HUDSON—Salvatore Cascino is back behind bars.
In Columbia County Supreme Court, Friday, August 26, Mr. Cascino once again failed to provide proof that he had complied with court orders.
But this time there was no reprieve.
In a matter of minutes Mr. Cascino was outfitted with a pair of shiny handcuffs and escorted off to the Columbia County Jail by Sheriff’s deputies.
Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols had slated an evidentiary hearing to give Mr. Cascino another chance to prove he had completed the court-ordered removal of 9,650 cubic yards of solid waste he had illegally dumped on his 300-acre property along the east side of Route 22 in Copake.
A convicted felon and serial scofflaw, Mr. Cascino, 76, of Larchmont in Westchester County, has spent the past 18 years racking up violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm.
In February, Judge Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of criminal and civil contempt and, in addition to rectifying certain unlawful actions associated with structures and dumping on his property, paying fines and reimbursing Copake for legal fees, the judge ordered him to spend at least 60 days in the Columbia County Jail.
That ruling came in connection with two outstanding orders to show cause from early 2013 brought by the Town of Copake based on his failure to comply with numerous orders previously issued by the court. After 69 days in jail Judge Nichols released Mr. Cascino May 4 on the condition that he continue to remove a total of 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste from the property. He was to prove to the judge that the removal was in progress during return court appearances June 30, July 19 and completed by August 8.
When Mr. Cascino returned to court August 8 for what was supposed to be the final of three follow-up court appearances in connection with the February criminal and civil contempt convictions, he arrived an hour late and did not produce the required dump tickets/receipts or affidavits/affirmations to provide documentation to support his claim that he had hauled away all the offending waste as ordered by the judge.
Added to the peculiar turn of events were statements made by Mr. Cascino’s own attorney that cast doubt on the validity of all the tickets/receipts Mr. Cascino had previously submitted to show he was making progress with the waste removal.
Representing Mr. Cascino at that appearance was attorney Nolan E. Shanahan, who was standing in for his usual attorney Brian Gardner, both men are with the Cole Schotz law firm in New York City.
Mr. Shanahan told the court he had contacted at least two of the facilities where Mr. Cascino claimed to have disposed of the solid waste and was told by the people in charge that the amounts of material and the disposal dates indicated on the tickets/receipts did not match up with company records and that the material was not dumped at that location.
“We could not in good conscience submit anything to the court” solely “based on an affidavit signed by Mr. Cascino. We could not discount what the other people had said,” Mr. Shanahan said during the August 8 appearance.
On August 26, Judge Nichols called on Mr. Gardner to demonstrate that his client had “purged his contempt.”
The judge noted that Mr. Cascino had dropped off some documents to a court clerk August 22, but that he (the judge) had not reviewed the documents nor had Mr. Cascino provided copies to Victor Meyers, the attorney representing the Town of Copake.
Mr. Gardner began by noting that he had not been in court with Mr. Cascino August 8 and that he still had a motion pending seeking to be relieved as Mr. Cascino’s attorney.
“That motion has not been granted,” said Judge Nichols.
Mr. Gardner then pointed out that Mr. Cascino’s potential new counsel was in the room.
The judge said that no notice of appearance had been filed by new counsel.
Several more times Mr. Gardner mentioned the new counsel and Judge Nichols continued to tell him this was no time for excuses, that he had already given Mr. Cascino an additional three weeks.
As Mr. Gardner persisted, the judge again noted a notice of appearance as required by CPL for the substitution of counsel had not been filed. “Today is the day for proof,” said Judge Nichols.
Mr. Gardner told the court that Mr. Cascino desires to switch attorneys and that he has had no communication with Mr. Cascino since his client’s last court appearance.
Still again Judge Nichols said, “I’m asking you politely to move forward with the proof.”
Mr. Gardner said “I am betwixt and between” and that Mr. Cascino would be better served by representing himself. The attorney said he could not call witnesses, submit documents, affidavits or motions due to “ethical constraints.”
Apparently having heard enough, Judge Nichols said that if Mr. Gardner was unable to go forward, would present no proof, and in light of revelations that previously submitted receipts were “I believe the term was bogus” he was lifting the suspension of Mr. Cascino’s incarceration and ordered him recommitted to the county jail.
The judge then adjourned the hearing. It was all over in about 15 minutes and Mr. Cascino remained stone-faced.
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