As his non-jury trial on a harassment charge was to begin Thursday in Gloversville City Court, local activist Robert Castiglione accepted a plea agreement that adjourns his case in contemplation of dismissal.
Under the agreement, the charge will be dismissed if there are no complaints against Castiglione in the next six months. A Johnstown woman who complained to police that Castiglione harassed her Dec. 9 while she was shopping at Price Chopper was given an order of protection Thursday that requires Castiglione to stay away from her through Sept. 20.
Castiglione, commenting after court, claimed he was forced to settle because he was faced with what he termed “overwhelming perjury” had the trial gone forward.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira said the woman was reluctant to testify and supported the agreement. Sira, responding to Castiglione’s claim of perjury, noted that the woman had a witness who was also scheduled to testify.
Castiglione made a similar complaint of perjury when he was convicted in a 2006 non-jury trial of leaving the scene of an accident that occurred in 2005 while he was monitoring a city garbage collection crew. A crew member said Castiglione ran over his foot.
After the disposition of his case Thursday, Castiglione immediately complained to acting City Court Judge Frederick Stortecky that the victim could effectively deprive him of his right to attend Common Council meetings by attending them herself. He pointed out the woman is a friend of Mayor Tim Hughes, a frequent target of Castiglione’s criticism.
Stortecky advised Castiglione to vacate the meeting if such a situation arises.
Stortecky rejected a motion from Castiglione to dismiss the charge. Castiglione, representing himself, argued that situation at Price Chopper — where he said he was “courteous and polite” — did not constitute harassment as defined in the statute. The statute defines a course of conduct and not one incident, Castiglione said.
After his arrest in December, Castiglione said the harassment charge was retaliation for accusations he made against Hughes in a private meeting the week before. Hughes has dismissed that theory.
The police report from the harassment incident alleges Castiglione, an amputee who was driving a motorized scooter at Price Chopper, “cornered” the woman, who said she became “alarmed and annoyed.”
During the conversation the woman said she attempted to leave and Castiglione continued to block her path.
The woman told police Castiglione had been approaching her at her job at a local convenience store and was observed driving by her house.
In her statement to police, the woman said: “I was walking down by the hot food section … I heard someone ask me why I was limping and I responded by saying arthritis. I looked up and I saw Castiglione in his motorized scooter [and] he pulled right up beside me and told me I needed to talk to him.”
She said Castiglione made an accusation about Hughes and she said she made an attempt to get past him.
“He said that he had been working very closely with [former councilwoman] Shirley Savage and they know there has been crooked and illegal goings on at City Hall, DPW and the Police Department … he said I knew things and I had to sit down with him and Miss Savage and tell them everything I knew.”
The woman said Castiglione moved the cart to block her path and when she said she asked him “why he keeps harassing me … he just snickered at me.”
Castiglione was in a similar predicament in 1997 as a result of a supermarket encounter in Bennington, Vt. He was charged there with one count of misdemeanor stalking for making repeated attempts to talk to a woman. After a jury trial in March of 1998, he was convicted on the charge and sentenced to nine months in jail.
Castiglione has admitted his experience in Bennington was similar to this arrest in Gloversville. He claimed Bennington police targeted him after he met with the chief of police and mayor in that city and criticized their operations.
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Schenectady County