HUDSON—Salvatore Cascino “has no one to blame for his predicament except himself.”
That’s what Attorney Victor Meyers told Judge Jonathan Nichols during his closing statements in Columbia County Supreme Court, Wednesday, November 8.
Mr. Cascino’s predicament is that his lawyer says he cannot figure out how to prove to the judge that his client has “purged his contempt” by removing 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste from his property as ordered by the court in February 2016. Consequently, Mr. Cascino has been locked up in the Columbia County Jail for 509 days since February 25, 2016, the last 440 of those days have been consecutive.
Attorney Meyers represents the Town of Copake in ongoing contempt proceedings against Mr. Cascino, 77, of Larchmont in Westchester County, a convicted felon who has spent the past 19 years amassing violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm along the east side of Route 22.
Mr. Cascino and his latest attorney, Greg Lubow, were back in court Wednesday for a periodic review of Mr. Cascino’s contempt and commitment by Judge Nichols.
Since Mr. Cascino last appeared in court August 23, Mr. Lubow told the court that his client’s employees have removed an additional nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material from the property, making the total nearly 10,000 cubic yards, which exceeds the 9,650 cubic yards he was ordered to remove.
Mr. Lubow focused on a photograph submitted into evidence in the contempt case back in 2013. The photo shows one of Mr. Cascino’s tractor trailer trucks dumping a load of solid waste in a cornfield near a big tree on the property. Though the piles of dumped debris were subsequently spread out across the property with a bulldozer and plowed and harrowed into the soil over the years since they were dumped, Mr. Lubow contended that it has all since been removed.
He put Jose Aguilera, a farm employee for more than 20 years, on the stand to testify once again that he scraped the surface of the 30-acre field off at a depth of about one foot, piled up all the material, then loaded it in trucks and hauled it away.
Attorney Meyers did not contest this claim, nor the amount of material removed. The bone of contention remained whether there is proof that whatever was removed was the offending material and where was the proof that it had been deposited at a facility licensed to accept such contaminated material.
Judge Nichols also focused on these questions and told Mr. Lubow it was Mr. Cascino’s burden to present “clear and convincing proof” that the contempt had been purged.
The piles of material, characterized as “unrecognizable and non-exempt” debris, “were altered by your client’s conduct. You have presented no evidence that it has been removed,” Judge Nichols told Mr. Lubow.
“There’s nothing else I can do. The fact the we plowed it under doesn’t make a difference. You’re asking us to remove the entire farm,” said Mr. Lubow, adding “I’ve been in practice for 40 years, I’m at a loss for what to do next.”
Judge Nichols scheduled the matter for review again January 10 and ordered Mr. Cascino back to jail.
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