Attorney filings offer more detailed accounts in 2021 Saratoga Springs manslaughter case

James Garafalo (left) and Jordan Garafalo (right); Clancy's Tavern in August 2021 (Background) Credit: Saratoga Springs Police Department and file

James Garafalo (left) and Jordan Garafalo (right); Clancy's Tavern in August 2021 (Background) Credit: Saratoga Springs Police Department and file

BALLSTON SPA – Court filings in the case of two brothers accused in connection with the fight that led to a man’s death in downtown Saratoga Springs last summer shed more light on how prosecutors say the incident happened and what led to the charges filed.

Other documents also give the defense accounts of the incident, based on some of the same evidence and videos.

One of the brothers, James J. Garafalo, 28, of Saratoga Springs, pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree assault in connection to the incident and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in May.

The case against the other brother, Jordan Garafalo, remains pending. He faces the more serious charge of first-degree manslaughter in the death of 56-year-old Mark French outside Clancy’s Tavern Aug. 14, 2021.

Jordan Garafalo is set to stand trial in October. He contends his actions that night were only to defend himself and his brother, his attorney George LaMarche said.

In the case of James Garafalo, Assistant Saratoga County District Attorney Jennifer L. Buckley laid out the prosecution’s account of what happened, citing witnesses and even video of parts of the incident, portraying the brothers as intent on a fight and refusing to simply leave the area.

But attorneys for the brothers – including James J. Garafalo’s attorney prior to his guilty plea – portrayed the brothers as overpowered and outmatched and others as the aggressive ones, including the man who died, Mark French.

According to the prosecutor Buckley’s account, the incident began at about 10:30 p.m. that August 2021 evening at Clancy’s Tavern in Saratoga Springs.

The Garafalo brothers exchanged words with four people there and the brothers “are alleged to have uttered slurs towards these individuals,” Buckley wrote.

Clancy’s staff were notified of the brothers’ behavior at about 11:10 p.m. A bouncer and an owner of Clancy’s then approached the brothers and asked them to leave, Buckley wrote.

The owner put his hand on Jordan Garafalo’s arm and the two brothers “immediately started fighting” with the owner and bouncer, Buckley wrote.

The brothers were escorted into an alley between Clancy’s and Trotter’s. Others were also helping get the Garafalos out of the bar, including Nicholas French – Mark French’s son. James Garafalo would later be charged with three separate counts of assault related to three separate victims.

Witnesses indicated they had no interest in fighting with the Garafalos. They just wanted them out, Buckley wrote. Nicholas French was there with other friends and was friends of the owner. Mark French was also there.

The Garafalos continued fighting with the bouncer and owner in the alley, Buckley wrote. Mark French entered the alley and attempted to break up the situation and separate those involved.

The bouncer eventually got James Garafalo out of the alley and to the sidewalk. James Garafalo continued to engage with the bouncer. Eventually Nicholas French “stepped forward to move James Garafalo back by pushing on his shoulder after Garafalo pushed” the bouncer.

James Garafalo then “stepped forward and punched Nicholas French in the jaw,” Buckley wrote. “Nicholas French fell backwards and was caught by a Clancy’s employee before he hit the sidewalk.”

After his son was punched, Mark French stepped out of the alley and went toward James Garafalo, Buckley wrote. Mark French appeared to make a slapping motion at James Garafalo. James Garafalo then backed down Caroline Street “in what could be described as a boxer’s shuffle.” James Garafalo’s arms were moving “as if he was preparing to throw a punch.”

Buckley noted that the Garafalos later told police they had both been boxers when they were younger.

Mark French’s arms were down and to the side. It was unclear if James Garafalo threw a punch at Mark French then, Buckley wrote.

“While this is occurring, Jordan Garafalo comes from behind to the right side of Mark French, winds his arm and throws a punch from behind at Mark French,” Buckley wrote. “Mark French was struck in the head and immediately went down to the pavement. At no time did Mark French throw a punch.”

Mark French was taken unconscious to Saratoga Hospital, where he was declared brain dead hours later.

In a filing prior to his guilty plea, as James Garafalo continued to deny the charges, his attorney Peter Moschetti argued video evidence demonstrated “it was Mark French who aggressively pursued James Garafalo up Caroline Street.”

Regarding the punch that Jordan Garafalo allegedly threw that led to Mark French’s fall and death, Moschetti noted a pathologist indicated the way Mark French fell, not the punch, led to Mark French’s death. Moschetti could not be reached for comment Friday.

In his plea that came after Moschetti’s filing, James Garafalo admitted that in concert with his brother caused serious physical injury to French “who was punched in the head and fell to the ground where his head struck the pavement,” prosecutors said in a release then.

Jordan Garafalo’s attorney George LaMarche also argues in his case that the brothers were prevented from retreating. Mark French, according to the Jordan Garafalo defense account, at one point held James Garafalo “around the neck or chest.” Mark French is referred to in LaMarche’s filing by his initials, “M.F.,” and described as “a 335-pound former prison guard.”

The brothers were soon surrounded by 10 men and trapped against the alleyway wall and Jordan Garafalo “can be seen desperately attempting to extract his younger brother from M.F.’s grasp and move away from the growing mob.”

Mark French still repeatedly thrust James Garafalo against the wall, according to the Jordan Garafalo defense account.

A short time later, according the the Jordan Garafalo defense account, Mark French continued acting aggressively toward James Garafalo while James Garafalo backed away in a defensive stance.

“Despite the brothers’ efforts to retreat, M.F. continues to aggressively move towards James,” the Jordan Garafalo defense account reads. “It is alleged that at or about this moment Jordan punched M.F. once in the right side of the head, causing M.F. to fall to the ground. Jordan and James left the scene.”

LaMarche Friday reiterated that Jordan Garafalo denies the charges and argued Jordan Garafalo had no choice but to throw the punch as he said Mark French continued to advance on Jordan Garafalo’s brother. LaMarche called it a tragedy that Mark French died, but Jordan Garafalo was defending himself and his brother and Jordan Garafalo’s actions were justified.

Jordan Garafalo’s trial is set for October. He remains free on bail pending trial.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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