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Attorney says client still unfit to stand trial in wife's murder

Murder suspect Richard B. Jermain might have been ruled competent to stand trial, but his attorney doesn't necessarily believe he is.

Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer told Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. on Friday that he wants further tests done on Jermain, 66, a brain-damaged stroke victim accused of shooting his wife to death in their Wilson mobile home two years ago.

In June, Broderick committed Jermain to a mental institution to see if therapy could make it possible for him to communicate well enough with Privateer to aid in his defense at trial.

Last month, the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center informed the district attorney's office that Jermain was competent, and he was returned to Niagara County Jail.

Privateer said, "I would say his physical health is a lot better than when I saw him last. However, as to his cognitive ability, I'm not so sure. His ability to communicate hasn't changed at all."

Broderick told Privateer, "It's going to be very difficult for you to communicate, prepare a defense and proceed, but the State of New York says he can do those things."

Privateer said he wants a doctor at Buffalo General Hospital to examine Jermain and see if a computer device that allows him to point at words would help. "If this device is something we can use, we'll have to order it," Privateer said.

That would be at taxpayers' expense. Jermain's commitment to Mid-Hudson cost the county $10,139 a month.

But Assistant District Attorney Lisa M. Baehre hinted those factors might be moot.

"There is some possibility of resolving this short of trial," she told the judge.

However, Privateer said no plea bargain offer has been made yet.

In other action, Broderick dismissed gun charges against a Niagara Falls man and accepted a guilty plea from his co-defendant.

Timothy J. Ellison Jr., 22, of Jordan Gardens, is to be sentenced May 12 for attempted third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Broderick threw out the charges against Germaine V. Brown, 26, of Weston Avenue.

The men were arrested May 24 after Niagara Falls police received a report that an armed man was in a car at a gas station at 19th Street and Ferry Avenue.

Officers said Brown and Ellison left the car as they arrived, but a loaded 9mm pistol was found under a seat.

Broderick ruled that grand jury testimony did not establish possession in Brown's case.

A grand jury indicted a Niagara Falls man in connection with the armed robbery of a convenience store in that city.

Terry Carter, 38, of Seventh Street, is charged with two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The Ghana Mini Mart was robbed by a man with a gun Dec. 4.

Broderick ordered a one-year jail term for Christopher C. Johnson, 18, of Depot Avenue, Niagara Falls, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Johnson fired a gun at a passing car April 9 and damaged a Niagara Falls man's property Sept. 13.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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