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Dumping case trial date set for ex-Islip officials

Joseph J. Montuori Jr., former Islip Town parks

Joseph J. Montuori Jr., former Islip Town parks commissioner, and Brett A. Robinson, former secretary to the parks commissioner, in court in Central Islip on June 23, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

A judge Thursday set a September trial date for two former Islip Town officials accused in a Suffolk dumping scheme that so far has led to the conviction of three of six defendants named in a 2014 indictment.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys for former Islip Town parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former secretary Brett A. Robinson met for a conference Thursday morning with state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in his Central Islip chambers.

After the meeting, Camacho returned to his bench and said both sides had yet to reach a plea deal — more than 18 months after the indictment — and ordered the start of jury selection for September, giving attorneys just one more conference date on Aug. 16 to reach a compromise.

“The parties are still trying to work toward a resolution of these cases and that may still happen,” Camacho said. “But as I indicated to the attorneys back there, I’m done waiting. I’m going to commit to making this the first trial after the summer.”

Jury selection will start in the first week of September if an agreement can’t be reached, the judge said. Both Montuori and Robinson are accused of helping Thomas Datre Jr., a hauler from a politically connected family, dump 40,000 tons of contaminated construction and demolition debris at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

Both defendants face a dozen criminal counts for their alleged roles in allowing the dumping including: five counts of third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment; two counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment; two counts of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit; two counts of official misconduct, and one count of sixth-degree conspiracy.

They are the final defendants named in the December 2014 indictment to face trial in connection with the dumping of contaminated materials between 2012 and 2014 at four sites in an around Islip Town.

Datre Jr., and Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling, pleaded guilty to several felonies on March 30 for their roles in dumping at the various sites. Charges against Thomas Datre Sr., a former politically connected fundraiser in the Town of Islip, were dropped when his son pleaded guilty.

Ronald Cianciulli, owner of Atlas Asphalt, was found guilty of two felonies and two misdemeanors on June 3 after a six-day-long bench trial by Camacho for helping Datre Jr. dump at a state-protected wetlands in Deer Park.

Prosecutors on the case, Montuori’s Patchogue attorney, John Halverson, and Robinson’s Central Islip lawyer, Patrick O’Connell, all declined outside court when asked to comment on the plea negotiations.

The dumping at the park occurred over a period of nearly a year beginning in spring 2013, prosecutors said, after a local church began a volunteer project to reconstruct dilapidated soccer fields so the congregation’s Sunday’s soccer league could play on a safe field. The park had long been neglected by the Town, church members have testified.

At the time of the indictments, Mark Murray, deputy chief of the Suffolk district attorney’s narcotics bureau on special assignment to the government corruption bureau, said Montuori and Robinson knew about the dumping at the park and did nothing to stop it.

Halverson has denied that Montuori allowed the dumping of improper material. O’Connell has said Robinson “fully cooperated” with the Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s investigation and “didn’t know anything about any hazardous material.”

Spota said at the time he believed the motivation for the two was to “assist and aid politically connected people.” Datre Sr. and his wife, Clara Datre, were prominent political donors in the Town of Islip before the dumping scandal, having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local political parties.

Both Montuori, who was forced to resign his post days after Spota announced his investigation, and Robinson, who was fired shortly after, are registered Conservative Party members.

Newsday has reported that Montuori met with Datre Jr. and Michael Torres, the Islip Town Conservative Party leader at the time, at a local Italian restaurant to discuss the happenings at the park prior to the January 2014 partial cleanup.

During the Datres’ trial, former Islip Town deputy supervisor Eric Hofmeister testified that several meetings were held between town officials in fall 2013 about the dumping at the park.

According to his testimony, at least one meeting in August was attended by Anthony Senft, the Islip Town Board’s sole Conservative Party member and the liaison to the parks department at the time of the dumping, where he tried to block a permit being issued for the project to rehabilitate the soccer fields. Senft was not criminally charged and now presides as a district court judge in Suffolk County.

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