Case involves alleged dumping at old polluted site in Clermont
HUDSON — Six out of the 10 test holes that the state Department of Environmental Conservation dug on the Route 9G property in Clermont where Salvatore Cascino is accused of illegal dumping contained things like tires, fiberglass insulation, vinyl siding, pipes, electrical wire, asphalt shingles, car parts, plastic tubing, scrap metal and other unprocessed debris.
That was the testimony of Richard Dana, a DEC crime scene investigator, the first witness put on the stand by the assistant state attorneys general prosecuting Mr. Cascino and his Bronx County Recycling, LLC, on two misdemeanor counts of violating state Environmental Conservation Law.
Mr. Cascino’s trial got underway at the Columbia County Courthouse Monday, December 6, with jury selection and resumed Wednesday, December 8 with opening statements from both sides.
Mr. Cascino, a resident of Larchmont, and his Bronx County waste-hauling business were criminally indicted April 12 on one count of operating an unpermitted landfill and one count of endangering the public health, safety or the environment. This case is separate from actions against Mr. Cascino for dumping on his Copake Valley Farm property in Copake, where he has been in conflict with local and state authorities for years.
The indictment in the case now being tried alleges that between December 31, 2007 and July 1, 2009 Mr. Cascino and his company “recklessly disposed of more than 70 cubic yards of solid waste and petroleum” at a site in Clermont on Route 9G, diagonally across from Firehouse Road. The site is now owned by William Cole, who bought it in 2005, but it is known locally as the former LaMunyan dump, where, in the 1980s, “large quantities” of construction and demolition (c+d) debris were “cocktailed with other hazardous substances,” and dumped there, according to Clermont Town Board meeting minutes for September 2005.
Just before the trial started Wednesday morning, the jury foreman reported to the Judge Jonathan Nichols that he had a bad cold and thought his presence would be a distraction to the trial. After checking with both defense attorneys Dennis Schlenker representing Mr. Cascino and Don Kinsella representing the Bronx County corporation, and Assistant Attorneys General James Woods and Catherine Leahy-Scott, the judge decided to excuse the juror and press the first alternate juror into service.
During his opening statements, Mr. Woods told jurors that the evidence would show that Mr. Cascino and his corporation knowingly dumped illegal materials at the site. According to Mr. Woods, Mr. Cole, the property owner, wanted to put some storage units on the site, but was told by DEC officials he could not place the units on the portion of the site where the former LaMunyan dump was located. So, after having the area where he could put the units delineated, Mr. Cole apparently enlisted Mr. Cascino and his company to bring in clean fill. What he got instead, was a bunch of materials that could not be legally dumped there, which the DEC dug up and which has led to this case against Mr. Cascino. The materials include hunks of bathroom tile flooring, carpeting, black and clear plastics, five-gallon pails, pipes, an automobile carburetor and bumper and an MTA metro card expiring at a future date.
When Mr. Woods mistakenly mentioned that the defense would attempt to prove some point in making its case, Mr. Schlenker immediately objected and called for a mistrial because the burden of proof lies strictly with the prosecution and the defense is not required to prove anything.
Judge Nichols denied Mr. Schlenker’s application for a mistrial, but instructed the jury to disregard what Mr. Woods had said.
When Mr. Schlenker delivered his opening statement, he made it clear that the Clermont property was far from pristine to begin with and was never cleaned up from its time as a dump. He suggested the materials excavated by the DEC could have been dumped there back in the LaMunyan dump days and not by his client. Mr. Schlenker urged jurors to consider the credibility of witnesses and remember that the prosecution must prove Mr. Cascino’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
As The Columbia Paper went to press Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Dana, who executed a search warrant on the Clermont property and collected evidence there, was testifying about the dimensions of the holes excavated by the DEC and describing the contents of each. The contents were also documented in enlarged photographs that were displayed to the jury and submitted as evidence.