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Sign of trouble: This political declaration on Charlie Smith’s lawn wasn’t popular with everyone.

Election Day Rumble

Political rivalry in North Greenbush nearly came to blows

 

J.R. Casale had finally, allegedly, had enough of Rensselaer County political gadfly Charlie (C.B.) Smith. According to Smith, Casale, a successful developer and purported political insider, verbally attacked him on Nov. 6, Election Day, in front of Smith’s home, with the full intention of getting his hands around his rival’s throat. And it all came about because of a lawn sign.

“There is absolutely no question that Casale intended to cause physical, bodily injury to me. I would not have called the police otherwise,” claimed Smith. It can be heard, Smith continued, on the 911 call he made from the cabin of his car: Casale attempting to force Smith’s car door open; menacing Smith’s nearby wife, cajoling, “What kind of man are you? You aren’t even going to protect your wife?”; and bellowing threats to Smith’s life that drew the attention of his neighbors.

“I felt a clear and present danger to my safety,” Smith said.

Casale, he said, was infuriated by a political lawn sign, which he allegedly took from Smith’s property. He was later pulled over by the police and charged with possession of stolen property.

The offending sign read: “Your Casale excavation team: Evers, Desso, Spain.” It was a reference to Smith’s long-held belief that the recent, successful candidates for two town board positions and town supervisor in North Greenbush aligned themselves intimately with strong developer interests in the town. Casale operates Casale Excavating, which holds a lucrative contract with the town to install the infrastructure for a large water district.

“I didn’t call the police because [Casale] stole a sign,” Smith said. “I called the police because he was threatening my life!”

“The police in North Greenbush have taken some of the smallest allegations I have ever seen and made them into big full-on investigations,” said attorney John Aretakis, who is representing Casale. Comparing the police of North Greenbush to Barney Fife, he said that they should never have taken Smith seriously.

Smith, Aretakis said, has “multiple screws loose.”

“He is an obnoxious antagonist,” he said. “He writes poison-pen letter after poison-pen letter. Everyone loves this country for its freedom of speech. But there is some speech that is so over the top.”

Smith’s sign was an example of such speech, he said. It was false, slanderous, and bad for business. After Casale asked in a nice way to remove the sign and Smith didn’t, Casale was within in his rights to remove the sign, Aretakis said.

Casale, he said, was just standing up for himself.

“Then comes along Barney Fife,” Aretakis said.

“Mr. Aretakis is certainly entitled to his opinion,” said North Greenbush Police Chief. Rocco M. Fragomeni. “We took Smith’s complaint to the judge, who saw fit to issue a warrant for Mr. Casale. We have no horse in this race.”

Four other charges have since been filed against Casale, Aretakis said. Two charges for harassment in the second degree, one charge trespass, and one of petty larceny. He will be arraigned Nov. 20.

—Chet Hardin

chardin@metroland.net


What a Week

Tipsy-Turvy

On Sunday, former U.S. Rep. John Sweeney was charged with DWI after swerving off of the Northway. Sweeney had twice the legal blood alcohol limit. Some sources familiar with the incident have said that Sweeney was accompanied by a 23-year-old woman, whom police will not identify. In 2001, Sweeney was involved in a car accident that left a portion of Washington County without power after he crashed into a utility pole. No charges were pressed, but his political opponents alleged that the fact he had been drinking before the incident had been covered up.

Cracked

79-year-old Charles Ritchie was charged this week with dealing crack out of his Selkirk home. Ritchie apparently dealt crack from his home 24 hours a day, even making deliveries by car. “He would drive up, make a drive-up delivery for you,” said Coeymans Police investigator Jerry DeLuca. “I don’t believe it’s something that he’s been doing for years and years and years, but it is something he did pick up as he got older.”

Feeling Persecuted

Judith Regan, the famous book publisher who recently was let go by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., filed a lawsuit against her former employer Tuesday, alleging that unnamed executives in the company urged her to mislead federal investigators about her relationship with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik—with whom she carried on an affair from 2001 to 2004—and launched a smear campaign to discredit her. This, she alleged, was an effort to protect Kerik’s close friend, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, though her lawsuit doesn’t elaborate or offer evidence for this claim. Kerik was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury on counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and making false charges.

Unjustified Homicide

The New York Times reported that federal investigators have found the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater Worldwide employees to have violated rules of deadly force. The shootings occurred Sept. 16 in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The report indicates that the U.S. investigation supports an earlier Iraqi government investigation that Blackwater security workers had lied when they said that they had fired into a crowd out of self-defense.



The Right Person for the Job

Local politicos want to ensure the search for Mike McNulty’s replacement is a thorough and open process

 

When U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty (D-21st District) announced he would not seek another term this October, he ensured that there would be a chance for the voters to determine his proper successor.

“It’s an enormously classy thing Mike did, giving all the potential candidates time to study it as far as family is concerned, getting support, and securing endorsements,” said state Assemblyman John McEneny (D-Albany). But McEneny, along with other local politicos, are concerned that McNulty’s gesture might be in vain if party politics and backroom deals decide the candidates.

McEneny said that he is interested in taking the job, but he is more interested making sure the perfect candidate is found. He said at this time not enough is known about the positions on national issues held by those whose names have been put forward—names like State Sen. Neil Breslin, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton. Furthermore, McEneny said, it is important that the candidates understand that the life of a congressperson is taxing thanks to rigorous travel schedules and unexpected expenses.

“Mike pays for travel out of his own pocket,” said McEneny. “Candidates need to understand that before they go ahead for it. The time constraints are incredible.”

McEneny said he thinks the ideal candidate has yet to emerge. “I think the thing has to work itself out,” he said. “This district deserves another workhorse like McNulty. He has said there are two categories of congresspeople in Washington, workhorses and showhorses. He chose to be a workhorse. His district is in the top 10 percent for federal aid in the nation.”

McEneny would like to see potential candidates getting their positions out to the public very strongly starting this January.

Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action, said that she wants to ensure that any possible candidate has the tenacity and will to take on the Iraq War in congress. “I hope the Democratic Party doesn’t make quick decisions. And I hope that progressive organizations will take the time to develop a set of questions and see how the candidates react to them in public and in a private interview process.”

“If we are looking at the top three qualifications for a candidate,” said McEneny, “they are the war, the war, and the war. After that it’s national health insurance.”

McEneny said he does not see himself as the perfect candidate; he said he thinks it would be more appropriate for a younger person to take the job to ensure that he or she has time to reach the level of seniority in Congress that is necessary to effect change.

McEneny noted that in 2010 there will be a census, and the 21st District’s representative likely will have to fight to keep the district intact, as it may be losing ground in population compared to many districts around the country. “We need a strong person who understands the state of New York. Redistricting is done by the Assembly and the Senate; it will not be done by the federal government. So we need to have strong personality in there to keep the district alive; otherwise the district will get merged out.”

McEneny insisted that he has the prowess and pedigree to be a strong representative of the 21th District. He says he has international experience and a vast knowledge of his district, and has been on the right side of progressive issues like gay rights and the war in Iraq.

“I have the qualifications, but I am 64 years old. I know I could do good job,” said McEneny. “But the good lord gives us all a mandatory retirement plan.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net





Loose Ends

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