QUEENSBURY — The Queensbury woman who police said aided her boyfriend as he robbed a store and shot the owner last spring is close to a plea deal that would require her to cooperate against the shooter.
Christine W. Tomko was in Warren County Court on Wednesday for a “possible plea” that would satisfy 11 charges against her for her role in the robbery at The Hague Market and a burglary spree that preceded the holdup.
The plea offer would require her to plead guilty to attempted second-degree murder for the April 25 robbery and shooting of Jim Rypkema at his store and second-degree burglary for one of four burglaries she and co-defendant Vittorio “Vito” Campano allegedly committed before the robbery.
Tomko, 27, would be sentenced to a prison sentence of between 12 and 20 years, depending on the veracity of her cooperation against Campano.
“It would be somewhere in that range, no more than 20, no less than 12,” Warren County Judge John Hall told her.
Hall warned her she would face the maximum prison term if she did not testify truthfully.
Tomko, though, did not enter the guilty pleas, and her case was postponed until Dec. 20.
Warren County First Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burin told the judge that the plea deal, which would include a written cooperation agreement, was still being finalized.
“I don’t think it’s her reluctance,” Burin told Hall about the reason the case was not going forward Wednesday. “The defense and our office need to work out a few more details. I think we’re close.”
Tomko agreed Wednesday to give a DNA sample for use in comparing her DNA to that of material recovered during the investigation.
Police said Tomko went into the Route 8 store ahead of Campano, then served as a lookout as he shot Rypkema, then fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Her lawyer, Gregory Teresi, said Tomko wants to own up to her mistakes and he thinks the plea deal will go forward next month.
“In talking to Christine, her goal is to do the right thing,” he said. “She put trust and faith in a man she loved.”
Tomko has cooperated with State Police since she and Campano were picked up for questioning two days after the shooting.
Twelve charges are pending against Campano, 26, of Thurman, including attempted second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and second-degree burglary. Authorities said numerous guns and other valuables were stolen during the burglary spree around Warren County during the spring.
He is being held in Warren County Jail pending pre-trial hearings, though no future court date has been set.
Campano’s lawyer, Warren County Public Defender Marcy Flores, has received judicial permission from Hall to retain a psychiatric expert to examine him to determine whether a defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect should be pursued.
Rypkema was shot at least four times with a .22-caliber rifle, with doctors deciding to leave the rounds in place. He has limited use of one arm because of a gunshot wound there, and needs additional surgery that his insurance will not cover.
An online fundraiser has been set up for him at https://tinyurl.com/yaml4jvs.
GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls Police said there were no new developments Thursday in the robbery of a Glens Falls bank the day before.
Glens Falls Police Detective Lt. Peter Casertino said there had been no arrest, and police had no new information to release as to a suspect.
“We are following a number of leads,” he said.
Police said a man wearing a mask over his face and hood on his head walked into the NBT Bank branch on Glen Street around 2:25 p.m., displayed a knife and made off with an undetermined amount of cash. Casertino said the total was being tabulated Thursday, and no estimate was yet available.
The man fled on foot, apparently headed south on Glen Street. No injuries were reported.
He was described as white, about 6 feet tall, wearing blue jeans, white sneakers, a black jacket with camouflage accents and a black mask.
Casertino said investigators were working to view surveillance camera videos from businesses around downtown, to try and see if they could get a glimpse of the man before he covered his face.
They are also working to recover forensic evidence, in hopes that DNA could be found even though he was wearing gloves.
Police also plan to see whether Wednesday’s robbery could be linked to an unsolved knifepoint robbery at the Cumberland Farms store on Feeder Street in Hudson Falls last July.
A white male wearing a black mask robbed that store after displaying a knife as well, though the description in that case was of a shorter man, about 5-foot-7.
Anyone with information in the case was asked to call Glens Falls Police at 518-761-3840.
WASHINGTON — As allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful lawmakers roil Congress, House Democrats on Thursday delivered their strongest rebuke yet with calls for Michigan Rep. John Conyers’ resignation, while those in the Senate reserved judgment for their embattled colleague, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi characterized the multiple accusations against the 88-year-old Conyers, which included repeated propositions for sex, and retaliation against one former aide who rebuffed his advances, as “serious, disappointing and very credible.”
In no uncertain terms, the top Democrat in the House said, “Congressman Conyers should resign,” a call echoed by other Democratic leaders.
Conyers’ lawyer, Arnold Reed, swiftly rejected the request as the lawmaker professes his innocence. “Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman, and she sure as hell won’t be the one to tell the congressman to leave. That decision will be completely up to the congressman,” Reed said.
Reed raised the specter of a double standard as House Democrats pressed for Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House and a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, to step aside while few have called for Franken to relinquish his seat.
“At the end of the day, I would suspect that Nancy Pelosi is going to have to explain what is the ... difference between Al Franken and congressman Conyers,” Reed said.
Punishment has been swift for titans of entertainment, media and sports, accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior and harassment leading to immediate firings. Not so in Congress, where lawmakers have said ethics panels should have time to investigate and have been reluctant to reverse the will of the voters.
Yet the clamor was growing, with some House Democrats arguing that if Conyers goes, so should Franken. That demand was made hours after Franken faced a new allegation: An Army veteran accused him of groping her during a USO Christmas tour in the Middle East more than a decade ago.
Stephanie Kemplin, 41, of Maineville, Ohio, told CNN that Franken had cupped her right breast when she stood next to him for a photo in December 2003. Kemplin, who was deployed to Kuwait at the time, became the fifth women in two weeks to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct.
The Senate Ethics Committee announced on Thursday that it had opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations against Franken, who has apologized and said he welcomes the probe. A spokesman released a statement Thursday saying that Franken “takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.”
Pelosi’s comments came after she faced harsh criticism for calling Conyers an “icon” who has “done a great deal to protect women” during an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who was the first House member to publicly opine that Conyers should quit, said she left a Democratic Caucus meeting on Wednesday out of frustration that leadership wasn’t taking the issue of sexual harassment seriously enough. But by Thursday the highest-ranking members of the party had upped the ante from simply backing an ethics investigation and emphasizing the importance of due process for those accused to calling for Conyers’ resignation.
“Zero tolerance means consequences — for everyone no matter how great the legacy it’s not license to harass or discriminate,” Pelosi said.
Rice and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, have called for Conyers and Franken to quit.
“These are credible allegations, and I believe these women,” Ryan wrote in a Tweet on Thursday. “Congress should set the example for all industries and be a safe place for women to work.”
In a different case of sex and a House member, Rep. Joe Barton, a 17-term Republican from Texas who announced earlier this month he was seeking re-election, decided on Thursday that he wouldn’t, just a week after a nude photo of him leaked on social media.
Although his House colleagues didn’t call for his resignation or suggest he not run again, Barton faced increasing political pressure in his home state to step aside. Earlier this week a Republican announced he’d run against Barton in next year’s primary.
“Obviously you know I’ve been in a little bit of a controversy,” Barton said Thursday. “I just felt it was time to pass the torch.”
But on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers on Congress have universally condemned harassment and discrimination, responses to specific allegations still vary.
Despite the multitude of allegations, Franken’s colleagues in the Senate have consistently condemned the alleged behavior but stopped short of asking him to quit.
“I think the Senate Ethics Committee is the place where the fact-finding should be done, and then the remedy should be recommended,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., adding that the investigation should be conducted “in a matter of days or weeks, not months.”
LAKE GEORGE — Two friends of Alexander West who helped him evade police after the July 2016 boat crash on Lake George that killed an 8-year-old girl pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor charges.
Matthew J. Marry, 29, and his then-girlfriend, Kristine C. Tiger, 27, of Gansevoort, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hindering prosecution, agreeing to serve 45-day sentences in Warren County Jail and 3 years on probation. They are free pending sentencing Jan. 18 by Lake George Town Justice Michael Stafford.
The guilty pleas satisfied three misdemeanor counts of hindering prosecution, making a punishable false written statement and offering a false instrument for filing that had been filed against Marry. Tiger faced a single hindering prosecution count.
The misdemeanor charges were punishable by up to a year in Warren County Jail.
Their lawyer, Andrew Safranko, did not return a phone call for comment Thursday.
Acting Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said he had no comment on the case as of Thursday, pending sentencing.
Marry and Tiger were among four people who were with West on July 25, 2016, when he drove his boat into one that contained the McCue and Knarr families, killing 8-year-old Charlotte McCue and seriously injuring her mother.
West and his passengers fled, then hid for hours in a Kingsbury home where Marry and Tiger were living at the time. They had been partying on the lake for hours before the crash, and West was convicted last spring of manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and lesser charges after he was found to have driven the boat impaired by drugs. He is serving a 5- to 15-year prison sentence.
Witness testimony in West’s trial was that a woman, believed to be Tiger, directed passengers on the boat to keep quiet about what happened as they slunk away from the damaged boat after abandoning it at a motel.
Marry and Tiger also found themselves in handcuffs again last spring, when they were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges following a police raid at their then-home in Saratoga Springs. Police said they seized heroin, Suboxone and hashish.
Criminal charges in that case were dropped and both pleaded guilty to non-criminal counts of disorderly conduct. Judge Jeffrey Wait directed they each perform 35 hours of community service.
One of the other boat passengers, Cara Mia Canale, pleaded guilty before West’s trial and is awaiting sentencing as she undergoes drug rehabilitation.
Charges remain pending against the fourth, Glens Falls resident Morland C. Keyes, who faces misdemeanor making a false written statement and offering a false instrument counts in Queensbury Town Court for filing for allegedly lying to police.
The McCue family has sued West, his parents and his passengers, except for Canale.