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Judge to try financial case against Datres first, before Islip dumping case

Thomas Datre Sr. and his wife, Clara, leave

Thomas Datre Sr. and his wife, Clara, leave court in Central Islip, on May 1, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

A financial case against three members of a politically connected family will go to trial in September, despite an argument from a defense attorney who asked that the Islip dumping case be tried first, according to a court official and records.

The law clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho told all parties on July 20 that the financial case against the Datres would be tried first, court spokesman Robert F. Quinlan said. The trial is set to begin Sept. 29. "The reason Judge Camacho made the decision he made was that it was a simpler case to try," he said.

Attorney Kevin Kearon of Garden City, who is representing Thomas Datre Jr., a defendant in both cases, argued in a seven-page letter that the environmental case should be tried first, calling it "a house of cards" that would collapse "upon the scrutiny of a public trial."

Prosecutors had indicated during a June 17 court appearance that they intended to try the financial case first.

Kearon also argued the jury pool for the financial case would be "influenced by the unresolved nature" of the allegations in the environmental case. "The only way to remove that taint is to try the environmental indictment first and demonstrate its spurious nature by acquittals across the board," he wrote in the July 8 letter.

Suffolk County prosecutors brought a 492-count indictment on Dec. 9 against Datre, his mother, Clara Datre, and his sister Gia Gatien on charges they padded invoices to the Town of Islip and denied their workers state-mandated prevailing wage. That indictment also charged Clara Datre's company, Daytree at Cortland Square, with grand larceny relating to a cleanup contract the company held with the town.

Clara Datre and her husband, Thomas Datre Sr., were longtime donors to Islip's Republican and Conservative parties.

On Dec. 8, Thomas Datre Sr., Thomas Datre Jr., Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling, former Islip Town parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former executive secretary Brett Robinson and Atlas Asphalt owner Ronald Cianciulli all were indicted in connection with a scheme to dump contaminated fill at a Brentwood park, a Central Islip lot, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and a state-protected wetlands area in Deer Park.

Four Datre family companies -- 5 Brothers Farming Corp., Daytree at Cortland Square, DFF Farm Corp. and Datre Family Farms Inc. -- also were included in that indictment.

All defendants in both cases have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have said the financial trial is expected to last three to four weeks. In a July 22 letter to Camacho, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman said the dumping trial would last about four months and would need to be moved to Riverhead to find a courtroom large enough for the two juries that trial will require.

"This trial order makes utmost sense in terms of judicial economy as well as in the protection of the speedy trial rights of not only Thomas Datre Jr., but the other defendants named in the financial wage and tax indictments," Pitman wrote.

Andrew Campanelli, who represents Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, said he doesn't have "any difficulty" with the order of the trials. "I believe that the district attorney's office knows full well the weakness of the environmental case, which is why they seek to pursue the financial case first," he said.

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