HUDSON—Once again Salvatore Cascino did not comply with court orders and yet again he was given another chance.
A convicted felon and serial scofflaw, Mr. Cascino was back in Columbia County Supreme Court Monday, August 8, before Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols. This was supposed to be the final of three follow-up court appearances in connection with Mr. Cascino’s latest criminal and civil contempt convictions dating from February 25.
Mr. Cascino, 76, of Larchmont in Westchester County, has been racking up violations of federal, state and town laws for the past 18 years for illegal dumping, building and excavating on his property along the east side of state Route 22.
In court Monday, Mr. Cascino had been directed to prove to the judge that he had completed the court-ordered removal of 9,650 cubic yards of solid waste he had illegally dumped on his 300-acre Copake property.
But not only did Mr. Cascino show up an hour late without the required documentation, his own attorney called into question the validity of previously submitted tickets/receipts that Mr. Cascino claimed showed he had been hauling away the offending waste as ordered.
In February Judge Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of criminal and civil contempt and, in addition to rectifying certain unlawful actions associated with structures and dumping on his property, paying fines and reimbursing Copake for legal fees, the judge ordered him to spend at least 60 days in the Columbia County Jail.
That ruling came in connection with two outstanding orders to show cause from early 2013 brought by the Town of Copake based on his failure to comply with numerous orders previously issued by the court. After 69 days in jail Judge Nichols released Mr. Cascino May 4 on the condition that he continue to remove a total of 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste from the property. He was to prove to the judge that the removal was in progress during return court appearances June 30, July 19 and completed by August 8.
Mr. Cascino was represented this week by Nolan E. Shanahan, a lawyer standing in for his usual attorney, Brian Gardner, both from the Cole Schotz law firm in New York City.
It was nearly 10 a.m. when Mr. Cascino arrived for the 9 a.m. court appearance. Judge Nichols asked for an apology on behalf of the Town of Copake, which the judge noted was paying attorney Victor Meyers to be there on time and to wait for Mr. Cascino. Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer and Town Councilman Stanley “Stosh” Gansowski were also present and waiting.
Mr. Shanahan explained that Mr. Cascino had misinterpreted information that Mr. Gardner had applied for an adjournment of the case until a later date to mean that he–Mr. Cascino–did not have to appear. The adjournment was never granted.
The judge then called on Mr. Cascino and his attorney to produce the affirmations or affidavits they were initially supposed to produce prior to the July 19 court appearance, then given another chance to produce by July 29. The affirmations were supposed to come from the drivers of the trucks hauling the solid waste and proprietors of the facilities where the loads were taken, verifying the hauling of the waste and the amounts received by the facilities on specific dates. Those documents were supposed to match up with the tickets/receipts Mr. Cascino had supplied to the court earlier.
Mr. Shanahan said neither he nor his client had the affidavits.
“Your client’s liberty is at issue,” said the judge.
Mr. Shanahan said after the July 19 court appearance he went to work on securing the affidavits, sending out notices to each of the providers by Federal Express.
When he did not hear back from them, Mr. Shanahan said he called them. At Bronx County Recycling, one of the facilities where Mr. Cascino said the waste was taken, Mr. Shanahan said he spoke to a “Mr. Eugene” who told him the loads indicated on the accompanying tickets “were not dumped at his location.”
The attorney said he also spoke to one of the proprietors at Recycle Depot, who identified herself as “the recordkeeper.” She said “the tickets given to her were not valid,” that dates and amounts did not coincide with her records. Mr. Shanahan also said the woman told him Mr. Cascino and her husband had some kind of “arrangement” whereby Mr. Cascino brought in a load of waste and removed a load of mulch in exchange.
Mr. Shanahan said the dump tickets that were supposed to “memorialize the dates and amounts” owed for each transaction were not in agreement and not accurate.
The attorney also reiterated that his firm has “filed for relief from representing Mr. Cascino” due to non-payment and a breakdown of communications.
“We could not in good conscience submit anything to the court” solely “based on an affidavit signed by Mr. Cascino. We could not discount what the other people had said,” Mr. Shanahan said.
The judge wanted to know if it was Mr. Cascino’s contention that he has met the criteria for the amount to be removed. The judge said according to his calculation based on previous dump tickets received as of July 19 that 1,830 cubic yards or 130 cubic yards per day remained to be removed. The judge wanted to know if there were additional tickets since then.
Mr. Shanahan said there were more tickets from Recycle Depot which appeared to be from the month of July. But he again expressed doubt about their validity. He said he is “treading a fine line” between Mr. Cascino’s assertions and what he learned from his conversations with the facility owners. He said that even with the new tickets, “I still think there could be a shortfall. There could be some double counting.”
Mr. Cascino said by way of clarification through his attorney that initial loads to Recycle Depot had not been weighed, but were dumped directly in the top soil pile.
Mr. Shanahan said the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had been to three of the locations where Mr. Cascino had been dumping his waste and the agency told them not to accept any more of his material.
Mr. Shanahan called for the judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing to which witnesses could be subpoenaed so the judge could have a complete record before deciding whether to put Mr. Cascino back in jail.
“Obviously there is a dispute. We have tried to get documentation but we have no control over third parties,” said Mr. Shanahan, noting it’s one thing to find a place to dump these materials and yet another to find people to sign an affidavit. “They don’t want to get involved in a court hearing.”
When the judge asked Mr. Meyers for his input, he said Judge Nichols “has been more than generous with opportunities for Mr. Cascino to purge his contempt.”
Pointing to Mr. Cascino’s attorney’s statements, Mr. Meyers said the dump tickets submitted by Mr. Cascino are “bogus.” He said he was “shocked but not surprised” that Mr. Cascino appears not to have delivered anything to the recycling facilities.
Mr. Meyers referred to a document that indicated large chunks of concrete were being dumped at one of the facilities and alleged that Mr. Cascino was disposing of pieces of the concrete wall he had been ordered to remove rather than the solid waste in question.
Mr. Meyer said Mr. Cascino’s actions show he is playing “games with the court” and called for him to be jailed, saying, there is “no other way to get this done other than to readmit him to jail until he shows compliance.”
Judge Nichols continued to weigh the option of an evidentiary hearing, noting “the town will have to spend more money. Why should it be anyone else’s problem but Mr. Cascino’s? This is not the result I expected.”
The judge then ordered the hearing for August 26 at 9 a.m. He said he wanted an update on whether the affidavits had been obtained or the subpoenas issued by August 22 so he would have an idea about what would happen on the 26th.
“I can’t stress enough that it is your client’s obligation to provide proof,” said the judge, adding that he had been trying to exercise tolerance balanced against getting proof of compliance.
“I can’t believe there is a question in anyone’s mind that I won’t incarcerate for not complying. Make no mistake that is a large and real possibility,” the judge said.
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