SCHENECTADY — The judge presiding over a hearing to determine if a pair of pit bulls that severely injured a three-year-old are dangerous will allow testimony from witnesses that may implicate the dogs’ owner.
City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said he aims to present a Child Protective Services worker for testimony once the hearing resumes on Thursday morning in City Court.
“If she’s not available, I would like more time to get her there,” Falotico said on Wednesday afternoon.
City Court Judge Robert Hoffman on Wednesday reversed his previous decision to disregard testimony from witnesses who interacted with the dogs’ owner, Salvatore DiNovo, in the aftermath of the May 31 incident.
Several first responders testified on Monday, but were barred from disclosing conversations they had with DiNovo in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
The reversal paves the way for their possible testimony.
Falotico originally planned on presenting the CPS worker on Monday, but declined to do so following repeated objections from Brendan Keller, DiNovo’s court-appointed attorney.
Hoffman cited further review of legal treatise for his reversal.
The toddler, who The Daily Gazette isn’t identifying, was attacked at a cookout at the Clayton Road home in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood she had been sharing with DiNovo, her father, grandmother and aunt, for the past six months.
The grandmother, Lynn DeCenzo, testified on Monday the two dogs, named Styles and Damon, grew excited when she and the girl emerged from the house carrying hot dogs.
Both dogs lunged for the girl, and the older of the two, Styles, dragged her by the leg 30 feet through the lawn before being subdued.
Falotico said on Monday he expected the CPS worker would testify that the defendant made comments to her that both dogs were involved in the attack.
The development comes as part of a hearing under the state’s Agriculture and Markets Law to determine if the dogs are dangerous.
If so, they could be euthanized.
DiNovo also faces eight misdemeanor charges in connection with the attack and is due in court on June 24.
Keller has contended DiNovo is not a defendant in the Ag & Markets hearing.
“The only issue is if these dogs are dangerous,” Keller said on Wednesday. “The owner is not even a necessary factor.”
Falotico filed a motion on Tuesday outlining his argument.
He wrote there can be "no question" that DiNovo's admissions to multiple people that both of his dogs attacked the victim in this case "would qualify as a admission by a party which is inconsistent with the party's position in the proceeding, if he is indeed a party to the proceeding."
The victim was discharged from Albany Medical Center on Friday and is staying with her father, Robert Pierce, at an undisclosed location, said DeCenzo.
Father under scrutiny
Pierce, 39, was on an errand to a nearby store at the time of the attack, according to DeCenzo's testimony.
He faces numerous felony charges unrelated to the incident.
Pierce was previously charged with second degree attempted assault, attempted strangulation and third degree criminal mischief in connection with a Jan. 3 attack on the child’s mother at a Colonie motel.
Pierce allegedly punched the 39-year-old victim in the face and submerged her in a bathtub while threatening to kill her, according to the Colonie Police Department.
Following his arrest, he damaged surveillance equipment at the Colonie lockup.
After his release, he failed to show up to a court date and a warrant was issued on Feb. 22. He was arrested at Albany Medical Center on June 5, two days before his daughter was released.
Pierce was transported back to Albany County and released on $15,000 cash bail and is scheduled to appear on July 1 before Judge Lynch in Albany County Court for pre-trial hearings.