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Second mistrial declared in Croghan man’s rape case

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LOWVILLE — The second trial of a Croghan man accused of raping a girl has once again been derailed by a jury-related problem.

Lewis County Judge Daniel R. King declared a mistrial Thursday in the case of Kurt J. Hazzard, 41, of 6835 Mechanic St., Croghan, a few months after the first trial was scrapped due to a lack of available jurors.

This time around, an “issue” arose with one of the jurors and Judge King was concerned that it could contaminate the entire panel, said Assistant District Attorney Caleb J. Petzoldt, who is prosecuting the case.

“The court felt is was in the interest of both parties to have a new jury selected,” said Mr. Petzoldt, declining to give specifics.

The case was tentatively pushed back to this fall, and the prosecutor said he hoped a third try would resolve the case.

A 12-member jury with two alternates was selected on Monday and Tuesday, and the trial began Wednesday with opening statements.

Hazzard is charged with three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of third-degree rape, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and single counts of second-degree rape and first- and third-degree criminal sex act.

He was arrested by state police in early January 2012 on accusations that he had sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 17 by forcible compulsion on occasions in August, November and December 2011, all in the town of Croghan, and sexual contact with another underage girl on one occasion. He was arraigned on the charges in County Court last May.

Hazzard remains free on $10,000 bail.

Defense attorney Paul G. Carey, Syracuse, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Acting County Judge Donald E. Todd in early December also declared a mistrial in the case after only eight jurors were able to be seated.

Court officials at that time ordered two panels of jurors totaling 165 people, but only 73 reported for duty, and nearly all of them were excused by the judge or attorneys for various reasons.

While many of those empaneled were either college students or “snowbirds” who live here most of the year but go south for the winter, there were also 28 no-shows who did not appear to have a legitimate excuse, Commissioner of Jurors Ann M. Hill said at the time.

Residents who fulfill their jury duty are exempt from service for 10 years.

However, after two unexplained no-shows, the Sheriff’s Department is asked to officially serve delinquent jurors with notice of their next appearance, Mrs. Hill has said.

Last year, Mrs. Hill commenced Lewis County’s first-ever noncompliance proceeding in state Supreme Court against Lyons Falls resident Patti J. Williams following three straight no-shows for grand jury duty.

However, Ms. Williams did show up this month for her next scheduled service, avoiding possible contempt of court proceedings, according to the commissioner.

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