For local political observers, Catalinotto is just about the last name one would associate with far-left politics. So when reports of the lawsuit filed against the NYPD by Christopher Faraone, the leading chronicler of the Occupy Wall Street movement, mentioned he’d be represented by the firm of Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto — the final name belonging to Michael Catalinotto Sr., one of the leading Republicans in Saugerties town politics — we just had to find out how that came to be.
Faraone is one of those journalists who digs into a story deep. In fact, his latest consistent outlet for work — besides the stories he publishes in the Boston Herald, Boston Phoenix, Spin, and the Columbia Journalism Review — is called DigBoston… the name calls to mind his hometown’s infamous municipal boondoggle, and its muckraking connotations make it a good place for the dogged Faraone.
Faraone is best known for his coverage of Occupy. Reviews of his book “99 Nights with the 99 Percent” noted he spent more time at the encampment than any journalist. He became a kind of spokesman for the famously leaderless movement following his Feb. 2012 debate with the late right-wing firebrand Andrew Breitbart.
“He has covered Occupy like a one-man swarm: embedding full-time at Boston’s Dewey Square encampment; visiting other movements around the country; juggling feature stories, blog posts, radio spots, and Twitter fights,” wrote Justin Peters in Columbia Journalism Review.
Which brings us to the matter at hand: Faraone says NYPD officers targeted, beat and arrested him while he was covering the one-year anniversary of the Occupy protests. The lawsuit, filed against ten unnamed police officers on Dec. 23 in Manhattan Federal Court, says that Faraone, while “lawfully gathering information, photographing, observing and investigating a public demonstration,” was identified by an officer, who directed fellow officers to “tackle, batter, search, arrest, detain and imprison him.” The complaint states that officers “directed and/or threatened by the Defendants to cease his journalism/reporting activities in the City of New York” both during his detention and upon his release.
Faraone was booked for disorderly conduct. Those charges were later dropped.
The 14-page complaint concludes that the officers’ actions represented a violation of Faraone’s civil rights regarding freedom from excessive force, illegal search, false arrest, unlawful detention, malicious prosecution, and “deprivation of due process & right to counsel,” as well as a violation of freedom of the press and numerous other legal assurances.
“Right now the case is in its infancy,” said Adam Mandell, the attorney handling the case. “We anticipate vigorously prosecuting this to really vindicate Mr. Faraone’s rights… The New York Police Department’s conduct seemed to be an attempt to prevent his coverage. That is wrong.”
How did this case with national and international reverberations end up in Saugerties?
According to Mandell, who lives and works here, he got to know Faraone while living in Boston.
“He knew I was practicing and reached out to me after the assault,” he said. “Ultimately, he made the decision that it was something he wanted to pursue.”
Maynard, O’Connor, Smith & Catalinotto, founded by two Albany attorneys in 1919 with its main office still in the state capital, maintains an office in Johnstown and Saugerties. Michael Catalinotto, Sr. is a senior partner.
Catalinotto is a former town justice and town attorney; a former member of the New York State Republican Committee, the Ulster County Republican Committee and the Ulster County Ethics Committee; former chair of the Town of Saugerties Republican Committee; past president of the Saugerties Rotary Club; former president of the Kingston Hospital Board of Trustees and a recipient of the Pride of Ulster County Award presented by the Ulster County Legislature.
Before joining the law firm five years ago, Mandell served as aide to Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and as legal aide in the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.