Cortland County Court: Syracuse man to serve 7 years in prison

The Cortland County Courthouse

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A convicted drug dealer who pled guilty to threatening another man with a loaded pistol in April in a city motel was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday in Cortland County Court—a sentence he will serve after he completes his current, unrelated prison term.

Hassan J. Reed, 32, of Syracuse, arrived in a green state prison uniform accompanied by guards on Tuesday to be sentenced by Judge David Alexander for second-degree criminal possession of a weapon as part of a plea deal. Reed will start his seven year prison term, followed by five years of post-release supervision, after he completes his current state prison sentence of one-and-a-half to three years imposed on May 15 in Cortland County Court for third-degree attempted criminal possession of a weapon, a felony.

Reed was out on bail in April, and waiting for his May sentencing as part of a plea deal, when he threatened Christopher I. Williams with a loaded, .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol about 11:20 a.m. at the Econo Lodge at 10 Church Street, according to a Cortland County District Attorney’s Office letter and a city police felony complaint. Both Williams, 25, of Cortland, and Amber Harris, 30, of Cortland, who was with Reed at the Econo Lodge, were convicted of drug offenses after the April incident.

In a sworn statement to city police, Williams said a heavyset, white woman named Amber came to his room screaming and accusing him of stealing her crack cocaine. Amber was followed by a black man, wearing a “green sweater” who said his name was “Fresh,” Williams told police.

After Williams told Amber to leave his room, “Fresh” showed Williams a handgun he was carrying in his waistband, according to Williams’ statement.

“I could see the handle and it was black,” he said. “I thought I was going to get shot and I could not believe that this was happening in broad daylight.”

Williams told the pair the police were already on their way and they left, according to the statement. Then Williams called 911.

City officers Jeffrey Fitts and Benjamin Locke responded to the call, according to police reports. Williams told officers what happened and described Amber and “Fresh.” Fitts saw a woman matching Amber’s description coming out of the room next to Williams’, only to turn around and go back in when she spotted him get out of his patrol vehicle. Fitts and Locke went to the room and asked the woman, later identified as Amber Harris, if they could talk to “Fresh.” She called to someone in the motel room bathroom, saying, “They want to talk to you,” and a black man, later identified as Hassan Reed, came out after a short time. Reed was not wearing a green sweater, but a green sweatshirt was on the bed in the room, according to police.

Fitts checked Reed for weapons and then checked the bathroom to see if anyone else was in the room, according to Fitts’ report.

“As I looked in the bathroom, I observed a ceiling tile that was lifted out of its square housing mount,” Fitts wrote. “I could see directly into the ceiling … and observed a black handgun that was missing the magazine.”

Fitts and Locke contacted city detectives, the couple were taken into custody and Williams identified them as the pair that threatened him, according to court documents. While in the motel room, Fitts and Locke also discovered clear plastic baggies and a scale, according to their reports. After a search and investigation, officers also discovered Reed had 16.8 grams of cocaine and $2,144 dollars on him, according to a felony complaint. Baggies and scales are often used by drug dealers to package their products for sale.

Reed told police in a statement he worked in his uncle’s car shop and had a 10th grade education.

While in a cell at the police station, Reed wrapped a clear plastic baggie containing his 16.8 grams of cocaine in toilet paper and tried to flush it down a toilet, according to police and a grand jury indictment.

Harris told officers at the police station she had drugs, saying, “I am not going to lie, I got crack on me,” according to Fitts’ report. Harris pulled two baggies of crack cocaine out of her bra and put them on the station’s booking counter, then told officers there was more in her purse along with a crack pipe. A pill bottle from her purse also contained 15 pills of hydrocodone, according to Fitts’ report. Harris also had $310 in her purse, according to a city police search warrant application.

Harris was sentenced to two years in prison and one-and-a-half years of post-release supervision on July 24 after she was convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell for her role in the Econo Lodge incident.

Reed was indicted on eight counts for his role: second-degree criminal possession of a weapon - a loaded firearm with the intent to use it against another, a felony; third-degree criminal possession of a weapon - having a firearm defaced to hide a crime, a felony; third-degree criminal possession of a weapon - possessing a firearm despite a previous 2013 conviction, a felony; third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance - possessing cocaine with the intent to sell it, a felony; third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance - possessing a half ounce or more of cocaine, a felony; tampering with physical evidence, a misdemeanor; and two counts of second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.

Reed was set to go to trial on Jan. 14 but accepted a deal on Dec. 19 to plea to the top count of the indictment in exchange for seven years in prison, according to court documents. Reed could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for that charge, according to the plea deal.

Two months after the Econo Lodge incident, Williams was arrested for drug possession after officers pulled him over on Grant Street, according to city police. Police discovered oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, and marijuana during that arrest. Williams pled guilty to fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell it, a felony, as part of a plea deal that would have granted him five years of probation, according to court transcripts. But he failed to show up for court the day of his sentencing because he was re-arrested for having stolen property, violating his plea deal, said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser, Sr. to Judge Julie Campbell in November in Cortland County Court. Ultimately, Williams was sentenced on Nov. 29 to two years in prison and a year of post-release supervision.

At Williams’ sentencing, Simser described what he believes really happened in April at the Econo Lodge.

“...Mr. Williams was involved in a drug deal gone bad with another defendant named Hassan Reed,” Simser told Campbell. “Mr. Reed I consider to be a more accomplished and more dangerous individual than Mr. Williams. And so my focus was on Mr. Reed, who was found to be in possession of a loaded … handgun and I believe stood in a bathroom for a minute or two and contemplated shooting his way out while Officer Fitts and , who are both friends of mine, waited in the room outside.”