State Assembly candidate Dean Hart said Monday he’s the victim of a “corrupt legal system” and will risk contempt of court charges by releasing sealed court records in a bitter family dispute involving the care of his mother Beatrice Hart, who suffers from dementia.
A Newsday story Monday highlighted a 2013 decision by Nassau County Judge Angela Iannacci to seal a legal action by Dean Hart to have a guardian appointed for his 79-year-old mother. Among the accusations in the case were that Dean Hart had fleeced his mother of $4.5 million.
“I’ve never stolen a nickel from my mother or harmed her in any way,” Hart said at a news conference at a Democratic campaign office in Syosset. “I did not fleece my mother.”
Dean Hart, a Hicksville optometrist, blamed his sister Penny Hart, who had been estranged from his mother, for making false allegations against him.
The siblings have disagreed vehemently over their mother’s care and have accused each other of impairing their mother’s health and attempting to control her $5 million estate. Penny Hart declined to comment Monday about her brother’s allegations at his news conference.
Dean Hart said the sealing of his mother’s case and others harmed the public.
“Sealing the court records has more to do with covering up the mistakes of the court and the rewarding of their cronies than in protecting the privacy of the elderly and their families,” he said.
State court system spokesman Lucian Chalfen said Judge Angela Iannacci could not comment.
“This is all political,” Chalfen said. “And ethically she is prohibited from directly responding.”
Hart produced portions of a confidential report by a court-appointed evaluator in his mother’s case that he said supported his version of events.
The evaluator expressed concern that Beatrice Hart could “be easily manipulated.” The evaluator also suggested that if Dean Hart had done anything improper in the $4.5 million trust transaction, it would have been risky for him to seek appointment of an outside guardian who could examine his mother’s finances.
Explaining the heavily redacted report, Dean Hart said, “I wanted to blackout confusing things. I wanted to highlight the things that are important to me.”
Later in the day, Hart invited reporters to visit a Smithtown records storage facility, where he said the full text of the report could be found.
He said he would not file a motion asking the court to unseal the records.
“I’m not filing another thing with any court. This system is broken, from the executive to the legislative and to the judicial,” he said. Hart, a Democrat, is challenging Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) in November.