Conviction Overturned on Prosecutorial Incompetence (R. Michael Tantillo)
Posted in the Seneca County Forum
#1 Jun 12, 2009
State appellate court judges have tossed out the misdemeanor convictions of official misconduct against former Seneca County Sheriff Leo T. Connolly due to errors by the prosecutor.
The Fourth Judicial Department appeals panel, sitting in Rochester, ruled that one of the grand jurors hearing the case against Connolly had a conflict of interest and should have been excused. The juror was the mother of one of the people that Connolly was accused of targeting for retaliation for posting criticism of him when he ran for sheriff in 2003.
The appellate judges ruled that Special Prosecutor R. Michael Tantillo, who is Ontario County's district attorney, tainted the grand jury when allowed the juror to remain and vote on charges against Connolly not related to her daughter.
"We conclude that potential prejudice arose from permitting the victim's family member to determine whether to indict the defendant," the appellate judges wrote. "The special prosecutor was therefore required to excuse the grand juror from participating in the case."
Tantillo, a Democrat, has said he will attempt to retry the case against Connolly, who is a Republican.
Connolly's lawyer, Robert Napier of Rochester, said he doesn't think there is much interest in Seneca County to hold a new grand jury session to hear evidence against Connolly.
"Considerable funds have already been wasted in the overall special grand jury investigation conducted by Mr. Tantillo and hopefully that will not continue," Napier said.
The Rochester lawyer said his client was "very happy, very thankful" after hearing the court's decision.
"He feels vindicated that the indictment got dismissed," Napier said.
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