Verdict in Saddle Rock assault case on mayor

Sasha Masri, 32, has been charged with assault

Sasha Masri, 32, has been charged with assault and possession of a dangerous weapon and has been prohibited from having any contact with Mayor Dan Levy, police said. (Oct. 3, 2012) (Credit: NCPD)

A Saddle Rock man on trial in an assault on the village mayor was found not guilty of four charges Tuesday, but was convicted on a lesser charge tacked on at the eleventh hour.

Meanwhile, the mayor now faces an investigation into allegations of financial wrongdoing by him that emerged during the trial.

Sasha Masri was found guilty of attempted assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor, by acting Supreme Court Justice Philip Grella in a bench trial in Mineola. That charge was added Tuesday at the request of prosecutor Christine Geier.

Grella found Masri not guilty of the four original charges he faced, including the most serious, felony assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon. For that he would have faced up to 7 years in prison.

Masri now could get a maximum 90 days in jail and a year of probation when he is sentenced in August. He left court without comment Tuesday.

Masri faced a felony charge based on Levy's contention that Masri hit him while holding keys in his hand. Masri's attorney, Bob McDonald of Mineola, said Masri slapped Levy but the impact didn't injure him, contrary to the prosecution's arguments.

"I think the judge's verdict speaks for itself," McDonald said. "Those charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

Levy's attorney, Elizabeth Kase of Garden City, called Masri a "criminal" and said she was disappointed that the most serious charge didn't stick.

"We respect Judge Grella's decision, but we had hoped the severity of the crime and the seriousness of the mayor's injuries would have resulted in a felony conviction," Kase said. Levy was left with a broken shoulder and head cut after the incident.

The judge also amended an order of protection Levy had against Masri, changing it from a stay-away order to one prohibiting harassment. The change will allow Masri to resume attending village meetings.

The verdict followed closing arguments in a trial that has focused nearly as much on alleged financial wrongdoings by Levy as the assault itself.

According to testimony by witnesses for the defense and prosecution, Levy had been causing village checks to be written to a third-party corporation, then endorsing and cashing them himself.

The defense centered on the idea that Levy wanted to stop Masri from asking questions about village financials and a recent audit after the Oct. 3, 2012, meeting, so he began ridiculing Masri as a way to deflect attention from Levy's own alleged wrongdoing. The assault occurred after Levy cursed Masri and Masri's mother, court testimony indicated.

A law enforcement source confirmed that Levy's actions are now under investigation.

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