Pascale found guilty of Harassment 2nd degree
Last week Plattekill Town Justice John Sisti found Marlborough Town Councilman Dr. Anthony Pascale guilty of the charge of Harassment 2nd degree – a violation.
The case of the People vs. Anthony Pascale concerned a shoving/shouting incident that occurred between Pascale and Building Inspector Thomas Corcoran at the Marlborough Town Hall on the morning of Jan. 13, 2012. The Ulster County district attorney assigned the case to the Plattekill Town Court, with Sisti hearing the case on Feb. 25, 2013.
In his decision and order, Sisti ruled that “the conduct of the defendant [Pascale] evidences behavior which meets the requisite elements of the offense charged.”
Under Penal Law 240.26, a person is guilty of Harassment in 2nd degree when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person:
(1) He or she strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or (2) He or she follows a person in or about a public place or places; or (3) He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose.
Sisti’s ruling laid out key portions of the testimony: the People, represented by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Jankowski, called witnesses Kristi Capra, Building Department employee; Catherine Wilklow, Highway Department employee, Thomas Corcoran, code enforcement officer and Colleen Corcoran, town clerk and wife of Thomas Corcoran. Sisti stated that although there were some differences in their testimonies, each was “consistent insofar as they all stated that a loud conversation ensued by and between Kristi Capra and Pascale and that, at some point, Thomas Corcoran became engaged in that conversation.”
Both Wilklow and Colleen Corcoran testified they heard loud voices and went to investigate, with Corcoran adding that she saw Pascale and Capra involved in a loud discussion and heard him swearing at her, followed soon after with Pascale yelling at her husband, who had come to the aid of his secretary, Capra. The argument then moved outside of Town Hall, with Pascale still yelling and swearing at Thomas Corcoran “and that the defendant, at one point, proceeded to push Mr. Corcoran back into the door [of Town Hall].” At this point three Marlborough Police officers arrived on the scene and separated the two men. The People then rested.
Mickey A. Steiman, Pascale’s defense attorney, began by asking for a dismissal of the charges “based upon the People failing to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Court reserved on this motion and Steiman called witnesses Sgt. Justin Pascale (a cousin of the defendant), Eric Affuso, Richard Ward Jr., Sandra Pascale, and Anthony Pascale.
Sgt. Pascale said when he arrived on the scene he put his arm around Anthony Pascale to console him, his wife Sandy was in their vehicle and two other officers were speaking with Corcoran.
Affuso testified that Corcoran called him, telling him of the incident and said he would not pursue charges if Pascale resigned from the Town Board.
Ward testified that Corcoran was once asked to leave a Marlborough High School football practice.
Sandy Pascale testified she remained in the vehicle when her husband went inside Town Hall to drop off some paperwork. She said she saw her husband and Corcoran exit Town Hall, with her husband in the lead. She saw her husband turn, appear to lose his balance and she heard yelling. She said she then saw Colleen Corcoran and Capra come out of Town Hall, heard shouts of “shut up” and “stop it.” Upon exiting her vehicle she came to her husband’s side, hearing Colleen Corcoran tell her to have her husband stop saying things about her husband, Tom Corcoran.
Anthony Pascale told his version of the events in question that were quite different from what witnesses testified to for the Prosecution. He testified he had a conversation with Capra; did not swear at her; commented that working with certain town employees was like herding cats and that upon leaving Town Hall Corcoran kept at him about issues surrounding his claim for repayment for his truck. Pascale stated that Corcoran shoved him in the process, an action that was surprising to Pascale and instilled fear in him. Pascale admitted that he used a finger to poke back at Corcoran and did curse at him in the process.
Sisti noted that he was faced with “two inconsistent sets of facts” concerning the events which resulted in the charge against Pascale. The judge reviewed all of the testimony and the exhibits in this case and pointed out that Pascale said he had never before seen behavior from Corcoran that construed bullying nor had the two had any previous arguments or confrontations –yet Pascale testified that upon turning around and facing Corcoran he proceeded to poke him in the chest and used profane language, calling Corcoran a “fat f**k,” a “gangster” and “a big fat bully.” Sisti highlighted portions of Pascale’s testimony where he admitted to using foul language but only outside of Town Hall and not in the presence of women. Sisti pointed out a contradiction, noting that Pascale said he did not use profane language in the presence of women, however his wife, Sandy, testified that she, Colleen Corcoran and Kristi Capra were within earshot.
Sisti said he ultimately gave greater weight to the witnesses called by the prosecution because they were consistent in their characterization of the disturbance and, by Pascale’s own admission; he did poke Corcoran and did use foul and abusive language during the incident.
All parties are to appear in Judge Sisti’s court on May 6, 2013 at 4 p.m. for further proceedings and sentencing.
When contacted, Pascale declined to comment on the case for this article upon the advice of counsel.
Tom Corcoran said the witnesses for the prosecution were consistent.
“I think a fair trial with multiple people telling the truth gives you no leeway or mistakes to be made; when five people tell the truth, that’s what you get,” he said.
Corcoran said Pascale’s attorney Mickey Steiman appeared to pursue a line of questioning aimed at diverting attention away from the thinness of his defense. Corcoran said this is why Steiman brought up his seeking reimbursement for his crashed truck, why he attacked his character and why he questioned Capra on her personal medical history; all areas not germane to the case at hand.
Corcoran said Pascale simply did not want to admit that he did anything wrong.
“I don’t go to work to be attacked by anybody, nonetheless by my elected official,” he said. “My elected official shouldn’t put his hands on me, shouldn’t attack my secretary, and shouldn’t put his hands on my wife; those things are unacceptable.”
Corcoran said Pascale should be removed from office – “Why shouldn’t it happen? Now they have a guilty verdict of harassment and that basically constitutes violence in the workplace, which is a violation of what we have in the town and I believe the Town Board should move forward.”
Supervisor Stephen Osborn pursued a legal opinion with town attorney David Wise on these questions.
In a written opinion to Osborn, Wise called Corcoran’s request to remove Pascale from office under the authority of Public Officer’s Law section 36 “misplaced.” Wise said this statute “specifically and solely, places authority for removal of a town officer with the [NYS] Supreme Court.” Wise stated that Osborn and the Town Board are “powerless” to remove Councilman Pascale, however he goes on to state that the board does have the right to apply to the higher court for removal “but you are not obligated to do so.”
Wise advised Osborn that it would be “highly unlikely” that the court would remove Pascale from office.
“Removal…is a drastic measure designed to address unscrupulous conduct or gross dereliction of duty or conduct that connotes a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority. Removal…is [warranted in instances] of self-dealing, corrupt activities, conflict of interest, moral turpitude, intentional wrongdoing or violation of public trust.” Wise pointed out that “in a vacuum the phrase intentional wrongdoing would include conduct that constitutes Harassment 2nd degree, but the phrase needs to be read in the context of the other forms of prohibited activity, all of which concern some greater violation in the context of the execution of a councilman’s official duties.”
Wise recommended that the board not pursue this course of action, affirming his belief that it would not be granted.
Wise also addressed the town’s Workplace Violence Prevention Policy, stating that under this policy the board has no authority to remove an elected official. He did state that once a complaint has been made the town is obligated to make an assessment “and impose reasonable corrective measures.” He said the town did so just after the incident happened by not allowing the principals to interact one-on-one.
Wise concluded that “the conviction [Harassment 2nd] does not require some reassessment of those measures, particularly when there has been peace in the household for more than one year.”
By MARK REYNOLDS