Candidate decries mailings in Nassau legislative race

Lisa Daniels, right, Democratic candidate for the County Lisa Daniels, right, Democratic candidate for the County Legislature in the 7th District denounces a mailing this week accusing her of responsibility for the death of a 2-year-old boy in a custody case, shown with the boy's mother, Casina Gooch, left. (Nov. 1, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Lisa Daniels, a Nassau County Democratic legislative candidate, on Friday denounced a mailing to voters accusing her of responsibility for the death of a 2-year-old boy she represented in a 2012 custody case.

Daniels, who is facing Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), was Charles Jonathan "C.J." Gooch's court-appointed attorney in a custody dispute between the child's parents, Casina Gooch and Carlyle Richards Jr.

In court proceedings last fall, Daniels advocated for C.J. to remain in the custody of his mother and for them to be allowed to live together in Georgia. Nassau Family Court Judge Ina Richards agreed and approved the arrangement in a decision in November 2012.

Three months later, C.J. died of a massive head injury after falling from a bunk bed ladder.

Bradley Ballard, a friend of Casina Gooch who was watching the child, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, cruelty to children and reckless conduct after he allegedly put C.J. to sleep after the accident, rather than calling for an ambulance.

Daniels said versions of the mailer were sent this week to "thousands" of voters in the 7th Legislative District, which includes the Five Towns, Island Park and North Woodmere. The sender is not identified.

"Lisa Daniels didn't do her job and failed to ensure that little C.J. was safe, had a home and someone who could provide for him," the mailing states. "If Lisa Daniels failed little C.J. Gooch, how can we trust her to work with us?"

At a news conference at county Democratic Party headquarters in Carle Place, Daniels called the mailing "defamatory and outrageous" and said it was meant to suppress voter turnout.

"The GOP in Nassau County and Howard Kopel's campaign have used the death of a toddler just for their own political gain," Daniels said.

Republicans said last week they would attack Daniels' work as a legal guardian, but Kopel denied involvement with the mailing. "I have not, and will not, exploit the death of a child for political purposes," he said in a statement.

Anthony Santino, spokesman for the Nassau Republican Committee, said he was "unaware of the mailing."

Gooch, who traveled from Marietta, Ga., for the news conference, defended Daniels. Gooch said the accident was "unforeseen" and that the mailing "smeared" C.J.'s memory.

"I don't understand why my son is being dragged through this," said Gooch, who works in customer service at an insurance company. "I just wish it would stop."

You also may be interested in: