Former officer offered plea deal
JOHNSTOWN –Former Fulton County Sheriff’s Department Corrections Officer Eric D. Sweet was offered a deal in City Court Tuesday to plead guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct, instead of the felony he faces.
Sweet was given three weeks to consider taking the plea arrangement, which includes fines.
The former sheriff’s sergeant, 47, of 347 W. State St. Ext., town of Johnstown, currently faces one felony count of making a terroristic threat.
According to a news release issued by Fulton County Richard Giardino last November, Sweet was charged after making terrorist threats and allegedly stating he was going to shoot both Fulton County Jail staff and inmates. Sweet was arrested after an investigation based on remarks he had made at the jail on Route 29 at Harrison Street.
That release said Sweet admitted making the statements, “saying that it was a joke and he was venting.”
After missing two scheduled City Court appearances, Sweet appeared Tuesday morning with his counsel, Gloversville attorney Michael Albanese.
“Nice of you to be here,” City Court Judge Michael C. Viscosi greeted the defendant.
Joined in front of the bench by Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown, Sweet was told by the judge that a plea was in the works in which he would plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of official misconduct, instead of the felony.
Giardino clarified last week that Sweet is no longer employed by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department. He said that Sweet — who has no prior criminal record — was separated from sheriff’s employment “two weeks after the incident” last fall that got him arrested.
Viscosi told Sweet that by pleading guilty to official misconduct, he may face fines and a surcharge as part of the plea arrangement.
The judge told Sweet he would give him three weeks, until 9 a.m. April 3 to reappear in City Court to decide whether to accept the deal.
According to the New York State Penal Law, a public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit: “He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized; or he knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
Giardino was asked Tuesday to comment on how his department feels as alleged “victims” of Sweet’s actions.
“I would hope the plea would include an order of protection,” the sheriff said.
He said that order should prohibit Sweet from appearing at the Fulton County Jail, or even parking in its parking lot.
Allegations against Sweet released by the sheriff at the time indicated: “Sweet stated he would go into the facilities Control Room, get a secured weapon and shoot the control officer. Sweet stated that he would lock down the facility, and then shoot the lieutenant. The release said the officer then stated he would then drag the captain through the facility, making the captain watch as he shot both the inmates and his fellow corrections officers.”
Giardino said some members of the public are under a false impression the sheriff’s department has had something to do with Sweet not previously appearing for City Court. He missed court dates on Feb. 13 and March 6.
“Official misconduct is pretty serious in its own right,” said Giardino, himself a former County Court judge. “He [allegedly] violated the rules. That showed he put his own interests above the [sheriff’s] agency.”
The sheriff added: “I wish the situation would never have occurred, but it had and we’re addressing it.”
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.