Felony charge dismissed against one arrested in PD probe last week

NORWICH – Felony charges against a man arrested in last week’s drug bust and murder plot investigation were dismissed in City Court Friday.

Chester Black Jr., 19, Elmira, was charged with third degree criminal mischief for allegedly prying a pebble-sized chip of concrete from a cell block at the Norwich Police Department and scratching the letters “B-L-A” in a metal cell door.

“As far as showing this court that there was reasonable cause to the felony charge of third degree criminal mischief, this court is not satisfied and dismisses the felony charge without prejudice,” said Acting City Court Judge Maureen Byrne.

Black was arrested following an investigation into local drug activity. During that investigation, police also arrested Mathew C. Smith, 27, of the Elmira and Norwich areas, and Robert W. Gallo Jr., 25, of 22 Sheldon St., Norwich, and charged them with second degree conspiracy, for allegedly planning to kill two Norwich City Police officers.

Patrolman Jeremy Burdick testified Friday that officers evaluated the cell block damage to exceed $250 and charged Black with a felony last Tuesday. Later in the week, police had the city’s Department of Public Works evaluate the damage, and they estimated it to be around $325 because it required removing a concrete block from the wall. In court, a Public Works employee with 20 years of experience in the department, Mark Williams, testified that the damage could be repaired for considerably less if it was repaired using a different spackling technique. Williams, however, recommended the block be replaced, saying, “Because it was a jail cell and not somebody’s garage, I figure we ought to replace the whole block.” Williams said he was concerned a future inmate might continue to work the damaged block since the concrete, now exposed, was not sealed.

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