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What’s cleaned up mean in Sal Cascino’s case?
by DIANE VALDEN
COPAKE—On April 25, convicted felon and perennial scofflaw, Salvatore Cascino will have spent 60 days in the Columbia County Jail.
The question is now: How and when will it be determined whether he has completed the tasks necessary for him to be sprung?
The answer is unclear.
When not in jail, Mr. Cascino, 76, lives in Larchmont, a village in the Town of Mamaroneck, Westchester County. He also owns a 300-acre property along the east side of Route 22 in Copake. He calls the place Copake Valley Farm and for nearly two decades, Mr. Cascino has been racking up violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating there.
During an appearance in Columbia County Supreme Court February 25 on a matter related to his lawyer, Mr. Cascino got some bad news from Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols.
Without any prior indication that he had arrived at a decision after two years, the judge ordered Mr. Cascino handcuffed and hauled off to jail for civil and criminal contempt of court.
The long-awaited ruling came in connection with two outstanding orders to show cause dated January 30 and March 29, 2013 brought by the Town of Copake, asking that Mr. Cascino be found in contempt of court for his failure to comply with numerous orders previously issued by the judge with regard to Mr. Cascino’s illegal activities in Copake.
The 29-page decision was a mixed bag of findings, favorable and not favorable to Copake. It covers multiple matters the Town of Copake set out to prove and have remedied during court hearings back in July, August and December 2013.
The bottom line is Judge Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of both criminal and civil contempt for his
“longstanding contumacious disregard of lawful mandates” and ordered him to spend at least 60 days in the Columbia County Jail, to rectify certain wrongs associated with structures and dumping on his property, to pay fines in the amount of $500 and reimburse Copake for legal fees expended in bringing suit against him.
The ruling indicates Mr. Cascino must remain in jail until the violations are resolved, which may exceed the consecutive periods of incarceration (30 days plus 30 days) ordered.
The tasks Judge Nichols ordered to be completed before Mr. Cascino can get out of jail are:
•To remove the hay barn (storage building) expansion construction which involved the placement of steel posts or columns in the ground alongside the storage building and the placement of 14- to 20-foot high I-beams in the ground
•To remove a five-foot high section of a 15-foot-high concrete retaining wall that Mr. Cascino illegally constructed without required permits
•To remove 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped unrecognizable and non-exempt material, constituting solid waste, from the premises.
Victor Meyers, the attorney representing Copake on matters involving Mr. Cascino, told The Columbia Paper this week that the question about how it will be determined if and when Mr.
Cascino has complied with the judge’s orders and can get out of jail remains “up in the air.”
Mr. Meyers said he made application to the court shortly after Mr. Cascino was jailed to define specifically what Mr. Cascino has to do to comply. While it appears the excess concrete wall and the steel beams have come down, the attorney said “the big issue is the material deposits.”
He said he has asked the court to “set up some guidelines” but is still waiting to hear what they are.
Mr. Meyer said he also filed a “notice of appeal” with regard to the judge’s ruling that the town failed to prove that Mr. Cascino had not removed 150,000 cubic yards of debris the court had ordered to be removed earlier and that the town failed to prove that Mr. Cascino did not submit a plan to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the removal of the illegally constructed steel bridge over the Noster Kill.
Copake Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer said this week he has not heard any news about the progress of Mr. Cascino’s compliance with the judge’s orders, but has seen some movement, the installation of a plastic barrier, possibly related to the “remediation” of the 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped debris.
The supervisor said he hopes someone will come up with a plan requiring proof, such as a bill of lading, verifying that the material has been moved and where it was taken.
Mr. Nayer also noted that the town still has two more orders to show cause filed by Attorney Meyers on Copake’s behalf in connection with illegal construction projects in 2014 that have not yet been scheduled for court hearings.
State DEC and Department of Transportation cases against Mr. Cascino being handled by the state Attorney General’s Office are still ongoing in State Supreme and Town courts.
Asked if he has heard how Mr. Cascino is faring in jail, Attorney Meyers said that Mr. Cascino is a
“well-respected” inmate and is “doing wonderful there.”
Mr. Cascino’s attorney Brian Gardner did not respond to an email request for comment on his client’s behalf.