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Lockport man beats crack charges

LOCKPORT – A man who was not allowed to accept a misdemeanor plea offer in a six-felony drug case came out on top Tuesday, when the charges were dismissed because the police informant who allegedly bought crack cocaine from him failed to show up to testify at his trial.

Rico L. Freeman, 31, of Strauss Road, Lockport, ended up walking free on charges of three crack sales last year in Lockport that could have sent him to prison for as long as 36 years.

Defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. said the prosecution got Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon to issue a material witness warrant for the informant Monday afternoon, but police were unable to find him. Without his testimony, the prosecution was unable to prove its case against Freeman.

Friday, Faso brought Freeman to court and attempted to enter a guilty plea to a misdemeanor with a probation sentence. Sheldon refused to allow it, saying that Freeman had rejected the offer last month and she had ruled there would be no further plea opportunities in the case. Faso said he never heard the judge say that.