KINDERHOOK—The State Police have taken complete control of the investigation into the case of an assault on a man at the home of a Columbia County Sheriff’s deputy, the morning of July 5.
And Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka will be in charge of the prosecution.
In a phone interview this week, Mr. Czajka told The Columbia Paper that he has been consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office (AG) about the case for the past several weeks and that he will continue to do so.
The AG’s Office “will not assume control of the prosecution, although I did ask” them to, said the DA.
Asked what reason the AG’s Office gave for not taking the case on, Mr. Czajka said, “I have nothing to add.”
The DA said he requested that New York State Police assume total control over the investigation as the lead police agency and this week he was informed that police agency agreed.
Previously, the Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigative agency, with the State Police Special Investigative Unit assisting.
The County Route 21 residence where the beating of Harold Handy, a local mechanic, took place, belongs to Alex and Kelly (Briscoe) Rosenstrach.
Mr. Rosenstrach, the owner of Club Life Health and Fitness, 3143 U.S. Route 9, Valatie, was in the news recently for re-opening his gym in defiance of New York State Executive Orders on Covid-19 until it was shut down by officials.
Mrs. Rosenstrach has been employed as a sheriff’s deputy for about eight years. She has served on patrol and as a school resource officer in both the Chatham and New Lebanon Central School Districts.
Following a call to 911, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to assist the Valatie Rescue Squad at the Rosenstrach residence July 5 at 1:27 a.m. Deputies arrived on scene and found Mr. Handy had been the victim of an assault during a Fourth of July gathering at the Rosenstrach home.
Mr. Handy was seriously injured and taken by ambulance to Albany Medical Center.
‘It is not our practice to release evidence until an investigation results in charges and ultimately prosecution.’
District Attorney Paul Czajka
His relatives told TV news reporters, “He’s lucky to be alive” and was placed on a ventilator prior to his release from Albany Medical Center’s Trauma ICU, July 6. The family said Mr. Handy was the victim of a group beating early Sunday morning following a July 4 celebration.
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office personnel executed a search warrant at the Rosenstrach home the afternoon of July 7 seeking evidence in the case.
A Sheriff’s Office press release said the purpose of the search warrant was “to secure any evidence related to this assault investigation.”
Deputy Rosenstrach, who is pregnant, was off-duty at the time of the incident and has since then been put on administrative leave while the investigation continues.
Mr. Czajka said, because the incident occurred in Columbia County it is his responsibility to investigate.
Asked if there is further evidence that can be made public, Mr. Czajka said, “It is not our practice to release evidence until an investigation results in charges and ultimately prosecution.” It is still too early to say whether the case will be heard by a grand jury, he said.
In response to allegations that politics has played some role in the handling of the case, Mr. Czajka said, “Politics never has any influence with respect to any investigation or prosecution with which I am involved.”
He added that the length of time it may take to conclude an investigation should not be an issue.
“Some of the most serious cases I have prosecuted have taken the longest time to investigate. Time frame does not predict what will ultimately happen,” he said.
To contact Diane Valden email