Heather Nellis/Recorder staff A Montgomery County corrections officer, right, escorts Dennis J. Todd to a police car Wednesday from the Montgomery County Courthouse in Fonda. Todd was sentenced to seven years in prison in connection with sex crimes.
By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- The owner of Fort Plain's Save-A-Lot says the flood-stricken grocery store's future is up in the air after his landlord was hauled away to prison Wednesday in connection with sex crimes.
Dennis J. Todd, 63, of 24 Willett St., Fort Plain, was sentenced Wednesday at Montgomery County Court to seven years in state prison, 10 years of post-release supervision, and compliance with state sex offender registry laws.
In March, Todd pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual act. Todd was accused of having sexual contact with a 13-year-old male on 11 separate occasions.
County Judge Felix Catena imposed the sentence despite a request from Attorney Terence Kindlon, Todd's counsel, to delay sentencing, so Todd could address his damaged home and shopping plaza, which houses Save-A-Lot, Dollar General and Daylight Donuts.
Kindlon said Todd was in the midst of selling the shopping plaza to Save-A-Lot owner John Hart for $600,000, however Hart is "unwilling to go forward with the sale as a disaster area."
The father of the victim, who reportedly stands to gain $100,000 in a civil action settlement from Todd negotiated Tuesday, additionally told county District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy he would not object to an adjournment so Todd could remedy the situation.
Kindlon said the sale of the plaza would help Todd pay the settlement, pay the Internal Revenue Service for liens imposed against the property because of unpaid taxes, and settle a defaulted small business loan.
"Todd believes by working on these things person, he can set things right," Kindlon said. "The sentence will still be the same whether he starts it today, or Labor Day. We're not disputing the sentence, we're just asking that bail be continued so he can clean up the physical mess, and clean up the financial mess."
Conboy said, "Frankly, I don't believe a word Dennis Todd says."
The district attorney cited a pre-sentencing report in which Todd claimed he did not own any real property, and that in May, Todd attempted to purchase a gun from the state of Florida.
"I have no sympathy for Dennis Todd," Conboy said. "He refused to admit his guilt, and expresses no remorse about the crime. In fact, he refused to speak about it with the person completing the report."
The report additionally indicated Todd asserted the sexual acts were consensual.
When asked to address the court, Todd said he did have remorse.
"I'm not asking for me, I'm asking for the people of Fort Plain," he said. "There are 50 jobs at stake, and the residents are suffering. They'll only be suffering more without those jobs."
"The people in Fort Plain appreciate me," Todd added.
Catena prefaced his decision by saying he sympathized with Todd "person to person, human to human" given the circumstances of the natural disaster.
"I have sympathy for the people in that area, you being one of them," Catena said.
However, citing the nature of the crime, and the fact he'd already delayed sentencing for a month and a half at Todd's request, Catena denied the request. The judge said the same excuse was offered by Todd for the first adjournment when the matter was scheduled for sentencing in mid-May, though Catena recognized Todd didn't account for the flood.
"We're not dealing with forgery or petit larceny," Catena said. "This needs to be dealt with, and for no one other than the victim's sake, I have to say enough is enough. I'm sorry, but I can't accommodate your request."
The victim's father appeared in the court after the proceeding started, so once Conboy noticed him, he spoke with him. Conboy disclosed the victim's father willingness for an adjournment.
"That shows you the human spirit," Catena said. "It shows that he still has a heart, and a mind to grant him some space. It's pretty amazing. It shows he's on the road to recovery, but I'm going to maintain my position."
Todd's plea satisfied all charges in a 12-count indictment handed up by a grand jury in December 2012, including first-degree criminal sexual act, 10 counts of second-degree criminal sexual act, and endangering the welfare of a child.
The matter was scheduled to go to trial April 15, wherein Todd would have faced 25 years in state prison if convicted. County District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy said Todd accepted the plea during a pre-trial conference with his attorney March 29.
Todd's been out of jail on $200,000 bail bond since a week after his initial arrest. He was remanded to the county jail Wednesday after his court appearance to begin serving his sentence, whereafter he'll be transported to a state prison.
Fort Plain police initially arrested Todd in August 2012 after a year-long investigation into the allegations. Two days before his arrest, Todd reportedly engaged in an altercation with a victim's family member about the allegations of abuse, and struck them on their head and elbow with a baseball bat, police said.
In addition to a volume of statements, police reported in August they had significant physical evidence against Todd.
Since his initial arrest, he was busted three additional times, most recently in January.
"Unfortunately, this really complicates matters," said John Hart, who owns the store in the shopping plaza ravaged by Friday's flooding. Hart leases the space from Todd, he said. "I'm not really sure what's going to happen at this time."
Hart said he wants to re-open Save-A-Lot in Fort Plain, and confirmed he's looked at several properties within the village.
"The cheapest and easiest option would be to re-open in the same plaza. To build a store ..." Hart trailed off, seeming overwhelmed.
Hart previously indicated the stock loss alone has mounted between $700,000 and $800,000.