknowledged Redden has written letters since his plea, questioning the proposed sentence. He said he believes the confusion stems at least in part from the complicated state sentencing rules regarding first-degree murder.

Redden is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8. In light of the correspondence, Warren County Judge John Hall may bring him in to court for a judicial inquiry beforehand to discuss his concerns.

But McGuinness said there was no indication that his client would formally seek to change his plea as of Friday.

“At this juncture, I do not plan on attempting to withdraw his plea,” McGuinness said. “No new (court) date other than sentencing has been scheduled.”

Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said he had no comment on the matter as of Friday.

Redden, 21, pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to first-degree murder, counts of second-degree murder and lesser charges for the Aug. 11 killings of Crystal L. Riley, 33, and her 4-year-old daughter, Lilly Frasier, in their South Street, Glens Falls apartment.

He admitted he slit both of their throats with a kitchen knife. Redden told police he had been involved in a short-term romantic relationship with Riley, but he did not explain what led to the killings. He told police he had used heroin beforehand.

Redden was a former carnival rides worker from West Virginia in 2016 who stayed in the Glens Falls area after working at a county fair in the region.

He is being held in Warren County Jail without bail, pending further court action.


International
AP
With extraordinary political optics, Winter Olympics begin

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — In an extraordinary show of unexpected unity, North and South Korea sat side by side Friday night under exploding fireworks that represented peace, not destruction, as the 2018 Winter Olympics opened on a Korean Peninsula riven by generations of anger, suspicion and bloodshed.

The sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — and appeared genuinely pleased — while they watched an elaborate show of light, sound and human performance. Minutes later came a moment stunning in its optics and its implications: the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, sitting a row ahead of Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the North’s nominal head of state, all watching the games begin — officials from two nations that many worry have been on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Not long after, North and South Korean athletes entered Olympic Stadium together, waving flags showing a unified Korea — the long-time dream, in theory at least, of many Koreans both North and South. It was the rivals’ first joint Olympic march since 2007. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach then handed the podium to Moon, who declared the Olympics officially open.

The ceremony’s signature moment delivered another flash of unity and deft political stage-managing, too. Two athletes from the joint Koreas women’s hockey team climbed stairs to the cauldron with the Olympic torch. At the last moment, though, they handed off the flame to former Olympic champion figure skater Yuna Kim, arguably South Korea’s most famous person. She actually lit the cauldron as the home crowd roared.

Moon, in a statement, said athletes from North and South will “work together for victory.” And Bach lauded the joint march of the two Koreas as a “powerful message.”

“We are all touched by this wonderful gesture. We all join and support you in your message of peace,” Bach said.

After years of frustration, billions of dollars and a nagging national debate about their worth, the opening ceremonies took place before a world watching the moment not only for its athletic significance and global spectacle, but for clues about what the peninsula’s political future could hold.

There is a palpable excitement in this isolated, rugged mountain town, as one of the poorest, coldest and most disgruntled parts of an otherwise prosperous South Korea kicks off two weeks of winter sports, spectacle and, from the looks of things, some inter-Korean reconciliation.

After a chaotic year of nuclear war threats and nuclear and missile tests from the North, the opening ceremony proved to be an evening of striking visual moments.

The significance of Pence and the North Koreans sitting in the same box was not immediately clear, though it seemed to run counter to the mission he was supposed to undertake. He’d been dispatched from Washington for the Olympics in part, he said, to make sure the world didn’t forget that North Korea was a misbehaving and dangerous neighbor in the community of nations.

What did seem clear was that, deliberately or not, the North Korean government had managed to edge its way onto center stage during the South’s biggest global moment in years.

A huge crowd gathered in the freezing Olympics Stadium as performances displayed the sweep of Korean history and culture. The march of athletes from the world’s many nations saw them girded against a frigid Korean night with temperatures that dipped below freezing and biting winds.

Members of a delegation from North Korea, part of an Olympics partnership between the two Korean rivals, watched from high in the stadium a performance called “The Land of Peace” and as past South Korean athletes paraded a large southern flag. The North Koreans, dressed in identical garb, cheered in careful coordination.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures to mark the games. More than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries will compete here, making it the biggest Winter Olympics to date.

Pyeongchang was not supposed to share the spotlight with Pyongyang. This was not supposed to be, as some in Seoul grumble, the “Pyongyang Games,” a play on the North Korean capital’s phonetic similarity to Pyeongchang.

After two failed Olympic bids that emphasized the high-sounding notion that the games could help make peace with North Korea, Pyeongchang finally sold its successful try in 2011 on the decidedly capitalistic goal of boosting winter sports tourism in Asia.

But North Korea has a habit of not letting itself be ignored when it comes to its southern rival.

Its agents blew up a South Korean airliner ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics in an attempt to dissuade visitors; then it boycotted its rival’s Olympic debut on the world stage. A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis. It has only deepened over the years as the North closes in on the ability to field an arsenal of nukes that can hit U.S. cities.

And so, with a little help from a liberal South Korean president eager to engage Pyongyang, the 2018 Pyeongchang Games open.

They do so with as much focus on the North, which has zero real medal contenders, as the South, which in the three decades since its last Olympics has built a solid winter program as it went from economic backwater and military dictatorship to Asia’s fourth-biggest economy and a bulwark of liberal democracy.


Local
Police, prosecutors meet to discuss Jaliek case

CAMBRIDGE — The taskforce investigating the 10-year-old disappearance of Greenwich resident Jaliek Rainwalker met Friday for the first time in three years, working to get new investigators up to speed on the case and discuss next steps.

Current and former police investigators as well as Washington County prosecutors and representatives of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children came together at the Cambridge-Greenwich Police station to go over the status of the investigation.

Cambridge-Greenwich Police Chief George Bell said the goal was to bring people who were newly assigned to the investigation up to speed, and to determine where the investigation should go at this point.

“There are some new people we are trying to get up to speed, to discuss where we’re at,” he said.

With few new leads in the case, the group had not met since February 2015, Bell said.

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan described the meeting as a good one to renew lines of communication.

“My concern is we have a lot of new faces in State Police in Greenwich and (State Police) Major Crimes. I just wanted to get everybody together to share all of the collective knowledge and wisdom,” he said.

Rainwalker, then 12 years old, was reported missing Nov. 2, 2007 after his adopted father reported he was not in the Hill Street, Greenwich, home where he had spent the night before, after returning from respite care.

A massive search unfolded in the weeks and months that followed, with no clues found as to what happened to him.

Rainwalker’s adoptive parents have said they believe he ran away to start a new life elsewhere. Police, though, classified the case as a suspected homicide in 2012, when no clues as to what became of Rainwalker had been found.

Police have labeled the boy’s adoptive father, Stephen Kerr, as a “person of interest” in the case, saying he gave conflicting information about his actions the night before Rainwalker was reported missing. In particular, a van that was believed to have been his was seen on a business surveillance camera that night at a time when Kerr said he was home, and cellphone triangulation information seemed to indicate his phone was not in Greenwich that night either, police said.

Kerr was the only person in the Hill Street home with Rainwalker that last night. He told police he awoke to find Rainwalker gone from the home, with an apology note left behind. Kerr refused to take a polygraph test, hired a lawyer and he and his wife stopped cooperating with police within days of the missing person report. The Kerrs moved from Greenwich to West Rupert, Vermont as the inquiry continued.

One of the officers who helped direct the case for years, former State Police Senior Investigator Thomas Aiken, said last fall at the 10-year anniversary of Rainwalker’s disappearance that he believed there was sufficient evidence to file charges and convict the person or persons responsible for the boy going missing.

Aiken, who retired in 2013 and with whom Bell spoke this week before the meeting, reiterated that statement Friday, saying that assigning the case to a prosecutor with time to delve into it and experience trying homicides could bring justice.

“There is a lot there that the public never heard,” he said.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call Cambridge-Greenwich Police at 518-677-3044.


Local
Warren County Republican reformers get executive committee

Conover

QUEENSBURY — An executive committee is now actively working to improve the Warren County Republican Committee.

As promised by embattled Chairman Mike Grasso, the committee is a large group made up of all of the county’s Republican town supervisors and town ward chairs.

“This really pulls them more into the decision-making or recommendation process of the party,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, first vice chairman. Grasso is officially the chairman of the committee.

Conover is hoping the supervisors will bring something more to the party.

“Anytime you have a breadth of points of view, or maybe even an opposing point of view, I think you get to a better place,” Conover said.

The executive committee could help by improving upon ideas that are brought to it, he said.

He’s also hoping it will lead to decisions that are supported by more of the party.

“I think you develop more of a consensus as opposed to some unilateral action,” he said.

The committee was formed after several party members publicly criticized Grasso for decisions made in the Queensbury Town Board Ward 1 race last year. In that race, town and county committee leaders decided to continue running a candidate after he told them he was unwilling to serve if elected and wanted to drop out of the race. It was too late to take his name off the ballot, but it was five months before the general election.

Officials urged committee members to campaign for the unwilling candidate, Hal Bain, and responded to press questions by acting as though they were unaware he had told them he would not serve. They told Bain he could resign after winning, because they could then pick the person they preferred to have in the seat, rather than his opposing candidate, whom they wanted to defeat.

Opposing candidate Tony Metivier won the race, and after news got out about Bain’s unwillingness to serve, Democrats were swept into office in Queensbury and won a majority there for the first time in history.

Some executive committee members want big changes in the party now.

They want to at least temper the win-at-all-costs mentality and improve the party’s ethics policy. They want the party to be honest about whether candidates will serve if elected, and they want the party to stop supporting politicians who are clearly in the wrong.

Doug Irish’s decision to stay on the Queensbury Town Board for months after he moved out of state has been cited by committee members. They were incensed when Grasso not only supported Irish’s decision, but also reappointed him to serve on the committee after he resigned.

Some of those members have said they’re ready to walk out if they can’t implement significant reform.

“I need to gauge whether the party is going to go in the direction I want it to go,” said Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, who is on the executive committee. “If not, I’ll probably leave the party.”

Conover acknowledged the reformers have important concerns.

“I think there are leaders within the party that have expressed some concerns,” he said. “I think any organization needs to be responsive of that. That’s what this executive committee is all about.”

He welcomed the executive committee.

“In any organizational structure, a group like this is a healthy thing,” he said, adding that the party used to have an executive committee.

“I think it was a very good organizational tool. It became a sounding board,” Conover said.


Conover