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Special District Attorney appointed in Handy case


HUDSON—James P. Melita, Esq., has been designated to serve as Special District Attorney to represent the People of the State of New York in any further court action connected with the July 2020 beating of Harold Handy.

All charges of a 12-count indictment in the case, including the most serious, second degree gang assault, a class C felony, against Alex Rosenstrach, Bryan Haag, Cory Gaylord, and Kelly Rosenstrach were all dismissed—some by Columbia County Court Judge Richard Koweek in December 2021 and the remainder by State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Marcelle May 10.

Mr. Melita will handle the matter going forward with respect to any appeal of the dismissal of charges and/or any additional charges related to this incident in light of the recent recusal of Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka.

Mr. Handy of Kinderhook, a local mechanic, was beaten during a drunken brawl in the early morning hours of July 5, 2020 at a Fourth of July party at the home of Alex and Kelly Rosenstrach, 319 County Route 21 in Kinderhook. Mrs. Rosenstrach is a Columbia County Sheriff’s deputy and remains on administrative leave, according to a May 17 statement from the Sheriff’s Office.

Columbia 911 dispatched Sheriff’s deputies 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 was the victim of an assault. He was taken to Albany Medical Center by ambulance for treatment of head and eye injuries. He suffered a concussion and a fractured eye socket.

The four defendants, Mr. Rosenstrach, a gym owner; his wife Kelly; Bryan Haag, an IRS agent; and Cory Gaylord, a local contractor, were indicted on 12 counts related to their actions that night/morning by a grand jury in October 2020.

Subsequently, revelations about clandestine settlement negotiations for $650,000 between the attorneys for some or all of the defendants and the victim’s civil case attorney have come to light.

When DA Czajka found out about the negotiations in which payment of the money was contingent on “mak[ing] the criminal charges disappear” he immediately informed the court. And realizing he could become a witness in the case and wanting no part of the deal, Mr. Czajka called for a special prosecutor.

In his remarks during the May 10 court session, Judge Marcelle placed that problem, “squarely at the feet of the Handys. They wanted money. And I don’t blame them. They were entitled to it but they were looking for money not because of their injuries but because they used the criminal charges to say there’s a value in me dropping the criminal charges.” The judge said, “The word that comes to mind is extortion. It may be bribe solicitation, but it was absolutely wrong.”

Whether there will be criminal charges forthcoming against anyone involved is a matter under investigation by previously appointed Special Prosecutor Thomas Capezza.

The special district attorney, Mr. Melita, will be assigned to handle the appeal of the dismissed charges and prosecution of a new indictment if there is one.

Mr. Melita of Guilderland, has his own law practice in Albany, Melita Law.

To contact Diane Valden email

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