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Former Watkins Glen Sergeant in Charge & wife arrested by State Police; lawsuit against Leszyk dismissed

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) – Former Watkins Glen Sergeant in Charge Brandon Matthews and his wife, Danielle Matthews were arrested by New York State Police on Superior Court Warrants on Friday.

Brandon Matthews was charged with eight counts of Perjury 1 st Degree, and one count of Official Misconduct. Danielle Matthews was charged with two counts of Perjury 1 st Degree, and one count of Perjury 3 rd Degree.

At the time of his arrest, Brandon Matthews was employed as a police officer by the Watkins Glen Police Department. Matthews was placed on administrative leave in August 2020 and removed as the Sergeant in Charge with the Watkins Glen Police Department in October 2020.

Attorney Daniel Rubin, who represents Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk and the village, tells 18 News that Matthews is currently on leave from the department.

The perjury charges come amid the discovery of several pages of depositions given by Brandon and Danielle Matthews in relation to a lawsuit filed against Leszyk, which was dismissed on Nov. 30, 2021.

In February 2021, a notice of claim was filed by former Watkins Glen Sergeant in Charge Brandon Matthews and his family against Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk for alleged sexual harassment and abuse of power.

Several pages of depositions given by the Matthews filed with the court show Danielle Matthews alleged Leszyk inappropriately touched her between 50-100 times between 2012 and the time of her deposition, but said she was “not going to be able to give specific years.”

During his own deposition, Brandon Matthews admitted to an Oct. 2017 incident where one of his young children fired his service revolver in their home. Matthews said the revolver was locked inside a lockbox and the child found a key. Matthews said he notified the department and he was not disciplined, nor were criminal charges filed.

In a July 15, 2021, sworn affidavit signed by Brandon Matthews, he alleged approaches by Leszyk towards Danielle that “were sexual in nature in return for protection of my job.”

According to court documents filed on Nov. 30, the lawsuit filed by the Matthews against Leszyk was dismissed because the complaint “fails to allege any facts that support any element to the proposed clauses of action.”

The Matthews’ first entered the spotlight amid a July 29, 2020, New York State Police investigation at their home, which the family alleged was “retaliation” by Leszyk.

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The lawsuit claimed there were more than 20 officers, a K-9, and a helicopter sent to their home during the raid.

State Police reported in an affidavit for a search warrant that a Barbara Barber, later identified as the girlfriend of Danielle Matthews’ brother Raymond Brown, testified that she saw approximately 200 marijuana plants in a garage owned by the Matthews. Barber stated that Brown and Brandon Matthews allegedly tended to the marijuana plants.

On July 14, 2020, State Police used an infrared camera mounted to a helicopter that flew over the residence, which showed “obvious high heat inside the building” and “hot spots” indicating a marijuana grow operation.

According to the search warrant for the July 29, 2020, raid, police recovered 41 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, marijuana, digital scales, packaging materials, marijuana seeds, and stolen property. The stolen property consisted of digital cameras, chargers and cables, Motorola radio, whistles, assorted MMA equipment, assorted fishing equipment, tent poles, and stakes.

The search warrant consisted of a single-family home, a one car garage, a large pole barn, and a shed.

In October 2020 a grand jury decided not to indict either of the Matthews in connection to the home invasion.

The Schuyler County Grand Jury found that the charges of Criminal Possession of Marihüâña in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree were not justified, and therefore, by this action of the Grand Jury, the iñvcstigation is closed withcat charges.

On Feb. 26, 2021, the Village of Watkins Glen Board of Trustees ordered Matthews to undergo a Fitness for Duty Evaluation due to sworn testimony Matthews made under oath on December 23, 2020, that allegedly included Matthews’ questioning his ability to work with other officers and his mental wellbeing.

The evaluation by a Licensed Psychologist found “Officer Bandon Matthews is psychologically fit for duty as a police officer for the Village of Watkins Glen.”

The Yates County District Attorney, Todd Casella, was brought in as a special prosecutor for the latest developments in the case. 18 News has reached out to the District Attorney’s office for comment.

The Matthews were arraigned in the Schuyler County Jail. 18 News has reached out to the Matthews’ attorney, Matt Buzzetti, but have not heard back at this time.

Mayor Leszyk decline to comment on the latest developments in the case and referred 18 News to the village attorney.

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This is a developing story and 18 News will have more information as it becomes available.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

NY clamps down on businesses offering marijuana as a ‘gift’

FILE – Medical marijuana plants are shown during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility, Aug. 22, 2019, in Ravena, N.Y. While New York works on launching a legal market for recreational marijuana, some entrepreneurs have jumped into a legal gray area by saying they’re not selling pot but giving it away while people buy something else. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — While New York works on launching a legal market for recreational marijuana, some entrepreneurs have jumped into a legal gray area by saying they’re not selling pot but giving it away while people buy something else.

Now, the state is saying they have jumped the gun and need to stop.

The Office of Cannabis Management said Tuesday it sent letters to more than two dozen enterprises it suspects of illegally selling weed, telling them to stop or face fines, potential criminal charges and risk to their prospects of getting a license once they are available.

“New York state is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers” and will provide opportunities for people affected by the enforcement of now-scrapped marijuana laws, OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander said in a statement. “Illegal operations undermine our ability to do that.”

The agency wouldn’t say what entities got letters. Messages were left with several businesses that have gone public about providing weed in what they have maintained is a legal way.

Hempsol CBD didn’t get a letter, owner Jim Mackenzie said Wednesday, but his Rochester CBD shop nonetheless will stop offering a “gift” of marijuana to customers who buy a T-shirt or other garment.

Mackenzie said he believed the deal was legal. The state law that legalized recreational marijuana last spring doesn’t discuss such “gifts” but does allow “transferring, without compensation” of small amounts of pot.

“But I’m going to do what the state wants because my goal is to have a state (marijuana) license and do it correctly,” said Mackenzie, who feels the state would be wiser to get to know businesses like his shop, where he prides himself on educating customers about the cannabis plant.

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“It’s really in their best interest to work with the people who are actually trying to do it correctly and actually have knowledge in this industry,” he said.

Since March, it’s been legal for adults in New York to possess and use small amounts of marijuana and “transfer” it for free, but the state hasn’t yet issued licenses to sell it. The cannabis office is still working on rules for that.

In the meantime, some businesses started offering the drug as a “gift” to people who make what’s described as a donation or who buy art or some other item. Others say they’re clubs that acquire cannabis and provide their paying members with access to it.

To the state cannabis office, illegal sales “include so-called ‘gifting’ where consumers purchase non-cannabis items or services, such as a membership in a club, and are then provided cannabis as part of the sale,” according to a sample warning letter that the agency released. The letter tells recipients to stop “illegal activity” immediately.

No such letter has arrived at Happy Munkey, a New York City-based business that has put on “bring your own” cannabis-themed events where goodie bags included a joint, spokesperson Stu Zakim said. He says that’s not “gifting” tied to a purchase, but rather “doing what any sponsor does — provide a goodie bag to give away their product to help influence people.”

While the cannabis agency’s action might not affect Happy Munkey, Zakim called it “offensive and insulting.” He said it would turn established underground sellers off the idea of engaging in the coming legal market, rather than continuing unlicensed, untaxed sales.

“Gifting” and other arrangements have also cropped up, and sometimes faced crackdowns, in some other states when they legalized marijuana but hadn’t yet licensed growers and shops.

New Jersey issued stop-it-or-else warning letters in June to four businesses, saying their pot “gifts” were really sales. Last week, authorities raided several shops and a warehouse associated with a different business and arrested the owners and three other people, the Bergen County prosecutor’s office said.

___ Associated Press writer Marina Villeneuve contributed from Albany. Follow the AP’s complete marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.