Czajka names staff for DA’s office

Two members of predecessor’s team remains

HUDSON–Columbia County District Attorney-elect Paul Czajka has his staff lined up, ready for his return to that office, January 1.

This week Mr. Czajka announced the hiring of the following assistant district attorneys:

*David Costanzo, who has worked as an ADA for more than 10 years under DA Beth Cozzolino

*James Carlucci, a Kinderhook attorney, who was appointed and served as town justice, but lost the November election

*D.J. Cornelius, a Greene County public defender, who is moving to Columbia County

*Robert Gibson of Kinderhook, who has been an attorney in Columbia County for 10 years

*Carl G. Whitbeck, a longtime attorney with the Rapport Meyers law firm in Hudson

*Neal Conolly, who will concentrate on appeals as he has for the current DA for many years.

Lisa Bleau, who worked in Mr. Czajka’s office at the courthouse during his service as county judge for at least a decade, has accepted the position of confidential secretary to the new DA. Ms. Bleau was formerly the county clerk.

Mr. Czajka said he is excited to have these attorneys on board, all whom have prosecutorial experience and good reputations in the legal community.

Whether there will be additions to the staff depends on where things stand with respect to the budget, something the new DA will consult with the leadership about when he takes office, he said.

His immediate focus will be on organizing his office and figuring out where all the files for local courts are.

Another challenge the returning DA will face is dealing with the November 20 murder of Lois Decker, 73, a lifelong Hillsdale resident who was strangled to death in her Cold Water Street home.

Shafiqul Islam, 21, who allegedly stole Mrs. Decker’s car, crashed it, then stole a pick-up truck, which he was in at the time he was apprehended in Hudson, is being held without bail on a charge of third degree criminal possession of stolen property in connection with the case. Mr. Islam has not been charged with the theft of Mrs. Decker car or her murder.

Mr. Czajka said he cannot comment on the case until it is in his hands, though he said Sheriff David Harrison, Jr., and ADA Costanzo are on top of the case awaiting the results of scientific tests. Because Mr. Islam is being held without bail there is no rush to speed up the process, he said.

Mr. Czajka, 57, was first elected DA in 1987 and served in that post until 1994, when he was elected County Court judge. He resigned from the bench last spring in the middle of his second term to run for district attorney again, winning against Eugene Keeler, also a former DA.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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