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Prison inmate accused of accepting a bribe to testify to robber’s innocence tells judge to shove a plea deal

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CANTON — A state prison inmate told St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards where he could stick a plea deal offered by the district attorney’s office Thursday.

Michael J. Wells, 26, is charged by a St. Lawrence County grand jury with bribe receiving by a witness, a class D felony, after Orrie J. “Joe” Howe, 58, Ogdensburg, allegedly sought to bribe Mr. Wells in connection with his son’s impending trial.

Mr. Wells had consented to a plea deal reached by his attorney, Gary W. Miles, and St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Viacheslav Mareyev in a holding cell earlier in the day. However, when asked if he agreed to the deal in court, Mr. Wells, to his attorney’s surprise, changed his tune.

“Mr. Wells, is it true that you agree to these conditions?” Judge Richards asked.

“You can take the deal and shove it right up your ass, your honor,” Mr. Wells told the judge.

“What?” Mr. Miles said with shock, looking at his client.

Mr. Wells repeated his remark.

“Michael, shut up. Don’t you say another word,” Mr. Miles said. “Get him out of here!” Mr. Miles told state corrections officers.

According to Mr. Mareyev, in exchange for Mr. Wells’s cooperation against Mr. Howe, who is charged with one count of bribing a witness and one count of bribe receiving by a witness, both class D felonies, he would receive a reduced charge of a class E felony, and would face only two to four years in state prison instead of the 15 years to life sentence he faces as a repeat felony offender.

That plea deal would have taken place after the case against Mr. Howe was resolved, in case Mr. Wells decided to change his mind about cooperating.

Mr. Miles apologized to Judge Richards for his client’s behavior.

“Do you want to go back and talk to him?” Judge Richards asked.

“I don’t trust myself right now,” Mr. Miles told the judge. “I would hit him right in the mouth.”

Mr. Mareyev said the plea deal has been taken off the table and any future plea deals would have to be renegotiated.

Mr. Wells, who is serving 12 years in state prison for his role in a March 2011 armed robbery at Twin Bridges Convenient Mart & Deli, 40 Main St., Ogdensburg, with Travis M. Howe, 27, was returned to the custody of state corrections.

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