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ALTERNATIVES WEIGHED IN BOMB-NOTE CASE

It appeared Friday that charges might be reduced or dropped in the case of Jessica Balcom, the 16-year-old Barker High School student who was arrested Oct. 18 for passing notes to a fellow student about making a pipe bomb to blow up the school.

Charges against the other student, a 15-year-old boy, were dismissed last month by Family Court Judge John Batt.

Andrew Cuddy of Lockport, Balcom's attorney, said the girl, charged as an adult with fifth-degree conspiracy, is still scheduled for trial March 6 before Somerset Town Justice Beryl T. Coleman. But Cuddy said after a conference Friday with Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza and Assistant District Attorney Ted A. Brenner, "The district attorney's office is examining other dispositions."

Cuddy said he withdrew a motion, which was scheduled to be argued before Sperrazza Friday, to transfer the case to County Court and have the matter reviewed by a grand jury.

He filed the motion because he thought Coleman should have recused himself, but the town justice refused to do so.

Brenner said before the conference that he would oppose that motion because it would set a precedent for taking cases away from the town courts.

Balcom remained in Niagara County Jail from her arrest until Nov. 14 because her family was unable to post $5,000 bail set by Coleman. A Manhattan businessman, Christian Curry, posted bail after reading about the case.

The charge against Balcom is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

In other cases before Sperrazza Friday:

Erik P. Sherman, 17, of Wilcox Street, Wilson, pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual abuse at his arraignment on charges of having sexual contact with a teenage girl in June in the back yard of a home on Maple Road in Wilson. Sherman is one of four teenagers indicted in the case.

Sheila E. Crittenden, 40, of Fifth Street, Niagara Falls, was placed on five years probation for fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Sperrazza ordered her to stay in a halfway house, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and perform 100 hours of community service. Crittenden was arrested Feb. 9, 2000, for selling cocaine to a Niagara Falls police agent.

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