James Slater, the man who planted drug evidence in a Scotia smoke shop that resulted in the false arrest of the business owner, on Monday was sentenced in Schenectady County Court to six to 12 years in state prison.
Slater, 22, last month pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree perjury, a felony. He admitted lying to a Schenectady County grand jury by telling them Donald Andrews had twice sold him drugs in March 2013.
Judge Polly A. Hoye sentenced Slater to two three-to-six year prison terms that will run consecutively, meaning Slater could serve up to 12 years.
Andrews, owner of the Dabb City Smoke Shop on Mohawk Avenue, eventually was saved by his store surveillance system. The cameras showed a police informant — later identified as Slater — planting vials of crack cocaine on a store counter in March 2013.
The camera footage did not prevent a police raid at Dabb City on April 6, 2013. In a victim impact statement, Andrews told the court about the afternoon raid, how he was placed in a police car and told he was going to prison. Andrews said he knew the allegations were not possible. He spent the next three days in jail before he could come up with $30,000 bond.
Andrews told the court that his name, reputation and business suffered.
“I didn’t see how I could re-open my business when people now thought I was a drug dealer,” Andrews said. “My friends, my family, everyone in the community had seen me on the news and in the papers. I didn’t know what my little sister would think of me. I didn’t know what my grandmother would think about me. I didn’t know what my friends’ parents would think about me.”
Authorities later examined Andrews’ surveillance tapes and charges against him were dropped.
“I could be the one sitting in here in that orange jumpsuit waiting to do a bid for a maximum of 25 years,” Andrews said, reading from a statement as Slater looked down at the table in front of him.
“I still do not understand how or why this happened to me,” Andrews continued. “I can only imagine how things would be if I did not have the cameras.”
Andrews also addressed his accuser by name.
“James Slater. How many other people have you set up?” he asked. “How many other people’s lives have you ruined? I was doing good for myself until the day you decided to walk in my store and set me up.”
Slater also addressed the court. He described his routine as an informant.
“No one here was in my position,” he said. “No one here understands the pressure that you’re put on by those people, how you’re haunted every day, texted every day,” he said. “People are at your front door every time you come outside. You’re getting picked up by an unmarked car. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s you do what they say or you get done, that’s how it is. ‘You’re going to do what we tell you to do or you’re going to get done the way we do you.’ And that’s how it is.”
Assistant District Attorney William Sanderson said the county Sheriff’s Department did not choose the target in this case.
“It was not the Sheriff’s Department who set up Mr. Andrews, it was Mr. Slater,” Sanderson said. “And yes, he duped the Sheriff’s Department in the process and duped the D.A.’s office as well until, thank God, for Mr. Andrews’ own surveillance tapes that brought forth the truth here.”
Andrews talked to reporters after the court session.
“Justice was served in a way, but I honestly think he deserves longer than what they gave him,” he said. “What he did was wrong.”
Andrews didn’t think much about Slater’s statement.
“If you’re a real man, you’re not going to go set somebody up and bring drugs into somebody’s business or home, somebody who’s not doing anything wrong and try to frame them for something that’s completely absurd.”
Andrews also remains at odds with the Sheriff’s Department.
“They played a role in what happened so they need some type of discipline,” he said. “Something needs to happen to the police officers and everybody else that signed the warrant and let all this stuff go down.”