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Local
Arrest warrant issued for former squad captain

QUEENSBURY — A judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for a former Lake George Rescue Squad captain who missed two court appearances on theft charges and left the state without advising the judge.

Edward G. “Grant” Gentner, who was accused of stealing nearly $20,000 from the squad, missed court appearances Wednesday and on Jan. 23, without advising Judge John Hall that he would not be able to make it, or asking for a postponement.

The warrant was the latest twist in Gentner’s strange case, which included a mistrial last fall and a requirement to get a new lawyer when his counsel became ill.

It was his efforts to get a new lawyer, and apparent lack of one, that landed him in trouble with the judge Wednesday.

His lawyer, Joseph Brennan, stepped away from the case last year because of health issues, which developed in October, midway through a trial in the case. Hall directed Gentner on Jan. 9 to be in court with a new lawyer on Jan. 23.

He did not show up at that point, nor did he notify the judge of new counsel. Hall sent him a letter, directing he be in court Wednesday, but he did not appear then, either.

Brennan’s law partner, William White, did attend court on his behalf, and advised the judge that Gentner had been unable to retain a new lawyer in part because trial in the case remained scheduled for Feb. 25, which lawyers did not believe gave them enough time to prepare. He said Gentner was in Colorado for employment.

A Facebook page under his name, though, showed a post from Tuesday in which it was written “Vail, Colorado. Ski week!!!! Ya hoooooooo.”

Hall said that date was set in early January, and Gentner’s inability to arrange for a new lawyer had allowed weeks to pass.

Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Michael Stern, who is prosecuting the case as a special prosecutor, requested an arrest warrant, saying the case has to move forward.

“How long is long enough to get an attorney?” he asked.

White said he had been in email communication with Gentner, and said he had not missed any prior court appearances so a warrant was not necessary.

“He’s not a flight risk, there’s not an issue with him not appearing for trial,” White said.

The judge was not happy at what he viewed as a willful disregard of an order to be in court Jan. 23 and again Wednesday.

Hall also said a condition of Gentner’s release on his own recognizance after his indictment last spring was that he notify the court when planning to leave the state.

“I don’t recall ever giving permission for him to leave the state,” Hall said.

Gentner had been reporting to the county Probation Department regularly before his aborted trial in October, but since then had not, Hall noted. He was required as part of his release to notify the court when seeking to travel out-of-state, and Hall said no such notification occurred.

Gentner, 50, of Lake George, was squad captain, president and treasurer while he worked for the squad for 23 years, ending when he was arrested in December 2015. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony charges of grand larceny and one count of falsifying business records that pertain to the theft of $3,900 in squad funds in 2013.

He had been accused of stealing more than $18,000 in 2012 and 2013, but 25 charges related to alleged thefts in 2012 were dismissed, because Hall found they were not filed in time and the statute of limitations had passed. Prosecutors had contended that the defense had consented to adjournments of the case and the statute of limitations was stayed.

Gentner was accused of making cash withdrawals and writing checks to himself, while creating false entries in the squad’s books to cover the thefts. His former lawyer said the charges were the result of a “misunderstanding” and the money he received was reimbursement for expenses.


Local
Granville house destroyed by fire; pets perished

GRANVILLE — A fire destroyed a house on Route 40 in North Granville on Wednesday.

North Granville Fire Chief Scott McCullen said no one was home at the time, and the fire did not appear to be suspicious. Washington County fire investigators were on scene and McCullen said Wednesday afternoon they were still working to determine the cause.

A passerby reported seeing heavy smoke at around 9:30 a.m., coming from a two-story wooden structure located at 10261 Route 40, which is about a mile south of the State Police station.

Firefighters responded from area departments, including North Granville, Middle Granville, Granville, Hartford, Whitehall, Fort Ann, West Fort Ann, Kingsbury, Argyle, Kingston, Hebron and Vermont companies Wells, West Pawlet and Poultney. McCullen said about 60 to 70 firefighters responded.

They were battling the blaze with hand lines and using chainsaws to open up the roof and siding to get at hot spots.

McCullen said the departments used the tactic “surround and drown,” because the structure was too unstable and unsafe for any interior firefighting.

“The structure was so deteriorated,” he said. “The fire had already went up the main timbers.”

Tanker trucks carted water to the scene from Hartford and Granville. A nearby pond was too small and too frozen to be of use. So were North Granville’s other outdoor sources of water.

“We had trucks freezing up; we had our fill sites frozen up, that’s why we had to call so many tankers in Hartford and Middle Granville for water, six or seven miles for water, so that was a big challenge,” McCullen said. “That’s the problem you run into in the winter time. You’re limited on your sources of where you can get water from.”

Toward the end of the response, hoses doused the roof line with between 500 and 600 gallons of water a minute, causing shingles to fly off. A small tree in the front yard was saturated with water and ice. McCullen said they cleared the scene around 3:30 p.m.

Sitting in a truck and watching the firefighters douse his home, James Pawlikowski Jr. said he was not home at the time, nor were any family members. His child was in school. He believed his family’s pet bunny and cat did not escape, something McCullen confirmed later in the day.

Pawlikowski said he had shuttered the house while his wife was away with family in Connecticut. He had been staying with his mother-in-law, and was driving her back from an appointment at Glens Falls Hospital when another family member called to say a house was on fire near the Granville State Police station.

“We came back to see if it was ours, and it was,” Pawlikowski said.

He did not know what caused the fire, but said he had left a small electric heater going inside.

Pawlikowski said his whole life was in the house, which he and his family have lived in for 15 years. He had just paid it off and had no insurance. He was grateful, though, that no one was hurt, and was glad that many family photos are saved digitally.

“God bless these firemen,” he said, as dozens of firefighters worked in below-freezing temperatures. “I’m still in a bit of shock.”

McCullen said Red Cross had contacted him to see if Pawlikowski and his family needed assistance, but McCullen said Pawlikowski declined.

gcraig / Gwendolyn Craig, gcraig@poststar.com 

Firefighters battle a blaze Wednesday at 10261 Route 40 in Granville.

A stretch of Route 40 was closed for several hours in the vicinity of the scene.

North Granville has had a string of fires recently.

A family lost a house at 10376 state Route 22 to a fire in December. Firefighters responded to a smoky fire at the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics plant in November and were able to keep the blaze from spreading into the building. In October, a Granville woman died when she was unable to get out of her home during a fire believed to have been caused by an overloaded power strip.

“I thought we were going to have a clean slate for 2019,” McCullen said. “This will be number six for structure fires in North Granville since July, so it looks like this year is not starting out very well.”

Photos: Granville house fire

gcraig / Gwendolyn Craig, gcraig@poststar.com 

Firefighters battle a blaze Wednesday at 10261 Route 40 in Granville.


Local
Not all CBD oil is created equal
KATHLEEN PHALEN-TOMASELLI, kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com 

Vermont's Luce Farm CBD oil products are for sale at Pretty Hot Mess in South Glens Falls. Luce Farm lab results about the quality of the oil are available for customers to view.

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The federal government’s green light on hemp has spurred a flood of curiosity and interest in using the hemp-derived cannabidiol, better known as CBD, for a host of ailments.

When President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law in December, hemp was no longer classified as a Schedule I narcotic because it was removed from the list of controlled substances.

“It legalizes hemp with a robust regulatory program,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research institute and think tank in Washington, D.C. “But the regulations have not been set up yet because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been closed. But once they are, it will be legal to produce and sell hemp-derived CBD in certain circumstances.”

Said to help with pain, depression, arthritis and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few maladies, CBD oil is available on Amazon for $40, in convenience stores for $10 and at herbal shops for $75 and up. There was even a CBD-infused food sampling tent at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this past weekend, not to mention CBD-infused smoothies and coffee.

Nonetheless, the fad-like popularity of hemp-related ingestibles comes with a host of safety, legal and potency concerns.

“Be careful what you buy and know where the hemp is coming from,” said Angel Isaac, a nurse practitioner who owns Pretty Hot Mess in South Glens Falls. “Stay away from sellers who don’t or won’t disclose their lab results.”

KATHLEEN PHALEN-TOMASELLI, kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com 

Angel Isaac, nurse practitioner and owner of Pretty Hot Mess in South Glens Falls, answers questions from a caller about CBD oil in her shop on Wednesday afternoon. 

According to Isaac, there have been several studies on hemp oil sold as CBD, and researchers discovered that what people were buying was actually extracted from hemp grown for rope and other industrial purposes.

“There were herbicides on the plants — they were ingesting pesticides and getting sick,” she said. “You have to know where it is coming from and what is in the bottle.”

Citing an example on Amazon, Isaac pointed to the 800 mg listed in the ingredients.

“Of what? 800 mg of what?” she asks, scrolling down to the description that says 800 mg of hemp oil.

Hemp oil is very different, she said, adding that if it says it is THC-free, it is not CBD oil.

CBD is not the same as marijuana, even though both contain certain amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The difference between being legal or illegal is in the amount of THC present in the plant.

Legal hemp must be 0.3 percent or less THC. Over this threshold, it is classified as marijuana, still a Schedule I narcotic like heroin or methamphetamine.

When Isaac decided to sell CBD oil and other hemp-derived products online and in her shop, she sought a farm she could visit to observe their practices. After visiting several, she selected Luce Farms in Bethel, Vermont.

“I love this farm. It is organic and they don’t grow anything other than CBD-rich hemp,” she said. “Every time we harvest a new batch, we have it tested through a third party FDA-approved lab and the testing information is available to customers.”

According to Hudak, the legal status of CBD is in flux because the Farm Bill has not taken effect.

In New York and other states, hemp is still regulated under state pilot programs from the 2014 Farm Bill, he said.

KATHLEEN PHALEN-TOMASELLI, kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com 

Angel Isaac, nurse practitioner and owner of Pretty Hot Mess in South Glens Falls, said when buying hemp-derived CBD oil, ask about the lab results for the product.  

“Products made from that are legal,” he said, adding that once the new farm bill is enacted, more growers will be able to grow and sell hemp.

“States will have to submit regulatory plans to the USDA as to how they will regulate hemp,” he said.

Additionally, Hudak said there are some circumstances that would still make CBD illegal.

“It cannot make medicinal claims,” he said. “Also, if growing hemp in a way that is not approved, a product from that would be illegal.”

For example, if an individual was growing hemp and manufacturing products in their basement, it would not be legal, Hudak said.

Because the Farm Bill gives states the authority to regulate hemp, some states may choose to make it illegal.

It is currently illegal in South Dakota, said Hudak.

“If you are driving through South Dakota and you are pulled over with CBD oil, it would be a controlled substance and you crossed several state lines with it,” he said, adding that the scenario is unlikely, but possible.


Gentner


Local
Local legislators vote no on most of gun bill package

The state Senate and Assembly passed on Tuesday the largest gun bill package in New York since the SAFE Act, with local representatives voting against the majority of it.

The measures include a ban on bump stocks, a type of rifle stock that increases the firing speed on a semi-automatic firearm to an automatic rate. A bump stock was used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting in which 58 people were killed.

Altogether, six of the eight proposed bills passed, including legislation that prevents anyone other than a security officer, school resource officer or law enforcement officials from carrying a firearm on school grounds; and a bill directing the State Police to devise regulations for uniform gun buyback programs.

On Saturday, state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, noted that New York already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and the bills would not affect people who own illegal guns. She also reiterated her objection to the speed with which the Democratic majority has been passing bills this session.

“I am dismayed at the hectic pace far-reaching legislation, such as these gun control measures, is being pushed through the state Legislature,” Little wrote in an email to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. “Given the Democrats’ complete control of Albany, it isn’t surprising they are moving in this direction on issues such as this. But I think it is unfair to say the least, if not telling, to see them pushed through without engaging the public.

“There’s no interest in hearing the opposing view. The decision has been made. Which is sad, because the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, all of them including the Second Amendment, deserve more respect and consideration than we have seen from downstate lawmakers intent on hurriedly passing these bills.”

Little voted against every bill that passed, except for the Out of State Mental Health Records bill, which requires out-of-state gun permit applicants to allow New York authorities to review out-of-state mental health records.

State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, voted in favor of the Foreign Domicile Background Check bill and against all of the other bills.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, voted no on all of the bills except for the Out of State Mental Health Records bill and said he believes some of the bills that passed were unconstitutional.

“Since taking office in 2013 I have been a strong advocate for the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners in New York state. New York already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Most of these bills I believe were unconstitutional and went too far.”

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, voted “yes” on most of the bills, including the ban on bump stocks. She also voted yes on the Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or Red Flag law, which allows law enforcement officials, family and household members and certain school officials to seek a court order that requires people to turn in firearms if they are likely to do harm to themselves or others.

“I think the people that are close to you on a day-to-day basis, if they want to raise a red flag and ask law enforcement to make a determination to temporarily take away your gun, I think that’s a level of protection for families and for people in that situation,” she said.

Woerner voted no on The Effective Background Check Act, which would establish a waiting period of up to 30 days to buy a gun if the buyer has not yet cleared a background check. She said she believes the rule creates unnecessary bureaucracy.

“It’s just going to be that the bureaucrats are going to take 30 days instead of taking an hour,” she said. “All it does is create an unnecessary delay for law-abiding citizens who want to purchase a firearm.”

Woerner also voted no on legislation that would have established uniform rules for municipal gun buy-back programs and allow people to report and turn in illegal guns. They would be immune from certain criminal possession charges and could collect a monetary reward, according to a news release from the Democratic Assembly Majority.

Woerner said she would have opposed another bill, pulled from the floor, which would have required that guns kept in a home either be locked away or have a trigger lock on them.

“I’m not comfortable with the government making specific proscriptions as to how you have to store firearms,” she said. “I think it’s important that people have to take responsibility for the firearms they have and making sure that young people don’t have access to them and if they do , know how to use them safely.”

This is the largest set of gun bills the state has passed since the SAFE Act package passed shortly after the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.


Little