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‘Not guilty’ pleads former undersheriff to charges of possessing child porn

COPAKE — The former Columbia County undersheriff who also previously served as Copake town justice and police chief entered a plea of not guilty to charges of possessing child pornography.

Eighty-two-year-old Copake resident James Blass reportedly waived his right to a grand jury when he entered his plea in the Columbia County Court on Tuesday, June 7.

The Ancram native was represented in court by his attorney, Micheal Howard. Blass was seated in a wheelchair and attached to oxygen when he made his court appearance on the 7th. A handful of his supporters were reportedly in the courtroom gallery.

The charges stemmed from an arrest on March 14, based on an investigation conducted jointly between the New York State Police (NYSP) and the Columbia County District Attorney’s (DA) Office. The NYSP and DA’s Office reported that Blass was found to be in possession of child pornography.

The man who spent more than 30 years working with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office until he hung up his badge in 1997 upon retirement was charged with possession of a sexual performance by a child, a felony.

Blass is facing a single count of possessing child pornography.

If found guilty of the charges, Blass faces a maximum prison term of four years and will be placed on the state’s sex offender registry.

According to Columbia County DA Paul Czajka, the pornography was allegedly found on Blass’ computer thanks to a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center reportedly alerted the NYSP’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, noted the DA’s Office.

Charging documents from Czajka’s office were explicit about what was pictured in the pornography in graphic detail.

After he waived his rights to a grand jury the former lawman entered his plea of not guilty.

An order of protection forbidding Blass from having any contact with children under the age of 18 was issued by Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek after it was requested by the prosecutors in the case.

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