COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino has another conviction to add to his resume.
In Copake Town Court December 15, a jury of six men found Mr. Cascino and his two limited liability companies (LLCs) guilty of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, a misdemeanor under New York State Environmental Conservation Law.
A convicted felon and serial scofflaw, Mr. Cascino, 77, 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.
On April 6, 2015, Mr. Cascino was cited by state Department of Conservation (DEC) Lieutenant Kathleen Jacoby for knowingly and unlawfully disobeying the law which says, “…no person shall commence operation, including site preparation and construction, of a new solid waste management facility until such person has obtained a permit…”
The complaint against Mr. Cascino states that on that date in April “a tractor trailer containing yard waste was observed disposing of the yard waste on property south of Lackawanna Road” owned by Mr. Cascino and his LLCs, Copake Valley Farm and 13 Lackawanna Properties. “Additional yard waste was observed disposed of north of Lackawanna Road on the same parcel in piles and spread on top of the ground. NYSDEC records indicated no permit to operate a solid waste management facility authorizing disposal of yard waste had been issued to Salvatore Cascino at this location.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Trevor Flike and the trial was presided over by Town Justice Glenn Schermerhorn.
Jury selection took place Wednesday, December 14. ADA Flike presented evidence later that day and Thursday, December 15.
Lieutenant Jacoby testified to having followed a tractor trailer owned by Mr. Cascino from his Copake property to a Westchester facility where it picked up the yard waste. Also, she was later on the scene in Copake after the waste had been dumped, ADA Flike told The Columbia Paper by phone last week.
DEC Investigator Norman Channing saw and photographed about 25 cubic yards being dumped, part of a load from a tractor trailer containing about 100 cubic yards. The waste was made up of leaves and bags, Mr. Flike said.
Mr. Cascino’s defense team of attorneys Robert Trotta and Peter Stavropoulos of the Millerton Law Firm of Davis and Trotta called no witnesses.
Mr. Cascino’s defense to the charge was that “it wasn’t a crime, it was okay because it was yard waste,” said Mr. Flike.
A call by The Columbia Paper to Attorney Trotta for comment was not returned.
Summations from both sides were completed Thursday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. and the case went to the jury, which returned with a guilty verdict at 4:15 p.m.
The driver of the tractor trailer, Nick Maiorano, who worked for Mr. Cascino, was issued two tickets for the unlawful operation of a tractor trailer while license suspended (a violation with a fine of up to $900) and the illegal disposal of solid waste at an unauthorized location (a misdemeanor with a fine between $200 and $500). His case is still pending in Copake Court.
The court issued a statement December 19 saying, “It is the position of Copake Town Court to agree with the People’s request for a pre-sentencing investigation report before sentencing the defendant.”
Mr. Cascino will be sentenced February 27, 2017 at 1 p.m.
According to a DEC spokeman, “The penalty range is $3,750 – $37,500, and/or up to one year in jail. Plus, a 6% court surcharge will be added to the final penalty amount.”
The Columbia County Department of Probation’s report will also include “details of restitution the People shall seek,” according to a press release from Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka. In addition to saying he was “proud to announce” the conviction, the DA noted, “although Cascino had been in Columbia County Courts for years, this case, the investigation and prosecution, which was led by ADA Flike, is the first case over which the Columbia County District Attorney has had jurisdiction.”
To be present at his trial, Mr. Cascino had to be transported to court each day by Sheriff’s deputies from the Columbia County Jail, where he had been an inmate for 118 days as of December 22. Mr. Cascino landed in jail again August 26 after being ordered to return there by Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols after he failed to “purge his contempt” in two ongoing contempt cases brought by the Town of Copake.
In an August 8 court appearance Mr. Cascino’s attorney told the court he had contacted at least two of the facilities where Mr. Cascino claimed to have disposed of the solid waste as ordered by the court 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,” Cascino attorney Nolan Shanahan said at the August hearing.
Mr. Cascino spent an additional 69 days between February 25 and May 4 after 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 indicated Mr. Cascino must remain in jail until the violations are resolved.
Mr. Cascino and his newest attorney, Martin P. Bonventre of the Kindlon Law Firm in Albany, appeared in Columbia County Supreme Court November 1 after filing a motion seeking to show Judge Nichols that Mr. Cascino had purged his contempt and should be released from jail. But the documentation consisting of “dump tickets or receipts were riddled with inconsistencies” the judge said and sent Mr. Cascino back to jail.
In other Cascino matters, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state DEC still have pending cases against Mr. Cascino for illegal dumping in federal wetlands and failure to comply with prior remediation agreements. He also has state Department of Transportation violations for building within the state right-of-way without permits that have never been resolved.
To contact Diane Valden at