New York Cuffs & Collars – April 20th, 2012
Northern District highlights
How not to act in court
(St. Lawrence County)
On Feb. 15, ECO Jonathan Ryan was in the Town of Stockholm court at the request of the town justice. Ryan was there to ensure a defendant made an appearance to answer his unlawful disposal of solid waste ticket. The defendant had “forgotten” his first court date. Ryan had contacted this defendant at the request of the justice. The defendant gave Ryan a bit of attitude as he did not feel he should be required to answer his appearance ticket. Ryan encouraged the defendant to be in court.
The defendant did arrive at the court, almost on time. He did have to wait some time before the justice called him before the bench. Upon approaching the bench the justice inquired why the defendant had missed his first appearance date. The defendant replied that the court did not send him a “reminder” in the mail. The justice informed him that is why Ryan had contacted him and the justice was willing to “ensure” the defendant’s appearance with a warrant for his arrest. This shook the defendant a bit, but he again began to show the justice some attitude. Everyone in the courtroom, except the defendant, could see the justice was losing his patience with the defendant. The justice asked the defendant how he wished to plead. The Defendant said “not guilty.” The justice began to consult his calendar to set another date, but the defendant interrupted the justice with a list of dates he was “busy.”
The justice had reached the end of his patience.
“ECO Ryan, are you available for a trip to Canton tonight?,” the judge asked.
“Yes, your honor,” was Ryan’s reply.
The defendant seemed puzzled by this. Again, he was the only one in court who didn’t know this meant jail for him. The justice turned to the defendant, saying, “Since you can’t get here when you need to be, I am setting bail at $500. If you can’t post it, the sheriff’s department will see to it you are here when needed.’
The defendant’s jaw dropped almost to the floor. “Jail for garbage?,” he said. “Yes,” the justice replied. The defendant said he couldn’t pay the bail. “Can someone bring it?” the justice asked. The defendant replied, “I can call my mother.” The defendant was given until the close of court for his mom to bring his bail. She did arrive prior to the end of court, bailing out the defendant. He now has a little more incentive to appear when required.
Dumping into storm drain
In February, ECO McCormick received a phone call from a city of Binghamton employee who claimed he witnessed an individual dump two 5-gallon buckets of a white, pasty liquid into a storm drain. This drain ultimately empties into the Susquehanna River. McCormick responded to the site of the complaint and noticed a white-colored substance all over the storm drain. He also noticed a trail of the white substance leading from the storm drain and into a nearby house which was being renovated. McCormick spoke with the contractor who was working on the house and questioned him about the white substance that was dumped into the storm drain. The contractor admitted that he had dumped two 5-gallon buckets of plaster/plaster water into the storm drain and stated that he didn’t think that it was a big deal. McCormick had the contractor clean up the mess he left on the storm drain, the street, and the sidewalk. A consent order is pending to handle the water quality violation.
Commercial truck detail
During February, Region 9 ECO Chuck Lohr took part in two commercial vehicle checkpoints with the New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit. The details were located on Route 5 in the City of Lackawanna. Numerous commercial vehicles were checked for possible smoke, exhaust, and fluid leaks.
A total of three tickets were issued. Two were for fluids leaking onto the ground and one was for a commercial vehicle failing to obey a traffic control device. The three drivers were all scheduled to appear in the City of Lackawanna Court to answer to the charges.
Illegal deer leads to more charges
At sunset on Feb. 13, ECO Mark Colesante received a call from the Cayuga County 911 Center about a deer that was just shot out of season on River Road in the Town of Conquest. Colesante met ECO Scott Sincebaugh in Weedsport and then responded to the complainant’s residence. The complainant described where he had seen the deer go down in the field after being shot.
The ECOs headed off into the darkness to attempt to locate the illegal deer. They eventually located the injured deer lying in the snow near where the complainant said it would be. Knowing that the shooter may come back for the deer, the ECOs took cover in the hedgerow and waited patiently. After about 45 minutes, Sincebaugh saw the figure of a man with a long gun walking toward them. He walked through the hedgerow just 30 yards from the two ECOs. They waited until he was just about to the injured deer before they revealed their position and identified themselves. They ordered the man to put down his gun (a .22 caliber rifle) and they took him into custody. Even though he was standing over a freshly shot deer, the suspect initially denied shooting the deer. In fact, he claimed he was out coyote hunting. However, he eventually admitted to shooting the deer with a .270 caliber rifle just before dark. According to him, he was just trying to help feed his family.
After dispatching the deer, Colesante walked with the suspect back to his nearby residence and Sincebaugh met them there with the vehicle. Sincebaugh asked the man if he had ever been arrested before. He warily revealed that he was a convicted felon. The officers then asked to see his identification and the gun he used to shoot the deer. The suspect led them upstairs to an apartment above the garage. When the ECOs walked into the apartment, they smelled a strong smell of marijuana and noticed four guns leaning against the walls. All four guns – two rifles and two shotguns – were loaded. One of the rifles was the .270 the suspect had used to shoot the deer. Sincebaugh saw marijuana in plain sight on the kitchen counter and Colesante saw materials used for marijuana-growing operations. The suspect admitted to growing marijuana and allowed the ECOs to search the rest of the small apartment. There were a total of 13 marijuana plants (3 feet tall) growing in the apartment. One growing room had thousands of dollars in heating, lighting, and irrigation equipment.
The ECOs contacted the state police to assist with the case. When they arrived, the ECOs agreed to turn over the drug and weapon charges to them. They assisted the state police with the evidence collection, which consisted of the marijuana, the equipment used for the growing operation, and nine long guns. The suspect was transported to the state police barracks and initially charged with taking a deer during the closed season, hunting deer with a rimfire rifle, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, unlawful growing operation and unlawful possession of marijuana. The suspect was released and was set to appear in the Town of Conquest Court.
On March 3, ECO Keith Kelly was presented with the Wayne W. Jones Award for Excellence in Sportsman Education. This is the first time this award has been given and was presented to Kelly by Wayne himself at the Region 5 sportsman education workshop. The award recognizes active volunteers who have demonstrated and contributed to the advancement of sportsman education programs by enhancing students’ understanding of wildlife resources; creating awareness of responsibilities and instilling respect toward all aspects of hunting and the resources; and increasing the nonsporting public’s understanding and acceptance of hunting and trapping as beneficial recreation activities that help to properly manage wildlife. A few examples of the many things Kelly has done to deserve this award include his designation as Hamilton County coordinator for sportsman education. He established networking of local instructors and worked to end the illegal issuance of hunter safety certificates. He has been successful in the recruitment of many new instructors and increasing ECO participation. He has tripled the number of annual classes and advanced trapper education across the region. He has also assisted with the revision of the state’s trapper education manual and is currently assisting with trapper education training for DEC staff.
At about 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, ECO Thomas Wensley, while on patrol in the town of Cape Vincent, received a call from DEC central dispatch with a woman reporting a bear chasing a man and a dog in the town of Lorraine.
Wensley called the complainant while starting the near 40-mile trip. The complainant’s husband answered. He was the individual recently chased by the bear. He stated that he and his family were confined to their home while the small bear was waiting on his front porch. He advised that it had chased him and his Lab/Rottweiler mix into the house. He further stated that on the previous evening he found his beagle dead and mauled upon his return to the residence. At the time he did not know what caused it but now, obviously, believes the bear was responsible.
Wensley called his fellow officer, ECO Steven Bartoszewski, who was at home and off duty nearby. Bartoszewski responded and upon his arrival observed the bear hanging out on the front porch, unnaturally ignoring his human audience. His observations revealed that the bear had some porcupine quills in the face but was otherwise in general good health at this point in the winter season.
Wensley consulted with DEC Region 6 wildlife manager James Farquhar. The bear’s odd behavior chasing people and killing a dog tied up in the yard put the bear into the most serious category of problem bear and a threat to the public. Both the possibility of dangerous disease and the dangerous behavior made this bear unsuitable for relocation. The bear was euthanized and was being tested for the presence of rabies and other health issues that may have caused this irregular behavior. Another possible cause for the bear’s lack of fear of dogs and humans is that this bear may have been illegally held captive and released when he became a problem. That investigation will continue unless the postmortem exam indicates otherwise.
Southern District highlights
Scrap yard cited
Information from the city of Cohoes Police Department led Investigator Jesse Paluch on a lengthy investigation into a local scrap yard located on the shores of the Hudson River. After weeks of interviewing witnesses, Paluch developed valuable information into the ongoing practices at the facility. A covert video surveillance of the facility revealed multiple environmental violations involving many DEC program areas. The facility was located in an “Environmental Justice” area, which caused added concern that its actions were adversely affecting an already heavily impacted locale. At Paluch’s request, a multi-media inspection of the facility was conducted by program staff from DEC’s Spills, Solid Waste, Air and Water unit and members of the Region 4 Bureau of Environmental Crimes Unit. They documented during the inspection illegal disposal of solid waste, petroleum bulk storage, violations of a multi-sector stormwater permit, navigation law violations and multiple violations of the company’s air permit requirements that were negatively affecting the residents who live nearby. The matter was referred to the regional attorney and a settlement conference was held with the violators. After Paluch presented just a portion of the evidence against the company, the owners of the facility rapidly agreed to an administrative settlement. As a result, the company agreed to a civil penalty of $258,300 and to adhere to a schedule of compliance contained in the consent order.
Returnable beverage container enforcement detail
On Feb. 8, Lt. Martin Townley and ECOs Dawn Galvin, Nick Desotelle and Kris Shephard conducted an enforcement detail in response to complaints about the returnable beverage container law. Complaints had been filed advising that no store in Rockland County would accept the containers. The complaints listed several stores in particular, advising that each store told the complainant to take the returnable containers to Shop-Rite. The officers divided into two teams, with one officer in plain clothes on each team attempting to return the containers. In all, eight businesses were checked and the officers’ efforts to return bottles were refused at half of them. Four tickets were written for refusal to accept the containers as required by law. As an added effort, the officers ultimately identified themselves and informed the stores that did accept the containers that they had been inspected for compliance. The managers at each store were further educated and given the opportunity to ask questions related to the law.
The pet cemetery
In the beginning of February, ECO Alena Lawston received a complaint regarding mass burial of animal carcasses at a pet cemetery in Westhampton. The law states no person shall dispose of animal carcasses by mass burial. After conducting an interview with the chief operating officer, it was revealed that the cemetery had been relocating disinterred animal carcasses from one location to another for years. The chief operating officer also stated that the animal carcasses were originally buried in aluminum containers of various sizes and reburied in those containers in a mass grave. That final location of the mass grave is located in the Pine Barrens. The pet cemetery offers perpetual graves and graves that require an annual maintenance fee. According to the New York State General Business Law, if the pet owner fails to pay the annual maintenance fee, the pet cemetery may dis-inter the carcass and dispose of the remains. The pet cemetery was cited for illegal disposal of solid waste.
Dinner and jail
On Jan. 27, just prior to beginning his patrol at 10 p.m., ECO Ricky Wood overheard an Ulster County 911 call for possible deer jackers near the Sullivan County border. Wood arrived on Old Diamond Road in Ulster Heights and found a state trooper and two New York City DEP units with a vehicle and two occupants blocked in. While on the scene, the officers found the two subjects to be in possession of a loaded .22 magnum rifle in the vehicle, along with two spotlights and one recently killed deer.
While interviewing the subjects, it was determined that several shots were fired at deer from the vehicle. Additionally, a second recently killed deer was recovered in the area. After the subjects were taken into custody, Wood seized the firearm. Next to the firearm, Wood located a large manilla envelope which was filled with fliers advertising a venison dinner, at a cost of $70 a plate at a restaurant in the Bronx. The pair were taken to the town of Rochester Court for arraignment on the charges and committed to Ulster County Jail on $1,000 cash bail. They were rescheduled to appear in the town of Wawarsing court. While the DEP Units transported the subjects to jail, Wood and ECO Michael Buckley applied for and received a search warrant for one suspect’s summer residence in Briggs Highway, close to the area where the original two deer were taken that evening. Upon receipt of the warrant, Buckley and Wood responded to the residence and awaited the arrival of Investigator Cindy Harcher and Lt. Meg Filmer to execute the warrant. Lt. Bernie Rivers of Region 2 was contacted to coordinate an investigation of the restaurant in the Bronx. Upon the arrival of Harcher and Filmer, the search warrant was executed and two 8-point bucks and hind quarters and shoulders of five additional deer were located in a freezer in the residence. The venison was seized and transferred to Dutchess County Hunters Helping the Hungry. On Feb. 3, both subjects and their attorneys entered into a compromise of civil penalties for taking deer with the aid of an artificial light. Each subject was assessed a $4,000 penalty (total penalties inclusive of all charges) for a total of $8,000. The lights and gun were forfeited to the state and the venison was donated. Both subjects face a revocation of hunting privileges for up to five years.
Oyster Bay party pooper
During the month of February, ECO Joshua Sulkey met with the Smithtown Bay constable to go over some information that was given to him from a concerned citizen about shellfishing in the Nissequogue River. The complainant said that people were going in the river at night to collect oysters. Sulkey then began adjusting his patrols to work the river at low tide, especially the late evening and early morning tides. On Feb. 19 just after 5 p.m., Sulkey was patrolling on Riviera Drive in San Remo when he observed two individuals in the river wearing muck boots and carrying a bucket toward the riverbank. The two walked back toward the water to gather the rest of their belongings and when they returned to shore, Sulkey was there to greet them. They had three 50-pound onion sacks filled to the top with oysters and a 5-gallon bucket filled with oysters. They claimed they were not selling the oysters but gathering them for a party in Oyster Bay. They were each issued two summonses for failing to possess a shellfish permit and taking shellfish from uncertified waters. They were advised that if they were going to shellfish again, to do it in certified waters and stick to the recreational limits. The two had approximately 700 oysters on them that were put back into the river.
Motor carrier detail
On Feb. 24, ECO Matthew Krug participated in a commercial vehicle detail with the state Department of Transportation and the Suffolk County Police Department motor carrier unit. The detail started late and ended early due to inclement weather. However, Krug still issued eight tickets for a variety of environmental and transportation law violations related to unlawful emissions and safety violations.
State Of The State address
On Jan. 4, ECO Anthony Glorioso, Sgt. Keith Isles and ECO Ricky Wood were invited to attend the State of the State Address by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The three ECOs represented DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement for the hard work and effort that was done by all of the ECOs during Hurricane Irene. They were among many other police agencies, firefighters and other first responders honored for their response to the Hurricane Irene disaster.
ECO earns gold
ECO Jennifer Okonuk participated with 967 competitors in the New York State Empire State Winter Games during the first week February in Lake Placid. The Empire State Winter Games are a multi-day sports event for New York State residents of all ages pre- scholastic, scholastic, open or master competitors compete in the five-day event. In the past, the games only had short track speedskating; organizers have now brough back long track speedskating. Okonuk participated into two different events: short track and long track speed skating. A novice, she participated in the short track speedskating for her very first time. In long track speedskating, she earned a gold medal in the 1,000-meter event.