By PHILLIP BANTZ
A Cheshire County Superior Court judge has requested more time to decide the fate of a 19-year-old facing up to 21 years in prison for a slew of crimes.
Adam M. Laramie was slated to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in August to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, robbery, theft by deception, theft and receiving stolen property.
Laramie tried to rob the Beaver Street Market and the Connecticut River Bank in Keene on Dec. 15, 2008. He also duped an acquaintance into cashing a forged check, stole a co-worker’s purse and had a laptop that was purchased with a credit card from the purse.
Laramie was living in Swanzey when he was arrested. He has been locked up at the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland for the past year, awaiting an end to his case.
Judge John P. Arnold was expected to send Laramie to N.H. State Prison at the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing.
Instead, Arnold asked Laramie’s court-appointed attorney, Adam P. Kossayda of Keene, to delve deeper into the young man’s background and present his findings in about a month.
Kossayda replaced Laramie’s original attorney, Michael C. Shklar of Newport, after Laramie accused Shklar of pressuring him to accept a plea deal. Shklar denied the allegation.
In a letter to The Sentinel in late November, Laramie wrote that he wanted to back out of the plea bargain he accepted while Shklar was representing him, but the court has denied his requests.
Arnold announced his decision to continue the sentencing hearing after lengthy discussions in his chambers with Kossayda and Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly. He said Laramie’s case raised “interesting issues.”
O’Reilly had asked Arnold to send Laramie to prison for four to 21 years, followed by a suspended prison sentence of seven to 14 years.
The suspended sentence would hang over Laramie’s head for 15 years after his release from prison. The sentence could be imposed if he was caught breaking the law during that time.
O’Reilly said in court that she would have asked for a lengthier prison sentence if Laramie were older.
“We have some very serious crimes here,” she said.
Kossayda argued during the hearing for six months to be shaved off the minimum end of the proposed prison sentence. He agreed to the remaining terms of the plea negotiation.
“He (Laramie) stands here pleading with you to have those six months of his life,” Kossayda told Arnold. “He’s owned up to (the crimes) by pleading guilty. He’s asking for some sort of leniency here.”
Saying that he was not offering excuses or justification for the crimes, but only some sort of explanation, Kossayda told Arnold about Laramie’s tumultuous childhood:
Laramie and his five siblings were raised in hotel rooms and homeless shelters as their mother struggled to make ends meet. When he was 7, Laramie was sexually assaulted. He was also physically abused.
That Laramie has a juvenile criminal record, which O’Reilly mentioned in court, is no surprise, given his upbringing, Kossayda said.
The string of crimes that led Laramie to the courtroom Thursday began soon after he was introduced to heroin on his 18th birthday in September 2008, Kossayda said.
Soon, Laramie had trouble staying employed and needed money to feed his addiction, he said.
Three months after he tried heroin, Laramie and three accomplices called in a bomb threat to Keene State College to create a diversion so they could rob the Connecticut River Bank, according to O’Reilly.
After making the bomb threat, the foursome approached the bank, some of them carrying weapons and masks, but abandoned the plan when a police cruiser rolled by them.
Later that day, Laramie entered the Beaver Street Market wearing a mask. He displayed a gun and demanded all the money in the store’s cash register. But the clerk didn’t take Laramie seriously — he thought the gun was a fake.
“Then I just played dumb, acted like I couldn’t open the register,” the clerk said in an interview after the incident.
“Finally he just got frustrated and left the store.”
Four police detectives who played a role in the investigation that led to Laramie’s arrest, or who were interested in the case, attended the hearing, as did Laramie’s father, stepmother and girlfriend.
Laramie glanced back toward his supporters before a bailiff led him from the courtroom. Arnold warned him to stay out of trouble in jail as he left.
“The issue now is: What’s the appropriate sentence?” Kossayda said after the hearing. “I’m going to figure out why we’re here and hopefully provide the court with enough information to make an appropriate sentence.”