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Court upholds conviction of inmate who had heroin at Cape Vincent prison

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A state appellate court has ruled that Jefferson County Judge Kim H. Martusewicz properly allowed a Cape Vincent Correctional Facility inmate’s recorded phone calls at trial as evidence that the man possessed heroin with plans to sell it within the prison.

Jose Alvarado, 38, is serving a five-year state prison sentence imposed in August 2011 in County Court for a guilty plea in May 2011 to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. That sentence is to be served consecutively, or in addition to, a 13-year sentence that was imposed in 2001 in New York City for a drug-sale conviction.

Mr. Alvarado was accused of being the leader of an operation that smuggled heroin and marijuana from New York City to the Cape Vincent prison for distribution in the prison. In all, eight people entered guilty pleas in the matter.

Mr. Alvarado took his case to trial, but in a surprise move, entered a guilty plea on the trial’s fifth day, moments before his sister, one of his co-defendants, was to testify against him.

Trial testimony revealed that all inmate phone conversations are recorded. Jurors heard several conversations between Mr. Alvarado and a woman, whom he befriended through a mutual acquaintance after he was imprisoned, in which she agreed to cash checks on Mr. Alvarado’s behalf, learning belatedly that she actually was helping him launder proceeds from drug sales.

Mr. Alvarado contended that County Court erred in allowing the recorded conversations as evidence against him, but in a decision released Friday, the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department, ruled that by pleading guilty, Mr. Alvarado forfeited any right to contest the admissibility of the tapes. The higher court also determined that Mr. Alvarado’s sentence was not unduly harsh or severe.

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