Tantillo Investigation Ends with a Whimper
Posted in the Ontario County Forum
#1 Dec 2, 2010
On Wednesday (December 1), a Seneca County jury found a former deputy not guilty of petit larceny.
Josh Zona, of Fayette, was cleared of charges he'd stolen tires from an evidence warehouse in 2005.
The verdict was the latest loss for the special prosecutor, Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo.
Tantillo had spend approximately four years, and over $100,000 in time charges, attempting to prove widespread corruption in the Seneca County Sheriff's Department.
However, during that time, various courts found Tantillo's case riddled with errors, resulting in dismissals, not guilty verdicts and convictions overturned for prosecutorial error.
Tantillo, appointed to the position by Seneca County Judge Dennis Bender, had originally accused multiple county officials of misconduct. The officials included former Sheriff Leo Connolly, Undersheriff James Larson and a number of deputies.
Connolly was originally charged with several felonies. However, those charges were overturned on appeal when it was revealed that Tantillo had tainted a grand jury by allowing a relative of one of the alleged victims to sit in judgment. Connolly was later acquitted during a retrial.
Similarly, the most recent case, against former deputy Josh Zona, was thrown out for failure to instruct the jury on possible defenses.
Tantillo was able to score a conviction against Larson, claimed by many to be the mastermind of the scandal. However, that conviction came only after Tantillo offered a plea bargain in which Larson served only four months of jail time.
One of the scandal's alleged victims, William Morse, blasted Tantillo in August, claiming that Tantillo's "first grader mistakes" had compromised the case.
Zona's trial was the last of the cases brought by Tantillo. With the dismissal of the charges, Tantillo will likely be returning to his home county.
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