Schenectady County

Schenectady officer, pharmacist in county court

A local pharmacist tied to indicted city police detective Sherri Barnes was indicted herself Thursda

A local pharmacist tied to indicted city police detective Sherri Barnes was indicted herself Thursday morning on multiple felony perjury counts.

Michele Pallotta, 58, of Eastholm Road, appeared in court and pleaded innocent to a total of four counts of first-degree perjury, felonies.

She is accused of lying to the grand jury about her relationship with Barnes, the amount of prescription drugs she allegedly gave Barnes and contacts Pallotta had with the state Department of Health regarding Barnes, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Barnes, a 20-year veteran of the force, also appeared in Schenectady County Court Thursday, pleading innocent to four misdemeanor counts lodged against her.

“I’m innocent,” Barnes said after Thursday’s proceedings, her husband and her attorney with her. “I’ve got a lot of support from my family and friends, and they’ll be beside me all the way until I can prove that.”

Barnes’ husband, Donald Barnes, is also a member of the police force.

Pallotta is accused of giving Barnes extra pills of the muscle relaxant Soma and then lying about it.

Soma, also called carisoprodol, is a muscle relaxant used to relieve pain and discomfort caused by strains, sprains and other muscle injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Barnes allegedly also obtained the drug from another friend, who also had a prescription, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said. The drug is not a controlled substance in New York but does require a prescription to obtain.

The two would go to pharmacies and the friend would fill the prescription and then give it to Barnes, Carney said.

During a Jan. 5 transaction, the transaction was delayed somehow, Carney said. Barnes then allegedly showed her badge to get immediate action.

“It is our belief that these crimes are indicative of an addiction problem that she has not come to grips with,” Carney said.

Pallotta appeared in court with her attorney, Michael McDermott. She has been a licensed pharmacist since 1978, she told Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago. A check with the state Office of Professions confirms that her license remains active.

Pallotta worked for several years for CVS before moving to Rite Aid earlier this year. She remains employed there, McDermott said later.

Pallotta allegedly provided an extra supply of the drug prior to the prescribed time for refills, according to the indictment. The act “was unethical and in violation of [Pallotta’s] employer’s policy,” the indictment alleges.

Pallotta is also accused of lying to the grand jury about her relationship with Barnes, telling the grand jury that it was professional only and she did not regularly talk with Barnes and seldom saw Barnes. The alleged lie concealed why Pallotta gave Barnes prescription medication in violation of her prescriptions, the indictment reads.

Pallotta was ordered held on $7,500 bail, money she posted before leaving court.

McDermott later called the charges unfounded. He said Pallotta has cooperated with the investigation at all points, including in the grand jury.

“Her account of the events in question has always remained the same,” McDermott said. “It’s mystifying to us at this point why charges have been brought against her.”

McDermott reiterated that the relationship between the two has been nothing but professional.

Pallotta’s appearance preceded that of Barnes. Barnes, 43, of Teller Avenue, was arraigned on four misdemeanor counts before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino. She pleaded innocent and was released on her own recognizance.

Barnes was booked Wednesday morning on three counts of fourth-degree criminal diversion and one count of official misconduct, all misdemeanors.

Barnes is accused of criminally diverting a prescription medication, knowing that the person giving it to her was not authorized to do so, according to her indictment.

She is accused of doing that Dec. 11 at the CVS Pharmacy on Eastern Parkway, Jan. 5 at the Metcare Pharmacy on State Street and May 7 at another pharmacy.

The alleged May 7 incident came four months after Barnes was placed on paid leave and an investigation began.

She is accused of illegally using her status as a police officer to obtain a benefit, according to the indictment.

Barnes’ attorney, Paul DerOhannesian, was served with a copy of the indictment at the arraignment but said afterward that it contained few details.

Giardiano read the list of charges in court. He also noted that each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Barnes responded by nodding her head.

DerOhannesian made motions asking for information that they believe exists that could help Barnes’ case.

He said later that he believes there are issues with an investigator in the case from the state Department of Health, whom he identified as Mark Haskins. He also reiterated allegations of “cross-currents of motives in the department” behind the allegations.

Carney responded to those allegations by simply saying that the grand jury heard evidence and returned indictments.

DerOhannesian declined to discuss any prescription medications that Barnes may be legally taking that may be linked to the charges.

“I think Sherri has suffered enough invasion of privacy in the way the case has been handled by the department,” he said. “There’s no need to further traumatize her in that regard.”

The Police Department is currently trying to fire seven officers for various alleged misdeeds. Barnes has not been named among them.

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