A businessman on trial for allegedly helping a friend dump tons of contaminated material at a Deer Park wetland was not involved in directing workers at the site, a machine operator who admitted to the dumping testified Friday in a Central Islip courtroom.
Leonard King testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman that he worked for Thomas Datre Jr. at the Masie property on Brook Avenue three to four days a week between March and April 2014 when the dumping occurred. He said “no one” told him to dump contaminated material into the protected wetland area at the Brook Avenue site. King said he did so because he was unaware of where the boundary began.
King, who was granted immunity from prosecution for his testimony, told the court that Datre was the “boss” who directed him to do the work there not Ronald Cianciulli, who is now on trial on felony charges.
King testified he has worked for Cianciulli since the end of summer 2014.
Datre pleaded guilty to four felonies on March 31 in the sixth week of a criminal trial. He admitted responsibility for dumping hazardous construction and demolition materials from sites in New York City at four Suffolk properties: in Deer Park; Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood; a private, one-acre lot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip; and a Village of Islandia lot where homes were being built for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in 2013.
Prosecutors said Cianciulli helped his “friend” Datre in finding a place to dump. Charges against Cianciulli include 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.
In the middle of Pitman’s examination of King, State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho ordered King out of the courtroom while Pitman argued that King should be impeached because in previous testimony King said it was both Cianciulli and Datre who told him to dump there.
“He’s changing it all to Tom Datre. He’s trying as hard as he can not to mention the defendant’s name,” Pitman said. “At the previous trial, it was Tom and Ron together ... Ron told him to put over the fence. Now, he will not point his finger at the defendant anymore. He’s completely changing the story.”
Camacho said a prosecutor could impeach their own witness only when the testimony “affirmatively damages” the prosecution. Camacho said in this case, it did not. Camacho said he could only use any impeachment as a way to assess the witness’ credibility.
“Certainly it would be better for you if he testified differently,” Camacho said to Pitman about King. “But I would simply be able to use it when evaluating this witness’ testimony whether I believe him or not. It doesn’t help you even if I allow it.”
Cianciulli’s attorney, John Carman of Garden City who has denied his client did anything wrong, asked King if Cianciulli had ever given him a cellphone number to call him with any questions about the work. King said no.
“Did Tom introduce Ron to you as his business partner?,” Carman asked. “No sir,” King replied.
“Did he tell you Ron is a business owner down the road who is helping me run this screening operation?,” Carman asked. “No,” King said.
Later, during questioning by Pitman, King said again said “nobody” told him to dump in the wetlands and took the blame himself, saying neither Cianciulli nor Datre told him where the wetlands started. “It was my mistake,” King said.
Pitman, finishing her examination of King, asked if he was “afraid” his testimony Friday would affect his job with Cianciulli.
“Not at all,” King replied.
King testified he has worked for Cianciulli’s company, Atlas Asphalt, since the end of summer 2014.