Judge resolves county historian’s case

JOHNSTOWN – A misdemeanor charge against suspended Fulton County Historian Peter C. Betz – accused in May of stealing a coffee maker from the County Office Building – will be dropped in six months if he stays out of trouble.

City Court Judge Thomas Walsh today approved a prosecution motion for an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal involving Betz. The defendant could have faced jail time.

Following the proceeding, defense attorney Michael Albanese of Gloversville said his understanding of today’s action by the judge was that “as long as nothing happens in the next six months, the charges will be dismissed.”

Betz, 70, of 178 Noonan Road, Perth, was charged by Johnstown police May 7 with misdemeanor petit larceny. Police said Betz stole a Keurig coffee maker from the Fulton County Office Building and replaced it with another one. Police say the theft of the $125 item occurred in the grand jury room in the building’s basement April 9. That room is down the hall from the historian’s office.

Albanese said the adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is a legal mechanism designed for people who have “never done anything wrong in their lives” and reserved for “minor” offenses.

“This is a compromise and not an admission of guilt,” Albanese said.

Outside City Hall, Betz said he plans to submit his written resignation to the county.

He labeled the criminal matter against him a “tempest in a coffeepot” and that he is contemplating moving to Hollywood to be “discovered.”

Betz was suspended from the post after he was charged in the theft. Betz, who was appointed to the post in January 2006, was budgeted to be paid $6,134 this year.

At the time of the incident, Johnstown police Lt. David Gilbo said an employee in Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira’s office noticed the Keurig commercial-use unit was missing from the grand jury room and checked with other employees in Sira’s office. Subsequent to that investigation, a staff member from Sira’s office later noticed the unit had been replaced by another Keurig residential-use coffee maker.

Sira’s office then notified Johnstown police and Gilbo launched an investigation.

Montgomery County District Attorney James E. “Jed” Conboy was named special prosecutor in the case.

Michael Anich can be reached at [email protected].

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