State Sen. Tom Croci, contrary to a statement made by his aides in September, has not filed a motion to unseal a court case in which a judicial evaluator criticized his involvement in his elderly aunt’s finances.
Croci’s spokeswoman Christine Geed and his chief of staff, Christopher Molluso, said during a Sept. 14 interview with Newsday that because Nassau County Judge Arthur Diamond had sealed the case, the senator was unable to discuss the matter. Geed and Molluso said that Croci (R-Sayville) had the day before filed a motion to unseal the case so that he could respond to questions. They urged Newsday not to publish a story revealing details of the case until Diamond could consider the request.
“Those that are involved are trying desperately to release the seal on this case so that they can communicate with you,” Geed told a reporter.
At the time Geed and Molluso spoke, however, no motion to unseal had been made. And none has been filed to date.
“Nothing has been received by Judge Diamond in regard to a motion to unseal,” said a Nassau courts spokesman early this month. Contacted Wednesday, the spokesman said nothing had changed.
Geed said Tuesday that she and Molluso had spoken in “error” with regard to Croci having filed a motion. She said that Croci had actually only been examining whether to file a motion to unseal at the time and that “he continues to investigate the process.”
Asked whether Croci would be filing a motion, Geed said, “That’s all I have. I have nothing else.”
Croci, who chairs the Senate’s Ethics Committee and its Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, won re-election this month. In brief comments to Newsday and News 12, he has denied wrongdoing in the case, saying he only wanted to protect his aunt and her assets.
The case at issue involved a 2013 attempt by Croci to have his aunt, Mill Neck heiress and philanthropist Adele Smithers, declared mentally incapacitated and to be named her property guardian, which would have given him broad authority over her finances. Newsday found the case while reviewing hundreds of instances in which Long Island judges sealed cases, often improperly.
In Croci’s case, Diamond’s sealing order failed to specify grounds supporting “good cause” to conceal the matter from the public, as required by the state law that governs guardianship cases.
Newsday obtained confidential records in the case and reported on Sept. 15 that a court-appointed evaluator had found that Adele Smithers was mentally fit and that Croci had “taken advantage” of her for his own benefit while serving as one of her financial trustees. The evaluator recommended that Croci not be given greater authority over his aunt’s finances, and Diamond appointed a private attorney as guardian in the case.
As part of an April 2013 settlement, Croci agreed to return property to Smithers, including title to a $450,000 Alexandria, Va., town house she had purchased for him in 2005. Croci also resigned his trusteeship, which he had held since 2011.