Saratoga County District Attorney Karen A. Heggen announced that Martin J. Nichols (d.o.b 6/29/75), of Rutland VT, and formerly of Troy, NY, entered a plea of guilty Tuesday minutes before his trial was set to commence.
With prospective jurors awaiting the start of trial on the second floor of the courthouse, Nichols pleaded guilty to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony, in the County Courtroom below. As part of his plea allocution, Nichols admitted to The Honorable James A. Murphy, III, that on November 21, 2016, in the Town of Malta, he possessed more than half an ounce of heroin.
Nichols’ guilty plea resulted from a traffic stop on I-87 northbound near the Exit 12 Malta off ramp. After observing the operator of a Chevy Suburban commit several moving violations, NYSP Trooper Kenneth Ahigian pulled the vehicle over and learned that Nichols, the driver, had a suspended NY license. Trooper Ahigian detected the smell of marihuana as soon as Nichols rolled down his window and the defendant admitted to having a small amount of the drug on his person which he then produced.
A subsequent search of Nichols by Trooper Michael Tromblee on the shoulder of the Northway resulted in the discovery of a baggie of heroin that fell to the ground. Nichols immediately stomped on, kicked at, and broke open the baggie, dispersing some of its powdery contents into the air. As Nichols continued to scramble towards the baggie in an attempt to destroy the evidence, Tromblee grabbed hold of Nichols and the two men fell to the pavement. Using one hand and his bodyweight to gain control over Nichols, Trooper Tromblee then used his other hand to grab a flashlight from his belt and push the tattered baggie beyond Nichols’ reach. Assistance arrived to help Tromblee secure the defendant along with 27 grams of heroin that still remained in the baggie. During the struggle, however, Trooper Tromblee’s skin and clothing were exposed to the loose heroin powder. For precautionary reasons, the Trooper was directed to an urgent care facility where he was further evaluated and released.
The 27 grams of heroin is equivalent to approximately 270 doses or decks of heroin, notwithstanding the common practice of “stepping down” the product to increase the quantity by adding diluents or adulterants to the mix (a.k.a. “adding cut”).
District Attorney Heggen lauded the efforts of Troopers Ahigian and Tromblee as well as the NYSP in general. “We were very fortunate Trooper Tromblee was not harmed here, but this incident serves as yet another reminder of how heroin and other opioids have presented law enforcement today with even greater dangers and challenges. Just as the NYSP and other police agencies remain dedicated to investigating and arresting individuals who traffic these highly addictive and deadly drugs, my office will remain steadfast to prosecuting these dealers who threaten the safety and welfare of our community.”
Heggen praised First Assistant District Attorney Alan M. Poremba who prosecuted the case and added, “The nine and a half year sentence that Nichols is expected to receive on October 10, 2017, should send a loud message of consequence to any heroin dealers who attempt to peddle or transport their product in or through Saratoga County.”