Cascino freed while higher court considers appeal

COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino is a free man.

Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols sent Mr. Cascino back to jail following a January 10 review of the ongoing contempt case. But the State Supreme Court, Appellate Division ordered Mr. Cascino “released from the custody of the Columbia County Sheriff pending determination” of the December 22, 2017 appeal of the order of Judge Nichols’ court.

Mr. Cascino, 78, of Larchmont, Westchester County is a convicted felon who has spent the past 20 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.

Salvatore Cascino/file photo

After 573 days in jail since February 25, 2016, the last 504 days consecutively, Mr. Cascino was sprung the afternoon of January 12, according to his attorney Greg Lubow, who has filed an appeal on the issue of whether Mr. Cascino and his two LLCs: 13 Lackawanna Properties and Copake Valley Farm, all listed as defendants, in a lawsuit brought by the Town of Copake, have complied with the judge’s order to remove the 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste as Judge Nichols ordered him to do (among other things) in a February 25, 2016 decision.

The defendants believe they have proven to the judge that the material is gone, but Judge Nichols does not agree. “The Appellate Division will review the evidence we presented to the court and decide if we have,” Mr. Lubow told The Columbia Paper by email this week.

Mr. Cascino will be out of jail till at least February 26, by which time Mr. Lubow must complete filing the appeal.

Thereafter, Copake will have a specified time period to reply, “then there likely will be oral arguments at the appeals court and finally a written decision by the court,” Mr. Lubow said in his email.

At the January 10 review court appearance, Mr. Lubow again put Jose Aguilera, an employee of Mr. Cascino for more than 20 years, on the stand to testify about his part in the removal of the offending material. Mr. Aguilera verbally described where the material was dumped and removed from and then marked the location on a map.

The solid waste was dumped in a wetland on the property, testified Mr. Aguilera and he said he worked with the guidance of the state Department of Environmental Conservation “to remove the dirt from these parts” in April and May 2016.

Victor Meyers, attorney for Copake in Cascino matters, pointed out that Mr. Aguilera’s testimony that day (January 10) about the location from which he removed the material differed from where he said he removed the material back on November 8, 2017.

In rebuttal, Mr. Meyers called Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer to the stand to testify about a video he recorded in the spring 2013.

The 10 to 15 minute video, which Mr. Nayer shot from Weed Mine Road, was shown on screen in the courtroom.

Two Copake Valley Farm trucks can be seen being loaded with material from the wetlands, moving it and dumping it on another part of the property a few hundred feet away when it was supposed to be removed from the property entirely.

Mr. Nayer said he was aware that Mr. Cascino was not supposed to be dumping materials on the farm, so he notified the building inspector/zoning enforcement officer and Mr. Meyers about it.

What did you do?” Mr. Lubow asked the supervisor.

I left it up to the building inspector/zoning enforcement officer to do his job and I notified [the town’s] attorney,” said Mr. Nayer.

The supervisor then described and marked on a map where the material was moved to and dumped.

Because Mr. Lubow could not finish presenting his case in the allotted time, Judge Nichols set a continuation date of Tuesday, February 13 at 9:30 a.m.

Mr. Lubow asked the judge to release Mr. Cascino from jail and impose conditions if he wanted until the next hearing date. Mr. Lubow said that even if Mr. Cascino wanted to do further excavation work on the property, he could not because the ground is frozen. “Keeping him in jail is punitive,” Mr. Lubow said.

Mr. Meyers opposed the request, noting Mr. Cascino has had two years to remove the material and dispose of it properly. He recapped correspondence from one of Mr. Cascino’s prior attorneys, noting that the offending material was supposed to be disposed of at a licensed facility; that Mr. Cascino’s own attorney had called dump receipts Mr. Cascino submitted as evidence as “bogus”; and that his former attorney could no longer continue to represent Mr. Cascino due to ethical considerations.

Judge Nichols denied the request to release Mr. Cascino, saying that “the situation was self-created by the defendant and incarceration is the only device to attain compliance.”

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