LOCKPORT – A retired Lockport police lieutenant testified Tuesday that David J. Mongielo was “looking for trouble” when he allegedly called police “Nazis” and used a cellphone to take video of them at a traffic checkpoint June 27.
David Barrancotta, who retired Dec. 30, was the commanding officer at the scene when the local businessman, on his second trip through the Lincoln Avenue checkpoint, was arrested.
Mongielo is the owner of an auto repair shop in the Town of Lockport, where he has been prosecuted for the past four years for using a LED signboard outside his shop. The town has a law that bars signs that change “format” more than once every 10 minutes.
Mongielo’s conviction on the first of two sign ordinance incidents brought him a 10-day jail sentence, which is on hold pending an appeal.
Meanwhile, a jury of four men and two women was chosen Tuesday for a trial on a batch of charges stemming from the traffic stop. City Judge William J. Watson said the trial is likely to last until Friday.
Mongielo is charged with two counts of unlawfully using a portable electronic device and single counts of resisting arrest, second-degree obstructing governmental administration, second-degree harassment and driving an unregistered vehicle. The maximum sentence is a year in jail.
Defense attorney Frank T. Housh told the jury, “In this case they dragged this man out of the car, planted him face first in the concrete, and you’ll see the pictures when he got out of the hospital. And they say he’s resisting arrest?”
Assistant District Attorney Joel M. Grundy accused Mongielo of placing himself above the law by allegedly not cooperating with lawful police orders to produce his driver’s license.
“Mr. Mongielo set himself apart,” Grundy told the jury. “We’re going to ask you to hold the defendant accountable to the same laws that apply to everyone else.”
Mongielo had argued in Town Court that it lacked jurisdiction over him and that what he called “statutory law” is invalid. Housh did not take part in those claims, or in Mongielo’s do-it-yourself police brutality suit against the city, which was dismissed because the city was not served with the paperwork in a timely fashion.
Tuesday, Barrancotta said the checkpoint was meant to enforce laws regarding cellphone and seat belt use, as well as checking for unregistered and uninspected vehicles.
Mongielo’s eastbound vehicle came through the checkpoint at about 1 p.m. “He was yelling out his window, ‘What is this, Nazi Germany?’ He called us a bunch of Nazis.”
Barrancotta said he tried to explain why the checkpoint was there, but he let Mongielo go through because traffic was backing up behind him, even though Mongielo kept yelling about Nazis.
Barrancotta said the name-calling “didn’t bother me. I’ve been called a lot worse than a Nazi.”
Half an hour later, Mongielo returned, this time heading west. “He had his hand out the window holding a cellphone and pointing it at me,” Barrancotta said. That would be a violation of the law regarding cellphone use in a moving vehicle, Barrancotta said.
“This time I noticed his registration sticker was halfway off the window and his vehicle was unregistered,” Barrancotta said. So he directed Mongielo to pull into the nearby parking lot of Allie Brandt’s Bowling Lanes.
Barrancotta remained in the street, and the next thing he knew, there was yelling from behind him, he said. He turned and saw Officer Walter Jones had taken Mongielo to the pavement.
Tuesday’s session was cut short after Barrancotta said he might have sent an internal email about the checkpoint’s results, and Housh objected that it hadn’t been provided to him.
Barrancotta said the police computer system probably deleted the email after 30 days, but a search was to be conducted. Housh said he wants Watson to instruct the jury that it can infer that the missing evidence, if it isn’t found, would have hurt the prosecution’s case.