A special prosecutor has been assigned to determine whether charges should be pursued against a retired state trooper who shot a man’s dog last month after the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office asked to be removed from the case.
A second special prosecutor also has been assigned to handle an unrelated stabbing case because of McNamara’s political links to the young suspect’s step-father, Utica Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ford, according to court records.
On Monday, District Attorney Scott McNamara said it was no longer appropriate to stay involved in the dog-shooting investigation regarding former trooper Anthony Randazzo after it was discovered that one of McNamara’s prosecutors had previously written a letter praising Randazzo’s police work.
Considering the public outcry already demanding Randazzo’s conviction for shooting a German shepherd in Trenton on Aug. 24, McNamara explained this letter of support from his office could give people the wrong impression that he might cover-up Randazzo’s case.
Since becoming DA in 2006, McNamara said he has learned that some matters should be handled by an independent prosecutor if the circumstances stir up too many conspiracy theories toward his office.
“Because of other cases that my office has handled, and watching how a small segment of the population reacts to those cases, even though they were handled no differently than any other case, I’m much more aware that we have to be concerned about the appearance of impropriety, even when there isn’t any impropriety,” McNamara said.
Oneida County Court Judge Barry M. Donalty granted McNamara’s request last Thursday and assigned defense attorney Christopher Pelli as the special prosecutor. Pelli will be paid $100 for every hour he works on the case, according to Donalty’s order.
In an unrelated – and more politically tinged – case, Donalty assigned last week the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office in Syracuse to handle a Sept. 4 assault case against Nicholas Tuttle, who is Ford’s step-son.
Tuttle, 21, of Cassville, was charged with felony second-degree assault after his former girlfriend was stabbed four times in South Utica, allegedly because Tuttle believed she was “cheating” on him, court papers state.
In his request, McNamara states that Tuttle’s case creates the appearance of impropriety for two reasons: Because Ford has been involved in McNamara’s 2007 and current election campaign for DA, and because Tuttle was once McNamara’s student in a criminal law class he teaches at Mohawk Valley Community College.
Ford also allegedly told Utica police officers that he was “politically connected” while they investigated the incident, although McNamara noted that nobody ever contacted him on Ford’s behalf.
Ford, however, denies making such statements and instead explained Tuesday that he has offered to cooperate with police during their investigation.
"I would never use any political connections and I have not asked for one favor from anybody," Ford said. "I have done everything humanly possible to cooperate fully with the Utica Police Department, and I have gone above and beyond to help with the investigation."
After both special prosecutors have investigated these cases – at $100 an hour – they will then decide whether the matters should be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment.