DA's office moving forward with political harassment charge, but new judge needed first
A new judge will be requested to hear the case of Chris Charvella, a member of the Genesee County Democratic Committee charged with aggravated harassment, 2nd.
In Le Roy Town Court this afternoon, Judge Kermit Arrington readily agreed to recuse himself since Charvella had worked on his election campaign.
Likewise, Le Roy Town Judge Charles Dusen will also be asked to recuse himself because the complainant, Republican Jay Grasso, had worked on his campaign.
The recusals will be forwarded to county court Judge Robert Noonan who will appoint another judge.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell suggested that the case be moved to another town or county because of conflicts of interest in the politically sensitive matter. Charvella's attorney, E. Robert Fussell, opposed the idea and Arrington said there was no adequate basis to justify moving the case.
County Legislator Jay Grasso had Charvella arrested by State Troopers after Charvella made statements on his blog regarding some campaign sign shenanigans and he left a message on Grasso's home phone.
On his blog Charvella said, among other things, that he was going to stick a campaign sign up the arse of the first Republican he encountered at local GOP headquarters if another sign for Republican Senator Mike Ranzenhofer showed up on property he managed.
After a sign reportedly did show up at Charvella's house, with a message written on it that indicated it may have been left by Grasso.
That prompted a call from Charvella to Grasso's home phone.
"Hey, Jerome, it's Chris Charvella. Thanks for reading my blog," was the message Charvella left.
He then posted a blog item that concluded with a picture of an Ewok and the message, "prepare your anus."
In a statement to The Batavian on Friday, Charvella said he didn't believe he did anything illegal.
Before Arrington spoke, Fussell had a brief conversation with Finnell. Fussell asked if the DA's office had received his faxed letter, seeking dismissal of the case because it is a First Amendment issue.
Finnell acknowledged reading the letter, but said "This is not a First Amendment case. ...By calling the house and referencing the blog, that was taken as a threat."
"You're kidding?" said Fussell.
"No, I'm serious," Finnell said flatly.
"I'm ready -- whatever," responded Fussell.
Moments later, an incredulous Fussell told Arrington "We live in a whole new universe than the one I grew up in."
Democrats Rose Mary Christian, who sits on the Batavia City Council, and Lorie Longhany, who chairs the County Democratic Committee, accompanied Charvella in court today.
"This is absolutely not a good use of taxpayer money," Christian said afterward. "There was no threat to Jay or Mrs. Grasso. You should hear some of the messages people have left on my phone. You wouldn't believe the stuff they say. 'You bitch, why did you do that?' I just call them back and say "Here's why."
Longhany said the case is pure politics, adding that Grasso is "trying to shut us up" and that Charvella will wind up paying a hefty legal bill for nothing.