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Judge: Plea talks fail, Ronald Cianciulli faces dumping trial

After plea talks broke down Wednesday, a judge

After plea talks broke down Wednesday, a judge set a May 25 trial date for Ronald Cianciulli, accused in a scheme to dump contaminated debris at a wetlands area near his Deer Park business. Credit: SCDA

A defense attorney rejected a plea deal Wednesday that included a criminal conviction for his client, a businessman accused in a scheme to dump tons of hazardous materials at a sensitive Deer Park wetlands area, said the judge on the case.

Instead, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho set a May 25 trial date for Ronald Cianciulli, of Brightwaters.

Cianciulli, the owner of Atlas Asphalt in Deer Park, was among six men indicted in December 2014 in what prosecutors have called a greed-fueled plan that left four sites across Suffolk County tainted by construction and demolition materials trucked in from New York City.

Cianciulli is charged with six counts: second-degree criminal mischief, two counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment, operating a solid waste management facility without a permit, and engaging in regulated activities within mapped freshwater wetlands without a permit.

His business is located on the same block as the wetlands area.

The setting of a trial date is the latest legal development related to the alleged dumping of contaminated debris at the wetlands site as well as a 1-acre lot in Central Islip, a six-home development for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families in Islandia, and Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

Islip Town filed a $4 million federal racketeering lawsuit April 29 against more than three dozen companies and people, including Cianciulli and the five others named in the 2014 indictment, alleging they conspired to dump nearly 40,000 tons of contaminated debris on the soccer field and recharge basin at the Brentwood park.

Cianciulli’s attorney, John Carman, who has denied any criminality on the part of his client, met with Suffolk prosecutors for about 30 minutes Wednesday in state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho’s chambers to negotiate a plea deal.

Afterward, Camacho returned to his Central Islip courtroom and said the talks had broken down.

The defendant “is not amenable to any disposition involving a criminal conviction . . . and the people are not prepared to offer any noncriminal disposition,” the judge said.

The judge set jury selection for May 18 and 19 and earmarked the start of the next week to hash out any pretrial issues, with opening statements on May 25.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Murray said outside court Wednesday that his team “didn’t even get that far” in plea negotiations as to offering detailed penalties to Carman on behalf of Cianciulli.

“There’s got to be a criminal disposition and Mr. Cianciulli is not interested in one so we have a trial date,” Murray said. “We hadn’t determined the parameters of any potential sentence, but if he’s not willing to own responsibility in a criminal context for his role at the property, then there’s nothing to talk about.”

In an email sent early Wednesday night, Carman said “the district attorney’s office is determined to pursue a baseless case. We have no choice but to insist on a trial to prove my client’s innocence.”

Camacho oversaw the first trial stemming from the indictment. That trial ended March 31 after six weeks when Thomas Datre Jr., on trial with his father, Thomas Datre Sr., pleaded guilty to multiple felonies in connection dumping at the four sites.

Christopher Grabe, of Islandia Recycling, who was not on trial but faced charges of dumping at Roberto Clemente Park and the Central Islip site, also pleaded guilty to multiple felonies. Datre Sr., charged with directing his son to the Islandia development where he oversaw construction, was spared a conviction because of his son’s admission guilty plea, prosecutors said at the time.

Cases against the others named in the indictment, Islip Town parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former secretary Brett A. Robinson will proceed after Cianciulli.

Murray said the prosecutor’s case against Cianciulli will take about two weeks, a “substantially shorter” amount of time in comparison to the Datres’ trial. Prosecutors are still hammering out their witness list, he said, in which “some of the same witnesses certainly will be back for round two.”

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