Share this article

print logo

Ex-public defender imprisoned on drug, weapons charges

A former Monroe County public defender is going to prison for five years after pleading guilty to drug and weapons charges.

Andrew Rissew, 39, formerly of Medina, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to the mandatory minimum for possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Rissew, in his plea deal with federal prosecutors, admitted that a 9mm gun found at his home as part of a police raid was used to protect a marijuana-growing operation in his basement. Prosecutors said the government seized the gun, other firearms and 50 marijuana plants in 2012.

“I feel grateful that I was arrested,” Rissew, a University at Buffalo Law School graduate, told Skretny. “I believe I’m alive because I was arrested.”

Defense attorney MaryBeth Covert of the Federal Public Defender’s Office attributed Rissew’s wrongdoing to years of drug addiction and referred to a laundry list of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, taken by her client.

“I think this is just an unfortunate circumstance due to his years of addiction,” Covert said after the sentencing Tuesday. “He is a much better man today than when he was arrested.”

Rissew’s conviction was the result of a prosecution by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler and an investigation by the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force and Medina Police.