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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

State Sen. Tom Croci’s sister defends him in mailing

State Sen. Tom Croci’s sister has sent out a campaign mailing written to counter potential fallout from a news story detailing a family legal battle over an aging aunt that could affect his re-election campaign.

Kristina Croci Inserillo’s letter, with the return address of the New York Republican State Committee, said she is writing to give a “full picture of what really happened around a local news story which sought to cast doubt on the integrity of my brother.”

The Newsday story detailed that a court appointed evaluator in 2013 found Croci had “taken advantage” of his aunt, Mill Neck heiress and philanthropist Adele Smithers, 83. A court settlement rejected his bid to control her assets and forced him to resign as his aunt’s financial trustee and sign over title to a $450,000 Virginia town house.

Inserillo said the story only used “partial pieces of court filings,” and painted “a false picture that Tom might somehow harm our beloved aunt. Nothing could be further from the truth.” She said her aunt was close to her brother and asked for his help. She said Smithers’ son Christopher “in the past lived a very troubled life” with charges of assault, grand theft and multiple domestic violence police actions.

When her aunt became ill, Inserillo said her son sought “to take over all aspects of her life” and shut out her brother and others who tried to help. “I could not in good conscience allow my brother’s name to be tarnished without a response,” she said.

Christopher Smithers called the letter “malicious, false and leally actionable” because it tries to “portray me in a false light suggesting I am sort of criminal when I have never been convicted of a crime.” Smithers, who in court records acknowledged having alcohol abuse problems, but who said he has been in recovery since 2012, said Croci was “soundly beaten in court” and that sealed court records should be made public.

Croci (R-Sayville) declined to comment. Christine Geed, his spokeswomen, said the senator was unaware of the letter and had nothing to do with the mailing. State Republican officials did not return calls for comment.

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