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Potsdam man jailed for damaging city police, staff cars

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A Potsdam man is behind bars following an early morning vandalism spree Wednesday that damaged three Ogdensburg police cars and a city staff car.

James R. Fisher, Jr., 45, of 18 Flow Road, was arrested Wednesday at 1:30 a.m. outside the Ogdensburg Police Department. He was charged with felony third-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanor third-degree criminal trespass, felony second-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanor petit larceny, misdemeanor making graffiti and misdemeanor resisting arrest. He was also ticketed for throwing a can of white spray paint into a snow bank at police headquarters, 800 Park St.

Mr. Fisher pleaded not guilty to all the charges upon arraignment Wednesday before Ogdensburg City Court Judge William R. Small. He has two prior felony convictions, so the judge ordered him held without bail in St. Lawrence County jail, Canton. He will be back in court on Jan. 14 for a preliminary hearing with legal counsel provided by the county Public Defender’s Office.

According to court records, Mr. Fisher broke the windows on a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria sedan formerly used by the fire department and now used by the city Code Enforcement Office. That damage occurred while the vehicle was parked behind City Hall, 330 Ford St. There was no estimate of damage.

The rest of the damage was done in the rear parking lot of police headquarters. There, two 2011 marked patrol cruisers and one 2008 unmarked car - all Crown Victorias - were spray-painted and had obscenities on them.

The unmarked car was also damaged by sugar poured into its gas tanks. Total damage to the three vehicles was estimated at $1,500.

Mr. Fisher was also accused of scratching an obscenity on the plexiglass window of his police lockup cell and scratching the plexiglass shield of the surveillance camera there. He also allegedly removed an air stem valve from a tire of one of the police cars.

Police Chief Richard J. Polniak Jr. said the marked cruisers will be cleaned up and put back in service immediately. The unmarked car, which he uses, will be out of commission for a few days.

The chief said there has never been this much mass damage to the department’s motor pool. But it has happened before in smaller, no less annoying instances.

“I’m not happy about it,” Mr. Polniak said. “But it’s not something we don’t have experience with.”

City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the vandalism represented more than just dollar damage.

“It’s a terrible thing,” he said, adding that it “caused the citizens of this city harm.”

In a separate matter, Mr. Fisher pleaded not guilty to charges from Monday and Tuesday of domestic incident-related charges of second-degree aggravated harassment, second-degree harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. He allegedly sent threatening voicemails to, argued with and threw things at Amy M. Cooke, of 703 Main St., Apt. 1, in the presence of her 5-year-old daughter.

He was ordered held in jail on $250 bail and is due back in court on Jan. 22.

He was also told to abide by a stay-away order of protection.

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