Appeals court upholds Cortland judge's enhanced prison sentence for Elmira man

ALBANY, N.Y. – A state appeals court has ruled that a Cortland County judge was justified when she increased an Elmira man's prison sentence after he was arrested on two separate occasions before his sentencing date.

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Ramonn S. Driscoll, 24, was involved in a fight at the Stone Lounge bar on South Main Street on August 29, 2013, after a man tried to sell drugs to his girlfriend, according to his police statement.

After the two were separated by a bouncer, the man later came up to Driscoll in the parking lot and stabbed him.

Driscoll was taken to Cortland Regional Medical Center for treatment of facial injuries. While there, police discovered he was carrying numerous quantities of drugs, including: six bags of heroin, 30 morphine tablets, and a small amount of cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.

In November, Driscoll entered a guilty plea to a drug possession charge in connection with his arrest.

As part of the plea agreement, Driscoll agreed to be sentenced to a maximum of one year in state prison followed by one year of post-release supervision. The deal was contingent on Driscoll not being arrested prior to his sentencing.

Before his scheduled sentencing, Driscoll was arrested on two separate occasions:

– March 7, 2014: Driscoll is arrested by the City of Elmira Police Department after he was found with 68 bags of heroin and 56 grams of cocaine.
– March 16, 2014: Driscoll is arrested by the Chemung County Sheriff's Office after he was found with 16 bags of cocaine.

On March 27, Judge Julie Campbell imposed an enhanced sentence of three years in prison followed by two years of post-release supervision.

Driscoll's defense counsel questioned the validity of his arrests and sought to have the enhanced sentence thrown out.

The state appeals court ruled that while Cortland County Court "did not conduct a formal evidentiary hearing regarding the validity of defendant's two arrests," they were not required to do so.

"Instead, the court made an on-the-record inquiry during the sentencing proceeding...before concluding that a legitimate basis existed" for Driscoll's arrest, according to the ruling.

"Under the circumstances presented, we conclude that County Court's inquiry was adequate and established that a legitimate basis existed for defendant's arrests thereby warranting its imposition of the enhanced sentence," the ruling read.

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