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Niskayuna teen put on interim probation after September standoff

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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— A Niskayuna teen who was accused last September of holding police at bay for seven hours while threatening to shoot himself and others pleaded guilty to a related felony Monday.

But exactly what sentence defendant James P. Catuccio will ultimately receive will depend on how he does on interim probation.

Catuccio will be under strict rules, including having a parent with him at all times. If he does well, he could get time served and more probation. If he fails, he faces state prison time of up to 16 months to four years.

Catuccio, who turns 17 next month, pleaded guilty in Schenectady County Court Monday to one count of first-degree reckless endangerment. Catuccio has been in custody since his September arrest. With Monday’s plea, he was to be released to probation.

Catuccio admitted to endangering officers by threatening to shoot them if they approached or entered the home.

Catuccio, of 886 Cunningham Court, held police at bay for seven hours Sept. 10, surrendering shortly after 11 p.m. that night.

It began just before 4 p.m. when police received a call from inside the house that Catuccio was suicidal and threatening to shoot police and people on the street, authorities said earlier.

Catuccio’s mother was at home at the time. Catuccio is also accused of threatening to shoot his mother and “did on several occasions point a loaded firearm out of an open window,” according to papers filed previously in court.

No shots were fired.

He was originally charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, along with the reckless endangerment count.

The case is being prosecuted by the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutor Karen Heggen was in court Monday.

The case was transferred there because Catuccio’s father works in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office. His mother works in the county Probation Department and his stepfather works in the county attorney’s office. All three were in court Monday.

Catuccio’s probation is also to be administered in Saratoga County.

Catuccio’s attorney, Steve Signore, said interim probation is not often used, but he hopes to use it more in the future.

He also said the case got the same approach as other similar cases.

Signore praised Heggen for being patient and ensuring she had all the facts. In the end, he said, the goal is to ensure that Catuccio’s mental health issues are addressed.

“The judge is trying to fashion a situation where he’s getting the help he needs, but not giving him that ability to wander too far from that road he has to walk,” Signore said. “There’s going to be a lot of demands that are placed on him.”

In court Monday, Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago indicated the one year of interim probation is to see if Catuccio can keep his mental health issues in check.

Catuccio suffers from severe depression, according to the court proceedings. He has also been taking medication, which has improved his symptoms.

“Listen to me,” Drago said to Catuccio. “You’ve got to be able to address your mental health issues in an appropriate way.”

If he does well enough, Catuccio could also get youthful offender status, essentially removing the felony conviction from his record.

Among the conditions of his interim probation, Catuccio must be with one of his parents or stepparents at all times until further notice of the court. He is also to have no access to firearms. The three firearms he had during the standoff remain in police custody.

When Catuccio returns to school will be up to the doctor overseeing him. Signore said that Catuccio has taken the test for his GED. If he passes, he would not need to return to Niskayuna High School. Whether the school would take him back, and in what capacity, was not addressed.

“You have a lot riding on this,” Drago told Catuccio.

As she concluded, Drago asked Catuccio, “are you ready for this?”

“Yes, your honor,” Catuccio responded.

 
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