COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino was sentenced June 8 to pay a $10,000 fine for his conviction of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, a class B misdemeanor under New York State Environmental Conservation Law.
It was nearly six-months ago, December 15, 2016, that Mr. Cascino was convicted on the charge by a six-man jury in Copake Town Court during a two-day trail presided over by Town Justice Glenn R. Schermerhorn.
Mr. Cascino, 77, of Larchmont in Westchester County, has spent the past 19 years racking up 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 in Copake.
Sentencing was supposed to get underway at 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning, but Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Robert Trotta of Millerton was not present. Justice Schermerhorn opened the court session, but then immediately called a recess to await Mr. Trotta and give Mr. Cascino “every right the law provides.”
Mr. Trotta finally showed up about a half an hour late saying he had the case on his calendar for 10 a.m.
When court was again in session, Mr. Trotta and Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Trevor Flike, who handled the prosecution, clashed over the appropriateness of Mr. Trotta’s motions since the trial.
Mr. Flike contended that Mr. Trotta had not followed proper court procedure nor had he submitted the motions in a timely fashion. Mr. Trotta criticized Mr. Flike for not formally submitting a response.
Justice Schermerhorn agreed with the prosecution, noting the court had “bent over backwards to try to accommodate the defense” in the months following the verdict. The judge found that one of the defense motions had not been filed in a timely manner and denied a second defense motion to vacate the jury’s verdict.
Mr. Flike asked the judge to sentence Mr. Cascino to the maximum 60 days in jail.
Mr. Trotta said his client had not been accused of crime but was “accused of some nefarious thing having to do with leaves… Organic farming? Recycling? That’s not a crime.”
The defense attorney called the trial “political,” questioning the necessity for the involvement of the county District Attorney’s Office and the State Attorney General.
All Mr. Cascino “has done is take down buildings, put up buildings, put in roads, change the grading, bring in ground up steel and concrete that came from ConEd, get the land level and build a lovely home because he had a dream and the wherewithal” to do it, said the attorney.
“Look at him, he’s wearing a zebra suit,” said Mr. Trotta referring to the Columbia County Jail inmate apparel Mr. Cascino wore. “Why pick on him? Because he’s Italian? Because someone’s scared of the mafia? The mob? Something else is going on,” he said.
In rendering his sentence, Justice Schermerhorn said that on or about April 6, 2015 shortly after 5 p.m. in Copake, a tractor trailer containing yard waste was observed disposing of that waste on property south of Lackawanna Road owned by Mr. Cascino. Additional yard waste was also seen being disposed of on the Cascino property north of Lackawanna and spread on top of the ground. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) records indicated no permit to operate a solid waste management facility which would authorize disposal of yard waste had been issued to Mr. Cascino for the dump site location.
The judge said a conviction of a violation of the law which involves the release of more than 10 cubic yards of solid waste into the environment, is punishable by a fine of not less than $3,750/day and no more than $37,500/day or by imprisonment for a term in accordance with the penal law or by both.
Justice Schermerhorn said he did not think imprisonment was an appropriate punishment for Mr. Cascino, who has been in the Columbia County Jail for nearly a year.
“A fine, however, may serve to remind the defendant to operate his business interests within the parameters set forth by codes, regulations and laws,” the judge said. He imposed a fine of $10,000 based on a one-day violation.
Following the sentencing, county correction officers returned Mr. Cascino to the jail where he has been incarcerated for a total 362 days (as of June 18) on criminal and civil contempt charges for failure to obey a court order directing him to remove 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste from his 300-acre Copake property. The court order came in connection with lawsuits brought by the Town of Copake.
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