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Haskell appeal rejected, felony conviction upheld

THURMAN - Former Thurman Supervisor John Haskell has lost an appeal challenging his December 2008 felony conviction of Defrauding the Government in connection with a land deal he engineered in 2008.

In a decision handed down Dec. 17, a panel of judges serving in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court rejected Haskell's contention that there was not sufficient evidence to convict him of the charge.

The court upheld the Warren County Supreme Court's decision a year ago reflecting that Haskell bought a landlocked parcel of property and then improperly convinced the Thurman Town Board to convey him right-of-way access across adjacent town-owned land.

The judges decided that the prosecutors presented "ample evidence" to the jury showing that Haskell engaged in a "systematic ongoing course of conduct with the intent to obtain a right-of-way from the town by fraudulent pretenses or representations."

The judges declared that the prosecutor in the 2008 trial provided plenty of evidence for the jury to make its conclusions, including that Haskell "improperly procured a right-of-way over Town property for another member of the public."

The decision also cites the evidence of the private unrecorded meeting Haskell held with members of the Town Board in which he discussed his plans to request a right-of-way over Town property, followed by his "false and misleading statements at the public Town Board meeting," the appeals decision reads.

The evidence also included Haskell's "uncommon procedure for requesting a right-of-way, his request to change the minutes of the Town Board meeting, and his filing of a deed with the Warren County Clerk that was not in conformity with what the Town Board had approved," the appellate panel's decision read.

The court noted that the evidence provided to the jury included Haskell's testimony that he insisted that the sale of the property close by the end of the year, inferring, the decision reads, that Haskell wanted to ensure that he obtained the right-of-way prior to the January 2006 installation of new Town Board members, at least one of whom was a political adversary.

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