LOCKPORT – Two defendants successfully completed a court-supervised drug-treatment program Thursday, while a third was ejected from the program and is headed to prison.
The judicial diversion program, which offers a carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with nonviolent offenders whose crimes were triggered by drug abuse, has had few success stories in Niagara County, but two such stories came before the bench Thursday.
Christopher A. Baker, 35, of Stephenson Avenue, Niagara Falls, spent 2½ years in the program after pleading guilty to a felony for possessing cocaine in Niagara Falls on Feb. 4, 2010.
His charge was reduced Thursday to a misdemeanor, and County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas granted him a conditional discharge.
Defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. said Baker, who risked nine years in prison if he washed out of diversion, got through it without a single sanction from the supervising judge, an unusual occurrence in the program where relapses are common.
“It caused me to do a complete 360 with my life,” Baker told Farkas. “If it weren’t for this program, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Meanwhile, County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III allowed another successful diversion participant to change her plea from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Cynthia M. Aponte, 21, of Channing Place, Town of Tonawanda, is to be resentenced May 2 on her revised to plea to attempted third-degree criminal mischief.
Aponte entered diversion in December 2011 after pleading guilty to a role in the attempted firebombing of the North Tonawanda home of the estranged husband of the sister of Aponte’s boyfriend Oct. 12, 2011.
She drove the boyfriend to the house and watched as he threw a plastic bottle of gasoline at the dwelling, but it bounced off the siding and burned itself out on the lawn.
The would-be bomber, Stephen J. Ralston, 22, is on probation.
Back in Farkas’ courtroom, the news wasn’t good for diversion participant Daniel S. Solomon, who was kicked out for walking out on a treatment program.
Solomon, 23, of Pine Street, Lockport, is to be sentenced April 25 for second-degree forgery.
He faces up to seven years in prison and in the meantime, is being held in the County Jail after not posting $10,000 bail.
Solomon pleaded guilty July 26 to altering a Lockport doctor’s prescription May 6 at the Rite Aid drugstore at South Transit and Summit streets.
Solomon, who was a daily heroin user who often combined that drug with heavy drinking, changed the number of pills and the number of available refills on a prescription for Soma, a muscle relaxer. Farkas said it seemed that Solomon had been doing well in diversion until the walkout.