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Dover man gets 4 years for attempting to falsify court-ordered drug test

The Star-Ledger Archive
COPYRIGHT © The Star-Ledger 2005
Date: 2005/01/11 Tuesday Page: 032 Section: MORRIS Edition: MORRIS Size: 389 words

By MARGARET McHUGH
STAR-LEDGER STAFF

A heroin user caught using a prosthesis to try to pass a drug test pleaded guilty yesterday and faces up to four years in state prison.

John Gatanas, 28, of Dover will be kicked out of the Morris County Drug Court program for admitting he tried to falsify a drug test and then ran from the courtroom to avoid being jailed on Nov. 20, 2003.

Answering questions from defense attorney James Porfido and Assistant Prosecutor Charles O’Connell, Gatanas acknowledged that he faked his urine exam using the strap-on Original Whizzinator, which according to its Web site is foolproof and undetectable.

Gatanas’ probation officer noticed the $150 prosthesis while Gatanas was giving a urine sample as part of his drug court obligation. Drug court allows participants to avoid jail, but it has stringent requirements, including routine drug testing.

Had Gatanas tested positive for drugs in his urine, he would have violated probation, but he wouldn’t necessarily have been kicked out of drug court.

While waiting for Superior Court Judge John Harper to send him to jail for the drug court violation, Gatanas bolted from the courtroom.

“You fled the courtroom, right?” O’Connell asked yesterday, and Gatanas said yes.

Gatanas also was charged with aggravated assault for nearly striking an officer with his car trying to get away, but that charge will be dismissed under the plea deal, O’Connell said.

Gatanas entered drug court in August 2002 instead of having to serve a three-year prison term for a shoplifting conviction, authorities said.

Gatanas was the first participant in Morris County Drug Court caught using the Whizzinator. Harper said Gatanas’ failure in drug court was “a real disappointment” but urged him to get treatment.

“I just don’t want to see you continue to throw your life away,” Harper said. The judge will sentence Gatanas March 4.

Gatanas will have to serve at least two years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole under his plea deal. He has been behind bars more than 13 months.

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