Auburn, NY -- Stephen A. Turo, of Genoa, sat on a chair covered with a blanket in the back of a rental truck, shivering in the 18-degree cold, as Cayuga County Judge Thomas G. Leone arraigned him Monday on a 24-count indictment alleging sale and possession of prescription painkillers.
Turo, 56, of 1138 Maple St., by his own estimate weighs about 700 pounds. He was accompanied to the arraignment by his wife and daughter, and he sucked oxygen from two plastic tubes fed by a portable machine during the proceeding.
It was an unusual setting for a court proceeding: a 10-foot box truck backed up to the loading dock in the rear of the Historic Post Office in Auburn. Leone and a dozen other court personnel stood in the swirling snow for the 15-minute proceeding.
If found guilty of just one of the felony charges, Turo could be sent to state prison for 25 years. If he lands in prison, he would be the heaviest inmate ever housed by the state Department of Correctional Services, spokesman Erik Kriss said.
The Genoa man pleaded innocent. Leone set bail at $1,000 cash or $2,000 bond, even though Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher T. Valdina said Turo posed no risk of flight. Turo has until 5 p.m. today to post bail.
"Thank you, your honor, for coming down," Turo told Leone as the arraignment ended.
After the arraignment, Leone said Turo needed to be present at the proceeding to avoid any misunderstanding about the charges or his rights. The judge said he would not go to Turo's home for the arraignment.
"That's a dangerous precedent to set,' Leone said.
Turo remained in the truck to be fingerprinted and have his "mug" shot taken by a sheriff's investigator.
The whole process, including the time Turo sat in the back of the closed truck waiting, took less than 90 minutes.
Turo's wife, Claudette, had been arraigned last week on a 17-count indictment that also alleged possession and sale of prescription painkillers.
The trip to Auburn was the first time Turo has been out of his home in several years. He is unlikely to appear back in court until his case is settled. He waived his right to attend any future court sessions, to argue motions on April 16 or to bargain with the District Attorney's Office. His attorney, Douglas Bates, will handle the plea negotiations.
"I don't know what outcome our office will ultimately approve of, but gross obesity in and of itself is no defense," Valdina said after the arraignment.
Kriss, the state prison spokesman, said if Turo is convicted and is sent to state prison, the prison system will accommodate him.
"No one on our medical staff can recall an inmate that heavy being in our custody," Kriss said, "but they did say whatever size inmate we get and however heavy, we will make sure they will have the right bed and all the rest of that stuff so that they can have their needs met."
The prison system has four medical facilities across the state, Kriss said, and Turo could end up in one of those facilities.
Cayuga County Sheriff David S. Gould said his corrections staff will make whatever adjustments are necessary to house Turo in the county lockup in Sennett if he is housed there.
"We would do whatever we had to do," the sheriff said. "We could do it. ... It would be something different, but we could do it if we had to."
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