Inside the Courtroom: An exclusive look at Essex County's sweeping drug raids

ELIZABETHTOWN — An assembly line of shackled individuals shuffled across Hon. Judge Richard B. Meyer’s courtroom at the Essex County Courthouse on Friday, March 21 for arraignment on felony drug charges.

Early this morning, 18 suspects were netted by raids conducted by a kaleidoscope of law enforcement agencies across the county — including the state police, town departments, the Adirondack Drug Task Force and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department — as part of a coordinated effort to identify, investigate and apprehend suspected narcotics dealers operating within the county.

The dates of the alleged crimes stretch back into last year and only now are suspects being brought up on multiple charges.

“This was part of a lengthy ongoing investigation of various individuals suspected of selling drugs in our communities,” Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague told the Valley News. “We will continue to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to make further arrests.”

Eight of the suspects are from the town of Moriah, seven are from Ticonderoga and one each from Auburn (Cayuga County), Hudson Falls (Washington County) and Saranac Lake, which spans both Essex and Franklin Counties.

During a break in Friday afternoon’s lengthy arraignment process, which was broken up into one two-hour session and another that lasted 90 minutes, New York State Police Captain Robert LaFountain said authorities typically try to conduct these operations twice per year and only do so when they’re confident that they have constructed solid cases that will hold up in court.

Authorities must offer a cautious approach that will not compromise ongoing investigations, he said.

“It really depends on the nature of each investigation. There are a number of considerations evaluated by law enforcement agencies and the DA’s office as to when arrests will take place.”

According to LaFountain, 50 law enforcement officials were involved in Friday’s arrests.

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