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CONTRACTOR CLEARED OF TAKING $9,437 FROM COUPLE

A Niagara County Court jury acquitted a self-employed contractor Friday of stealing more than $9,400 from a Newfane couple.

The jury deliberated about six hours before returning an innocent verdict for Mark J. Robillard, 39, of Evans Street, Lockport, who had been charged with third-degree grand larceny. It was the fourth day of his trial before Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Robillard was accused of taking two checks, totaling $9,437.90, from David and Nancy Huntsman of Transit Road, Newfane, in July 1998, but not completing work on a deck and an addition to their home.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Jean Bowman said Robillard removed siding from the house, laid the foundation for the addition and did some other work, but never finished the job.

Robillard, she said, argued that the Huntsmans went on vacation and he was unable to get access to their property -- a point the Huntsmans contested. By the time the Huntsmans returned, Robillard had begun another job, which was urgent.

Bowman said the jury foreman told her the jurors found no criminal intent on Robillard's part.

Defense attorney Kathleen E. Gaines said, "If there's a good-faith dispute over the amount of money owing, the contractor is entitled to hold the money."

Bowman said she was not allowed to tell the jurors that the Huntsmans had obtained a $12,000 civil judgment against Robillard in State Supreme Court but he hasn't paid it.

"The civil case was not decided on the merits," Gaines said. "It was a default judgment."

Also Friday in Sperrazza's courtroom:

John R. Elsberry Jr., 25, of Ferry Avenue, Niagara Falls, was sentenced to a year in jail for attempted second-degree assault. Elsberry accepted a a plea arrangement after being charged with four assaults on a Niagara Falls woman from March 9 to May 23.

He is awaiting trial on a first-degree rape charge.

Talon J. Pomeroy, 18, of Fitch Road, Wilson, pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual abuse. Pomeroy is one of four Wilson youths accused of having sexual contact with a teenage girl June 23 in the back yard of a Wilson home.

Wendell Darrell Jr., 24, of Second Street, Newfane, pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and one count of resisting arrest. He was accused of injuring parole officers Joseph Schaefer and William Wolf as they tried to take him into custody Aug. 21 in Lockport.

Terry L. Rohrback Jr., 19, of Gladstone Street, Buffalo, was granted youthful offender status, sealing his sentence for fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. A co-defendant, Jason S. Markovitz, 23, of the Town of Tonawanda, is awaiting sentencing on a guilty plea to third-degree burglary.

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