NORWICH – A man who pleaded guilty to a drug felony Monday in Chenango County Court for selling meth in Norwich, told the court he had a pistol permit despite a previous felony conviction and wanted to make sure he would keep it.
The Broome County Sheriff's Office reported Wednesday they had no record of issuing a permit to the defendant and were investigating the matter.
Matthew J. Neer, 36, of Norwich, sought assurances from the court as he was completing his plea agreement and pleading guilty to fifth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a D class felony.
Neer confirmed to Chenango County Court Judge Frank Revoir that he was trying to sell two grams of methamphetamine on April 5 in the City of Norwich.
Neer's remarks about already having a pistol permit seemed to surprise court officials. Following court, First Assistant District Attorney James Snashall said he did not have that information and was seeking clarification from the Broome County Sheriff's Office.
The judge responded by telling Neer he would have to comply with all terms of the agreement, but he avoided directly telling the defendant he could not keep a permit. Neer's guilty plea deal was accepted.
Responding Tuesday Brian Curtis, a representative from the Broome County Sheriff's Records Office said they do not typically discuss specific individuals or information that could identify pistol permit holders.
"He does not have a pistol permit and never had one according to our records," said Curtis Wednesday. He said the office was contacting Chenango officials.
"We don't have a record of applying for one in Broome," said Curtis. He said the office was double checking with Chenango and looking into possible aliases.
In any case, Curtis said he was very skeptical of anyone convicted of such a felony would be allowed to keep a permit, no matter what prior exception. Curtis said within hours of being notified about such a felony conviction, for anyone, they would revoke the permit.
The judge said Neer would be released and he was placed on interim probation. He will participate in the judicial diversion program instead of going to prison. If he completes the program his felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor.
On Tuesday the County Court Clerk's Office clarified the court did not have jurisdiction over the pistol permit, the Sheriff's Office did, as well as any exceptions.
Neer's defense attorney, Public Defender John Cameron confirmed his client had noted in court that he had been granted a previous exception to a separate felony conviction.
However, Cameron said in most cases a felony plea would result in a firearm prohibition, but since Neer had entered into an agreement that could eventually see him plea to a misdemeanor instead of a felony a year from now, at that time his firearm rights would be restored.
Cameron said he had not reviewed the details of the pistol permit, how that would be handled in the meantime, or if Neer would be granted an exception to Monday's plea.
Asked if Neer had misspoken or been misunderstood in court, a public defender said they were working to clarify that Wednesday.
In addition the Monday's felony plea, Snashall said Neer had a conviction of felony grand larceny from Broome County Court in 2015. He also said Neer had 10 prior misdemeanor convictions from Norwich, Sherburne, Vestal and Broome County areas.