LOCKPORT – David J. Mongielo is to be sentenced Jan. 7 for a violation of the Town of Lockport’s sign ordinance, his attorney said Wednesday, while a City Court judge refused to dismiss charges against the local businessman and political figure stemming from an arrest at a traffic checkpoint.
Mongielo, operator of a Robinson Road auto repair shop who also has run twice for town supervisor, is awaiting trial on a second sign ordinance violation in the town.
City Judge William J. Watson on Wednesday rejected arguments by defense attorney Frank T. Housh that the June 27 traffic checkpoint at which Mongielo was arrested was illegal.
Watson scheduled a return appearance Dec. 16 for Mongielo to either plead guilty or seek a trial date. Housh said another possibility is to appeal Watson’s ruling about the legality of the checkpoint to Niagara County Court, hoping to obtain a stay of the trial.
Meanwhile, Tuesday night in Town Court, a new judge took over the sign ordinance case and changed the strategy that had been followed by retiring Justice Raymond E. Schilling, who has been dealing with Mongielo since 2010.
Justice Leonard G. Tilney Jr. scheduled sentencing Jan. 7 on Mongielo’s violation of the conditional discharge Schilling gave him in 2010, after Mongielo’s first conviction on a charge of violating the town’s law banning signs that change “format” more than once every 10 minutes.
After a hearing, Schilling found Mongielo guilty of the violation May 29, but delayed sentencing until after the trial on the second violation.
Tilney doesn’t want to wait, and Housh said a trial date for the second incident may be chosen on the sentencing night. Mongielo faces up to 15 days in jail for the conditional discharge violation, but also could be fined.
The LED video signboard in front of Mongielo’s business was used Aug. 25, 2011, to flash photos of an injured sheriff’s deputy while advertising a fundraiser for him. The one-year conditional discharge wouldn’t have expired until Sept. 14, 2011.
Mongielo was convicted of that second offense in a December 2011 nonjury trial before Schilling, but in September 2012, County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III overturned the conviction, saying Mongielo was entitled to a jury trial.
The evidence in the trial will be the same as at the conditional discharge hearing: a video taken of the flashing signboard by one of Mongielo’s political foes, Donald J. Jablonski, a member of the town Zoning Board and chairman of the town Republican Committee.
In the June 27 case, Mongielo objected to a traffic checkpoint on Lincoln Avenue on the city-town border and was ordered out of his car and thrown to the pavement by officers who booked him on a variety of charges, including resisting arrest and using a cellphone while driving. Mongielo has said he was using the phone to shoot video of the officers.
He tried to file a police brutality suit without an attorney, but it was dismissed by State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto on Nov. 14 because the officers weren’t properly served with the papers.
Housh said he disagrees with Wednesday’s opinion by Watson. Housh continued to assert that the traffic stop violated rules set down in a U.S. Supreme Court case. But he said if there is a plea deal, Mongielo would have to give up his right to appeal.
Asked if he expects a plea, Housh said, “We have not discussed it. My client and I are eager to find a reasonable disposition.” But he also said, “We believe my client didn’t commit a crime.” Housh said if there is no plea, he wants jury trials in the city and the town.