Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My very first blog (and the only one for a long time) was a guest editorial by my friend, Chris Charvella.
We are still working to save the nursing home. It has not been put on the back burner.
This summer and fall were busy working in The Snack Shop and helping to elect candidates for the fall elections.
It is ironic that my second entry is also about Chris. It is written by Adama Brown for The Albany Project.
It speaks for itself.

Let me tell you a story about abuse of power, upstate style. (+)
by: Adama D. Brown
Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 01:42:12 AM EST

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a little story to tell you. It features fits of pique, Republican misbehavior, sock puppets, astroturf, abuse of authority, abuse of the legal system, and a paid employee of State Senator Ranzenhofer (R-SD61) who has engaged in all of the above and then some.
Seriously: this is worth reading the whole thing, if only for the extremely disturbing image of what BuffaloPundit sarcastically christened the "rape Ewok."

Adama D. Brown :: Let me tell you a story about abuse of power, upstate style.
The first character in our little story is Jerome Grasso, a Genesee County legislator (Republican, naturally) and a paid employee of State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer. Mr. Grasso is somewhat of a notorious figure in these parts: besides having somewhat shady financial history, last year Mr. Grasso achieved the sort of fame in political circles that you can usually only get by publicly lighting your own hair on fire.

After being tipped off by local Democrats, Genesee County news website The Batavian discovered that Mr. Grasso was engaging in sock puppetry on their website, having posted 14 messages in four weeks under the assumed name "Michael Barney." After initially denying it, and claiming that "Michael Barney" was a friend of his, Grasso admitted to the deception. A deception which, as it happens, he used to advocate on the site in favor of the county government's controversial ambulance plan, which Grasso had a stake in, as well as talking about "Jerome Grasso" as one of the younger and more tech-savvy members of the legislature.

The second character in this little narrative is Chris Charvella, a 30 year old father of one, former candidate for the County Legislature (though not against Grasso) and who besides his job with Batavia Restaurant Supply, is the campaign director for the Genesee County Democratic Committee.

Disclaimer: I know Chris personally in the context of his political involvement in a neighboring county. He hasn't talked to me about this matter at all.

Dateline:a few weeks ago. I'll let Chris' own blog entry describe the events of October 26th.
"A certain legislator from Genesee County, let's pretend his name is Sharome Glasshole, is also the Genesee County republican 'sign guy.' Yesterday when I got to work, there was a Mike Ranzenhofer sign in the lawn in front of the flower shop next door to my place of business. Most people don't know that the company I work for owns the flower shop property as well and the only person in the company who would authorize a political sign on either property would guessed it, me.
Now, there's no way to be sure who put the sign there, but we can certainly make an educated guess or two.

So, to the Genesee County 'sign guy' and the Ranzenhofer campaign: The next time I see an unauthorized sign go up in front of a commercial property, I'm going to harvest the damn thing, march straight down to republican headquarters and cram it up the first ass I see. "

That is all.

But in fact, it wasn't. On election day, Chris stopped by his house and found a Ranzenhofer sign planted in his front yard. On it was written a personal message: "Courtesy of Sharome Glasshole."

This inspired Chris to blog again, noting that "Sharome Glasshole" was indeed a reference to Grasso, and then swinging for the fences:

"Now, once again I can't prove that it was Grasso who trespassed on my property in a silly effort to taunt me, but I can make an educated guess.
If it was, in fact, Mr. Grasso who trespassed and planted that sign in the yard that my daughter plays in, I'd like to ask a simple question:
Shouldn't a guy who spends most of his time in personal bankruptcy, a guy who can't seem to buy a house without being foreclosed on, a guy who holds elected office and claims to be a fiscal conservative spend more of his time paying attention to his own property or doing something useful, like getting a job and paying his bills? (Yes, of course I have the paperwork to back this up.)
'But wait!' you say, 'he has a job.' Of course it's a political patronage job that involves him being a paid sleazebag for Senator Mike Ranzenhofer. To top it off, while holding this job he had enough free time to fake an identity and discuss county business on a local news/blogsite.
He used to have another job as a Genesee County Sheriff's deputy. He left due to disability. Coincidentally, while a deputy, he was sued for brutality after he allegedly beat and pulled his weapon on a severely disabled man who had to pee. If you think I'm making that up, I have the court transcripts. Grasso beat the rap, but so did O.J. Simpson.
So, to Jerome Grasso, who may or may not have trespassed on my property today, enjoy your last year in the Legislature."

Chris also left a brief message on Grasso's answering machine: "Hey, Jerome, it's Chris Charvella. Thanks for reading my blog." Literally, that is the entire content of the message, as transcribed in the court records.

Court records? Yeah, we'll get to that in a minute.

Evidently, Grasso is one of those people who always has to have the last word no matter what, because in commentary to The Batavian, he described Chris' leaving that message on his answering machine as "calling my house and threatening my wife."

On those grounds, Grasso arranged to have a New York State Trooper come to Chris' house to talk to him about his "phone call."

Now, I seriously doubt they send out a State Trooper for every single unsolicited phone call--in fact, a friend of mine having been subjected some years back to dozen of harassing calls stretching over months, I know it's very difficult to get the police enough evidence to act unless there's a direct threat. At least, that's the case if you're an ordinary person and not either a county legislator or an employee of a New York State Senator.

Then, later that same day, they had the State Police come back and arrest Chris.

Let me repeat that, to make sure it's clear: they had the New York State Police come to Chris' house, and arrest him for saying mean things on the internet about a Republican. The official charge is "Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree." According to the official jury instructions for that charge, emphasis mine:

[A] person is guilty of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, he or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses another person by following such person in or about a public place or places or by engaging in a course of conduct or by repeatedly committing acts which places such person in reasonable fear of physical injury.
Despite the fact that this doesn't even come within catapult distance of that definition, Chris is now in court, having failed to win an immediate dismissal. Of course it must be noted that out here, not only is the DA a Republican, but the only sympathetic judge anywhere in the area is the one who had to recuse himself from the case, since Chris was involved in getting him elected.

Just for added irony, Chris--who spent six years in the United States Air Force, and was at that time one of the few dozen people on the planet qualified to do crash recovery and flight control work for U-2 spyplanes--was arrested on Veterans' Day.

So: now you can be arrested for saying rude things on the internet? I'm glad I know, since I'll now be able to sue pretty much the entire fucking internet. I can only conclude with the two sentence statement Chris issued to The Batavian: "You can decide whether or not there is something illegal in there. I obviously don't think so."

Feel free to comment.