Mar 182016


Contact: Sandra Steingraber, 607-351-0719,



Public Statement by We Are Seneca Lake Regarding Chaos, Danger and Negligence at the Reading Town Court on March 16, 2016

Watkins Glen, NY – On March 16, 70 individuals charged with disorderly conduct violations were scheduled for 5 p.m. arraignments at the Town of Reading Court in Schuyler County. All had been arrested between January and March at one of several peaceful protests against gas storage at Crestwood Midstream.


The court was unable to process this large number of defendants in a timely manner, and the courtroom itself, which holds 48 people, could not accommodate them. The court clerk ushered those with appearance tickets into the courtroom in small groups organized by date of arrest. This protocol compelled the remainder—including their loved ones, supporters, and assorted observers—to wait outside in the elements for up to three hours, even during severe rain, hail, and lightning.


While court was in session, Schuyler County Sheriff’s deputy J.D. Sworts locked the interior front door of the Reading Town Hall, in which the courtroom is located, and allowed no one into the public building (other than to briefly use the restroom), even though the town hall contains a large meeting space that could have provided shelter during the serious weather event that began shortly after 7 p.m.


The appeals of defendants locked outside of the building—who could be heard imploring Deputy Sworts and Town Clerk Alice Conklin to allow them to seek shelter inside the town hall while waiting for their turn before the judge—were audible to those inside the building.


Deputy Sworts advised individuals waiting outside to take refuge inside their cars. However, many defendants had carpooled and did not have cars on site. Others had been forced, by restrictions on parking, to park up to a quarter-mile away. Further, had they sheltered in their cars, defendants might have missed the calling of their names and risked a bench warrant for arrest.


Town Clerk Alice Conklin told one defendant, “If you can protest in this weather you can stand out in it now.”


By 8 p.m., courtroom decorum had completely broken down. Defendants, their supporters, and their attorney, Sujata Gibson, appealed directly to Judge Raymond Berry to allow those waiting outside in an electrical storm to enter the building.


In all cases, these requests were denied. Judge Berry claimed on the record that the sheriff, and not the Court, was responsible for the scheduling snafu and that the “town fathers,” and not the Court, were responsible for the decision to declare the interior of the town hall off-limits to defendants waiting to appear before him.


By 8:30 p.m., 42 individuals had been arraigned before Judge Berry, and defense attorney Sujata Gibson entered a global plea of not guilty for the remainder.


We Are Seneca Lake objects both to the reckless lock-out of defendants, who had no choice other than to appear at court at the assigned hour, and to the negligent scheduling that set the stage for such chaos. This is not the first time that the town hall (courthouse) has been declared off limits to defendants and their supporters during court hearings that take place during hazardous weather conditions. We assert that the physical safety of defendants is a prime responsibility of the court system.


With the help of our attorneys, We Are Seneca Lake is now exploring the possibility of filing a motion to transfer cases to a court that can safely accommodate all defendants, their supporters, and members of the press and public, with a law-trained judge outside of Reading Town Court. We are also exploring the possibility of filing a federal lawsuit for violation of due process under the Constitution.


The We Are Seneca Lake campaign opposes the expansion of gas storage in abandoned lakeside salt caverns owned by Crestwood. Since the campaign began in October 2014, there have been 537 arrests. Of these, 234 cases have been adjudicated (resulting in 176 total dismissals to date); 303 cases remain open.


On March 15, Judge Raymond Berry dismissed 112 violation trespass charges against 110 We Are Seneca Lake protesters after an investigation by Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them.


The list of those scheduled for arraignment at 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 16:


Bradford County, PA

Cat Rossiter, 63, Sayre


Cayuga County

Kerry Angie, 71, Aurora

Thomas Angie, 63, Aurora


Chemung County

Colleen Boland, 60, Elmira

Doug Couchon, 65, Elmira

Patricia Buttolph, 70, Elmira

Hervie Harris, 69, Elmira


Chenango County

Ken Fogarty, 76, Guilford


Erie County

Charley Bowman, 69, Getzville


Fulton County

Bill Kitchen, 63, Johnstown


Livingston County

Lyndsay Clark, 55, Springwater

Coby Schultz, 56, Springwater

Holly Adams, 56, Hunt

Bob Thompson, 62, Livonia

Jamie Carestio, 30, Dansville


Monroe County

Colleen Coss, 61, Henrietta

Paul Flansburg, 48, Rochester

Susan Hughes-Smith, 44, Rochester

Kit Miller, 53, Rochester

Dwain Wilder, 76, Rochester


New York County

Michael Bucci, 67, Manhattan


Onondaga County

Howie Hawkins, 63, Syracuse


Ontario County

Cynthia Carestio, 55, Canandaigua

Paul Passavant, 49, Geneva

Marty Dodge, 73, Canandaigua

Peggy Abbott, 64, Geneva

Angela Cannon-Crothers, 50, Naples


Schenectady County

Debb Guard, 61, Niskayuna

Pete Looker, 65, Glenville


Schoharie County

Elliott Adams, 68, Sharon Springs


Schuyler County

Daryl Anderson, 46, Burdett

Shirley Barton, 68, Mecklenburg

Phillip Davis, 63, Hector

Paula Fitzsimmons, 58, Hector

Sharon Kahkonen, 66, Mecklenburg

Beth Peet, 48, Hector

Wendell F. Perks, Jr., 67, Hector

Marie Ely Baumgardner, 67, Hector

Nate Lewis, 33, Hector


Seneca County

Michael Dineen, 67, Ovid

Kim Knight, 32, Covert

Carrie Fischer, 39, Fayette


Steuben County

Louise Sullivan-Blum, 55, Corning

Meg Krywe, 57, Arkport

Jeni Paquette, 63, Corning


Tioga County

Rick Rogers, 67, Spencer

Richard Battaglia, 53, Richford

Gerri Wiley, 68, Owego

Wes Ernsberger, 68, Owego


Tompkins County

Danielle Angie, 37, Trumansburg

Caroline Byrne, 39, Ithaca

John Dennis, 66, Lansing

Ruth Groff, 64, Ithaca

Stephanie Redmond, 40, Enfield

Therese Araneo, Caroline

Mariana Morse, 67, Caroline

Tom Seaney, 66, Ithaca

Alicia Alexander, 63, Ithaca

Donn Carroll, 66, Ithaca

Ken Zeserson, 68, Ulysses

Arthur Godin, 66, Enfield

George Adams, 66, Danby

Stacey McNeill, 44, Ithaca

Ba Stopha, 70, Ithaca


Wayne County

Nancy Kasper, 57, North Rose


Yates County

Michael Black, 63, Lakemont

Alison Marshall, 35, Penn Yan

Lynn Donaldson, 72, Keuka Park

 Posted by at 11:14 am