Brisson pleads guilty to second burglary, violates court deal

— Photo from the Albany County District Attorney's Office

Curtis Brisson

— Photo from the Albany County District Attorney's Office

Forced entry: Curtis Brisson, on Nov. 11, broke into the Touch of Country in Guilderland while its owner was working late inside the shop.

GUILDERLAND — A burglar enrolled in the Albany Country Drug Court pleaded guilty Tuesday to a Nov. 11 burglary at the Touch of Country shop in Guilderland.

Curtis Brisson, 41, of Albany, pleaded to third-degree burglary, a felony, before Stephen Herrick in Albany County Court.

On June 25, 2012, Brisson had pleaded guilty, also before Herrick, to an earlier burglary at Mugshot’s Coffee Shop in downtown Albany, according to Cecilia Walsh, spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office; after that, he was admitted to the Drug Court over which Herrick presides.

“The Albany County Drug Court holds defendants accountable while assisting participants to achieve long-term recovery to become law-abiding citizens and successful family and community members,” according to a description of the court posted on the district attorney’s website to which Walsh referred The Enterprise when asked about the Drug Court program.

From Jan. 1 until Dec. 2, 2013, there have been 1,260 defendants evaluated for the Albany County program, according to Lauren Clemenzi, senior court analyst for the Administrative Office for the Third Judicial District, which covers seven counties in New York. Of those evaluated, there are currently 179 in the program, she said.

The “all-time” number of defendants in the program, Clemenzi said, as of Dec. 2, is 1,096 and, of those, 586 have graduated.

Those numbers were confirmed by Arlene Hackel, deputy public information officer with the state’s Office of Court Administration, who also reported numbers from three other similar programs in Albany County, including family, juvenile, and regional programs. The county total for all-time participation is 1,918 with 865 graduates.

When someone, like Brisson, “gets re-arrested,” Clemenzi said of Drug Court, “People think this doesn’t work.”

She believes otherwise. “There’s pros and cons to numbers,” she said.

Clemenzi has attended graduation ceremonies and describes them as moving.

“Judge Herrick has great graduations,” she said. “Bring a tissue box: It’s happy, it’s sad.”

Clemenzi described the way a judge may tell a story about how a defendant started out as belligerent and disrespectful but has been changed.

The defendants tell stories of how they’ve been transformed, crediting the people who helped them, and their families are on hand, too, said Clemenzi.

“You see what it means,” she said.

Up to 11 years in prison

Defendants, who must be county residents at least 18 years old who have alcohol or drug-abuse problems and who have committed no violent crimes, have felony sentencing deferred for participation in the program. Participants must maintain sobriety, submit to random drug testing, and complete recommended treatment programs.

Brisson violated the conditions of his participation in the Albany County Drug Court program with his Nov. 11 arrest.

At about 8:45 p.m. on that day, Steven Irwin, the owner of the Hamilton Square store, at 2080 Western Ave., was working late when he heard a muffled banging sound.

Then, when he heard a loud cracking sound, he knew the store’s back door was being broken in, he told The Enterprise earlier. “I picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1 and explained that someone was breaking in and they needed to send someone from the police department as soon as possible.”

Irwin remained on the phone with the dispatcher, he said, and moved to the front of the store, where it was dark, as he waited for the Guilderland Police to arrive.

“Honestly, I wasn’t frightened,” said Irwin. “I was just thinking to myself, ‘Be smart and keep yourself safe.’”

As Brisson entered the back hallway, “I told him, ‘Leave the store now,’ and I repeated that twice,” Irwin recalled. “As soon as he heard my voice, he ran.”

Guilderland Police arrived on the scene and arrested Brisson.

Brisson faces two-and-a-half to five years in state prison for his burglary conviction when sentenced as a predicate felon on Jan. 15, according to the district attorney’s office.

This will be served consecutive to a three- to six-year state-prison sentence because of Brisson’s violation of the conditions of the Albany County Drug Court for a total of five-and-a-half to 11 years in state prison.

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