The trial for two of the men accused of illegally dumping debris in Islip will begin next month, a judge ruled Friday.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on Friday ordered a single-jury trial to begin Feb. 9 for the indictments against Thomas Datre Sr. and his son Thomas Datre Jr. and their respective corporations.
The father and son, along with Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling, Ronald Cianciulli of Atlas Asphalt, former Islip Town parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former secretary Brett A. Robinson, have been indicted for their alleged roles in dumping tens of thousands of tons of contaminated debris at four sites in and around Islip.
Camacho had considered using two juries — one for the Datres and one for Grabe — for a trial that would have been held in Riverhead, which would have been able to accommodate the size of the two juries and the defendants. The Datres’ trial, expected to last two months, will now be held in Camacho’s courtroom in Central Islip. The order and dates of the trials of Grabe, Cianciulli, Montuori and Robinson have yet to be determined.
Both Datres have been charged with criminal mischief; endangering public health, safety or the environment; and operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.
On Dec. 24, defense attorney Donna Aldea wrote on behalf of Thomas Datre Jr. that statements made by Grabe to law enforcement would render the defense for each defendant “contradictory and irreconcilable” and “reveal that the two defenses are mutually antagonistic.” She continued that “ordering two juries would not ameliorate the insurmountable prejudice Thomas Datre Jr. would sustain from a joint trial.”
Thomas Datre Jr. said that Grabe did not work for him on the project at Roberto Clemente Park, one of the dump sites, according to Aldea’s motion, but rather Grabe had autonomy as to who brought loads of fill to the park — and if he was unscrupulous, “it would have been outside Datre’s knowledge.”
Camacho said it would be very difficult to try and isolate one jury or the other from hearing specific testimony. “We’d be asking for trouble,” he said.
Grabe’s attorney, Alia F. Richards, did not return a call for comment. Prosecutors outside of court deferred comment to Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, who said, “The decision was not unexpected and we are ready for trial.”
Kevin Kearon, an attorney for Thomas Datre Jr., said, “We want the jury to be focused on the actions of what we did, not on what others may have done. And we welcome that scrutiny.”