Ronald Cianciulli was found guilty Friday of two felonies and two misdemeanors for aiding a friend in dumping tons of contaminated construction and demolition debris in a Deer Park wetland.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, who oversaw the six-day bench trial in Central Islip, acquitted Cianciulli, of Brightwaters, of the top charge of felony criminal mischief and a violation.
For each of the two felony convictions, Cianciulli faces from 1 1⁄3 to 4 years in prison. For each of the two misdemeanors, he faces up to 1 year.
Cianciulli, who operates the Deer Park-based Atlas Asphalt, sat still and silent while Camacho read his decision. Cianciulli’s family, including his wife and sons, who were present every day during the trial, quickly filed out of the courtroom after the verdict.
Cianciulli’s attorney said outside of court that he plans to appeal the ruling on multiple grounds, including “insufficiency of evidence.”
“Judge Camacho has a well-deserved reputation for his intelligence and fairness,” John Carman, Cianciulli’s Garden City attorney, said in a statement. “That said, his verdict today was a mistake and will not stand.”
The three prosecutors on the case — Michelle Pitman, Mark Murray and Robert Kerr — smiled and shook hands after the verdict was read.
Outside of court, Pitman said Camacho “reached a fair and just verdict.”
“I think the evidence showed that he was guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted,” Pitman said. “I don’t think anything is an open and shut case but I think we had overwhelming evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ronald Cianciulli acted in concert with Tom Datre Jr., without a doubt.”
The judge found Cianciulli guilty of third-degree endangering the public health, safety or the environment with dieldrin, an E-class felony; third-degree endangering the public health, safety or environment for recklessly engaging in conduct which caused the release to the environment of more than 2,000 pounds of any aggregate weight or volume of a hazardous substance, an E-class felony; fourth-degree endangering the public health, safety or the environment with asbestos, an A-class misdemeanor; and a charge of operating a solid-waste management facility without a permit, an A-class misdemeanor.
He was found not guilty of a felony count of second-degree criminal mischief, a D-class felony, and of a violation of engaging in regulated activities within mapped freshwater wetlands without a permit.
‘Profit over public safety’
Cianciulli is one of six people and four companies indicted in December 2014 for their alleged roles in what Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota described as a scheme to illegally dump tens of thousands of tons of contaminated debris at four sites in and around the Town of Islip — Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a private 1-acre lot in Central Islip, a six-home veterans subdivision in Islandia and a wetlands area in Deer Park.
During her closing argument on Thursday, Pitman said that Cianciulli “put profit over public safety” when he helped Thomas Datre Jr. find a spot to dump the materials.
Thomas Datre Jr. pleaded guilty to four felonies in March for dumping contaminated materials trucked in from construction sites in New York City to four Suffolk sites, including the Deer Park property, which has sensitive state-protected wetlands.
Carman, who did not put up any witnesses in his defense, said in his summation that the prosecutors’ case was “fundamentally flawed” and insisted numerous times his client had nothing to do with the dirt screening and dumping operation on Brook Avenue at three parcels known as the Masie property, owned by April Masie and her mother, Margaret, of Wantagh.
Judge points to phone call
Carman repeatedly put blame on Thomas Datre Jr. as well as Sharon Argenzio, a property manager at the site since 2011, who he said failed to stop 82 Datre trucks that drove in past the gates to dump the contaminated debris from March to April 2014.
Babylon attorney Gerard Glass, who represents the Masies, said in a phone interview that his clients are “elated to see justice has been served.”
“It was infuriating to the Masies to see the smoke screen raised by the defense attorney to somehow put the blame on their property manager when it was clearly a case of greed getting the best of someone,” Glass said.
Camacho said, “There is no doubt whatsoever that Ron Cianciulli importuned and intentionally aided Tom Datre Jr. with commencing and operating a solid waste management facility . . . and there is no doubt whatsoever that Ron Cianciulli was fully aware that Tom Datre was conducting that operation at that location.”
Camacho pointed to a controlled call placed by the Masie property manager at the request of detectives from July 2014.
“His own voice right on the tape,” Camacho said. “ ‘I tried to hook my friend up with a place to screen topsoil.’ ”
Camacho acquitted Cianciulli of the criminal mischief charge, he said, because “I don’t believe that Ron Cianciulli ever intended to damage the property of the Masies.”
Camacho set Cianciulli’s sentencing for Aug. 9.
The dumping scheme defendants
A Dec. 8, 2014, indictment accused six people and four companies of participating in a scheme that dumped contaminated construction and demolition debris at four locations — a Deer Park wetlands site, Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, 1625 Islip Ave., Central Islip, and Veterans Way in Islandia. Here is the status of the cases against each of the six men:
Thomas Datre Jr. Pleaded guilty to four felonies on March 30 for dumping at all four sites; sentencing deferred pending cleanups.
Christopher Grabe. Pleaded guilty to two felonies on March 30 for dumping at Clemente Park and Central Islip sites; sentencing deferred pending cleanups.
Thomas Datre Sr. Charges dropped.
Ronald Cianciulli. Found guilty in a bench trial Friday. Sentencing is set for Aug. 9.
Joseph J. Montuori Jr., former Islip Town Parks commissioner, and his former secretary, Brett A. Robinson. Both are scheduled to be in court for a hearing on June 23. Each is accused of allowing Thomas Datre Jr. and Grabe to dump 40,000 tons of contaminated debris at the park.