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Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 10 Mar 2014

-Judicial Retribution Against Mongielo After Jury Acquits Him?

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Jury BoxWe have been following the case of Lockport, New York business owner David Mongielo for over a year now, who faces a possible jail sentence allegedly for violating a town sign ordinance with a sign whose message changed too frequently. Mongielo was initially convicted of sign ordinance violations by a judge, but another judge overturned the second of two convictions on the basis that Mongielo had been denied his right to trial by jury. Even though that second conviction was overturned, the original judge used it as the basis for sentencing him to 10 days in jail for violating the terms of discharge from his original conviction which was not overturned.

That jail sentence was stayed just as Mongielo was to report to jail, pending Mongielo’s appeal. Now, however, that judge has threatened to lift the stay of that sentence due to a clerical error.

Mongielo acquitted in one case, could face jail in another

Friday was a good news-bad news day for David J. Mongielo.

A jury acquitted him of resisting arrest and other counts, except for a charge of using a cellphone while driving, in connection with a June 27 incident when he was injured by Lockport police who pulled him from his pickup truck at a traffic checkpoint.

But 3½ hours later, Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said he was inclined to lift a stay of a 10-day jail sentence imposed on Mongielo, owner of an auto repair shop, for violating the Town of Lockport’s law against flashing signs.

It is notable that this threat came just hours after Mongielo was acquitted by a jury of most charges in another matter, including all offenses that would have involved jail time:

The six-member jury found Mongielo not guilty of resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, harassment and a second cellphone violation. A charge of driving with an expired registration was dismissed during the trial.

City Judge William J. Watson, who presided over the four-day trial, imposed the maximum $150 fine and an $88 state surcharge on Mongielo for using a cellphone while driving, and ordered it paid by May 7. Mongielo could have gone to jail for a year if he had been convicted of resisting or obstructing.

And what is the ostensible reason the judge in the sign ordinance matter claims for considering lifting the stay?

But in the same courtroom later in the day, Murphy said he was “inclined to vacate the order” he had issued Jan. 22, blocking Mongielo’s 10-day jail sentence on the sign ordinance violation pending an appeal.

That’s because [Mongielo’s attorney] Housh sent his notice of appeal to the wrong place.

Housh said his assistant looked up the Town of Lockport online and sent the appeal notice to “Nancy Brooks, Clerk of Court.”

But Brooks isn’t the court clerk; she’s the town clerk. The letter was stamped received by Brooks Jan. 31, well within the 30-day appeal window, but last week Town Justice Leonard G. Tilney informed Murphy that Town Court never received the notice of appeal.

Town Court is located in a building next to Town Hall, where Brooks works. Mongielo said Brooks “knew where it had to go. Why did she purposely not walk it across the parking lot?”

What we are looking at is a judge threatening to lift a stay of a 10-day jail sentence for a sign ordinance violation that harmed nobody, not because of anything the defendant in this case did wrong, but because of an administrative error on the part of the defendant’s counsel. That means Mongielo is not going to jail for harming anyone, nor is he even going to jail for violating a law, but rather if the stay is lifted now, he will be going to jail for an administrative error he didn’t even commit. Some might wonder, given the timing of this threat, whether this is perhaps vindictive retribution out of personal malice rather than administration of justice?

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