NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · NEW YORK · Newsgathering · Feb. 1, 2006
County attempts to return publisher to jail
Feb. 1, 2006 · The publisher of the online North Country Gazette in Chestertown, N.Y., has been summoned to report to jail to finish her sentence for filing false harassment charges against her neighbors. June Maxam, who says she has already served her full sentence, has long maintained that her news coverage of local officials led them to harass her in retaliation.
Maxam claims she served six months of a nine-month sentence in jail and that three months’ of her sentence was knocked off for good behavior. But the Warren County Court sent her a notice to appear in court Feb. 8 to begin serving the remainder of her sentence. The summons came just days after Maxam was notified that the Office of the New York State Comptroller would look into her investigation alleging illegal disposal of office furniture by the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.
An October audit by the comptroller’s office showed the sheriff’s department spent almost $165,000 in commissions from inmate telephone use to furnish the sheriff’s new office. Maxam’s publication was the only one to publish a story about the audit, she said.
Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland claims that the county, not his department, is trying to reincarcerate Maxam. “She is convicted multiple times of lying,” he said, adding that the county is handling the case and it has nothing to do with him.
Maxam, who was convicted in 2000 of filing false harassment complaints against her neighbors, said that several testimonies and sworn statements will prove that her sentence has been served completely. She claims she has already served her 180 days — reduced from 270 days for good behavior. She served 80 days in 2000, 17 days in late 2000 and early 2001, and another 83 days in 2003, she said. Warren County Correctional Facility documents do not account for the last 100 days. Maxam claims the sheriff has altered the books. She says she recently spoke to a sheriff’s deputy who recorded Maxam’s release date in 2003, and he told her the records of her jailtime “absolutely cannot be changed,” she said. Charges of harassment brought against Maxam in 2000 by neighbors resulted in a conviction, but those charges were finally dismissed in December 2005.
“It is very disconcerting to me,” Maxam said. “I have a dog, I have a home, I have responsibilities . . . Am I supposed to be preparing for 100 days? That’s absurd to me.”
(New York v. Maxam) — KV