CLIFTON PARK – A Niskayuna Town board member appeared in court on Thursday — two days after his re-election bid — for an alleged offense of driving while intoxicated that occurred in late September.
John Della Ratta appeared in Town Court with his lawyer, Patrick Campion of the Albany firm Gerstenzang, Sills, Cohn & Gerstenzang.
The case was pushed back to Dec. 16.
Campion, a former prosecutor of DWI cases in Saratoga County, said neither he nor his client will comment until the case is resolved.
Della Ratta had appeared in the same court in his job as a lawyer. He works part time, 28 hours per week, for the Schenectady County Public Defender’s Office.
He is waiting to learn whether his current lead for a seat on the Niskayuna Town Board will stand after absentee ballots are counted.
According to police documents, Della Ratta was headed west on Route 146 when he allegedly changed lanes without signaling just after 7 p.m., Monday Sept. 27.
A Saratoga County sheriff’s deputy stopped him.
The deputy said he smelled alcohol emanating from the vehicle after Della Ratta rolled down his window.
When the deputy asked for Della Ratta’s driver’s license and registration, Della Ratta at first pulled out his lawyer’s identification.
Della Ratta then handed the deputy his license and registration.
When the deputy told Della Ratta he smelled of alcohol, the lawyer allegedly said he only drinks non-alcoholic beer.
Della Ratta allegedly refused an on-site breath test, for which he was charged, along with charges of DWI, driving while ability impaired by alcohol and two traffic tickets – citations for the unsafe lane change and improper or no signal, both infractions.
Della Ratta allegedly registered a .06% blood-alcohol reading from a breath sample that was taken at 8:24 p.m.
Drivers in New York state with a blood-alcohol content of .08% or more may be charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. A lower charge of driving while ability impaired by alcohol, classified as an infraction, can be filed based on a blood alcohol content of .05% to .07%.
Della Ratta has since apologized for the arrest.
“There is no excuse for what happened; I must and will do better,” Della Ratta said in the statement subsequent to his arrest.
In a four-person race for two seats for his hometown’s board, Della Ratta held a 61-vote lead against fellow Democratic incumbent Denise Murphy McGraw after Tuesday’s election.
Della Ratta was in second place with 2,663 votes to McGraw’s third-place finish, with 2,601 votes.
But 252 absentee ballots are outstanding – 284 of 536 of those ballots had been returned earlier this week, according to the Schenectady County Board of Elections.
Absentee ballots will be counted on Nov. 15 and the election results will be certified by Nov. 27.
Della Ratta was first elected to the Niskayuna Town Board in 2013. He is seeking a third term.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.