After less than three months in office, Town Justice William Reynolds stands accused of firing three shotgun blasts at deer near his home in a residential neighborhood on Muriel Peterson Drive, then obstructing state police when they came to investigate Monday evening.
Reynolds, 56, was issued citations on misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration following the investigation. He is scheduled to appear in his own court March 26, but his arraignment will be moved to another jurisdiction because he’s the lone justice in the small town.
Investigators responded to Reynolds’ residence sometime Monday evening after receiving a report of gunfire. Reynolds was uncooperative upon their arrival, then attempted to resist when troopers tried to place him in their custody, according to state police.
State police spokesman Mark Cepiel said troopers are continuing their probe as a joint investigation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He said various people in the neighborhood were interviewed to determine the source of the shots, but he would disclose little else about the incident.
“Evidence was secured during this investigation,” he said Tuesday.
Troopers and DEC officers were spotted at Reynolds’ residence Tuesday afternoon. A rural residential neighborhood extends along Muriel Peterson Drive — a county road formerly known as Birchwood Drive that now terminates at the edge of Interstate 88.
Reynolds was allegedly found violating DEC laws, including shooting deer out of season and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. An official with the DEC could not say whether he’s been cited on either violation.
Attempts to contact Reynolds on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Town Supervisor Michael Joyce said he hasn’t spoken with Reynolds yet, but doesn’t think the incident will involve the Town Board. At this point, he said, Reynolds’ arrest is a private matter the justice will need to address himself.
“Officially, he’s innocent until proven guilty,” Joyce said. “It’s a private affair.”
Though the arrest also won’t prevent Reynolds from taking the bench during court’s normally scheduled session this evening, it will place him in an odd situation where he will likely need to recuse himself from any cases involving state police since the agency is now accusing him of three significant charges. The bulk of the caseload in Princetown Town Court involves traffic tickets and arrests made by state troopers, which could mean a large number of cases could get bumped to other jurisdictions if Reynolds chooses to recuse himself.
A spokesman with the state Office of Court Administration declined to comment about the case.
In November’s election, Reynolds, a self-employed lawyer and Republican, defeated Michelle Van Woeart, who had been town justice since 1997.
As an attorney, Reynolds was part of an unsuccessful lawsuit to prevent Schenectady County from renaming his street to honor Muriel Peterson, a longtime town supervisor. He also represents Norm Miller — Princetown’s deputy supervisor and town Republican Committee chairman — in a civil action that claims Van Woeart slandered Miller by publicly claiming he killed a man.
If convicted, Reynolds could face sanction from the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court. A conviction on a misdemeanor charge would result in penalties from the court if deemed a “serious crime,” according to state statute.
The statute includes a number of crimes, including interference with the administration of justice. A representative of the Appellate Division did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.