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Sunmount resident not fit to stand trial

December 11, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - A Sunmount resident accused of sexually abusing and imprisoning a staff member was ruled not fit to stand trial.

Eric Duprey, 26, was arraigned in November on charges of sexual abuse in the first degree and unlawful imprisonment in the first degree after a May 25 incident in which he allegedly attacked and held a female staff member against her will.

A hearing was set for the end of the November to determine whether Duprey was fit to stand trial, but the hearing was adjourned. Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne explained that three doctors had done evaluations on Duprey. One found him fit to undergo court proceedings, one found him not fit, and the third was unable to complete the evaluation but would have found him not fit if the doctor had been able to finish it.

The second and third doctors had reports the first doctor didn't have access to, Champagne said. Once the first doctor had a chance to review those reports, he, too, found Duprey unfit.

That meant that there was no discrepancy, so there was no need for a hearing.

"So now the statute says I can't go forward," Champagne said.

Champagne said that generally, workers at Sunmount, a state-run home for people with developmental disabilities, try to work toward residents becoming fit to stand trial. But he noted that Duprey has been at Sunmount for some time after being ordered there on charges from Clinton County, and the whole time they've been working toward that goal without success.

"There's no real timeline on that," Champagne said.


Criminal charges

Champagne said it's often difficult for him to decide which cases coming out of Sunmount to prosecute. If a resident is living at Sunmount voluntarily, that person is paying for his or her stay without the county's help.

But if Franklin County brings criminal charges against that person, and the county court orders that the person to stay at Sunmount, the county is now stuck with the $18,000 a month it costs to keep the person there until that person is found fit to proceed with court.

He faced a similar issue when a St. Lawrence County man, Michael Nelson, 37, walked over the border to Brandon in Franklin County in 2010 and engaged in a six-hour standoff with state troopers. Nelson suddenly became Franklin County's responsibility when a judge ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation and he was found not fit.

"So that's what's very frustrating about the Sunmount case," Champagne said.

He said that he knows it can be frustrating for the victims in such cases, but he has to be careful whom he takes on to prosecute.

"Because, like this guy, it could really come back to bite us and bite taxpayers of the county," Champagne said.



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