For reasons no soothsayer, weatherman nor Magic Eight Ball can explain, summertime in Saugerties has been a bonanza for readers of the local cop news. Alleged miscreants of every stripe have passed through the town and village in a variety of guises, vehicles and speeds. Some have been jailed and some remain at-large. The crimes they stand accused of have resulted in no deaths nor life-threatening injuries, though, in some cases, that wasn’t for lack of trying.
Some share familiar crime-story characteristics: booze, controlled substances, uncontrolled tempers and in two cases, a sense of outraged injustice triggered by events on summertime’s favorite field of play.
Here then, a sampling of a few of the more memorable law-breaking episodes and the people who made them possible.
Certainly the award for the most surprising crime of the season was committed late last month by a mild bunch of graffiti artists who called themselves “the nerd gang.” They stand accused of tagging — in Day-Glo and hot red and yellow colors — the underbelly of a village bridge with declarations that they “love math.”
This was not the first time the bridge had been defaced. Graffiti had been found there last year, prompting the village to re-paint the surface.
“And then we went back and there was new writing,” said village Parks, Buildings and Grounds Superintendent George Terpening.
Empty and un-recycled beer cans were found at the scene of the crime. Police Chief Joe Sinagra said this week the incident was still under investigation.
Summer hadn’t quite arrived — it was Mother’s Day, as a matter of fact — when a girls’ softball game at the Cantine Sports Complex was transformed into a wrestling match free-for-all.
Saugerties police said they arrived on the scene to find a parent of one of the ballplayers, Diana Lattin of Kingston, involved in a bench-clearing fracas. Apparently upset with the way the game was going, police said the woman spat on coaches and mixed it up with other parents who were trying, unsuccessfully, to restrain her from allegedly biting and yanking the hair of another parent.
Lattin was charged with third degree attempted assault.
A month later, a pugilistic approach to disagreements on local ball diamonds began to look like a trend.
Twenty-year-old Adam Bacon was arrested and charged with third degree assault on the umpire of a softball game in which Bacon was a player.
Police said Bacon, upset about some of the umpire’s calls, got into a verbal dispute that turned quickly into fisticuffs and culminated with Bacon allegedly punching the ump in the face and kicking him when he hit the ground.
The cases against Lattin and Bacon are still pending in town justice court.
Two young Saugerties residents made headlines in the past few months as poster boys for the use of tasers on transgressors.
Saugerties resident Fredrick Manfro, 24, rolled his car in the wee, wee hours of May 30, police said. Not content to have survived the rollover, Manfro fled on foot to a wooded area near Frontier Road. Still not content, Manfro resisted attempts by Saugerties police to arrest and subdue him, until a taser did the job.
The good news for Manfro? He suffered no injuries in his battles with gravity and the police. The bad news was twofold: police said he suffered injuries from a domestic dispute earlier that morning. That, and the string of felony and misdemeanor charges filed against him by the cops.
More recently, Saugerties resident Christopher Rega, 24, allegedly stole a Ford F-350 truck, was spotted by New Paltz Police, and ran over a pedestrian’s foot before triggering a high-speed chase through New Paltz that ended in a Gardiner parking lot only after Rega totaled a pair of parked cars then smashed to a stop in the facade of an outdoors shop on Route 44/55.
Not satisfied to have survived his adventure, Rega bolted from the truck and got about halfway across the sales floor of the Eastern Mountain Sports store, where he was — you guessed it — tasered and arrested.
The good news for Rega? No one could think of any. The bad news was reflected in the severity of the bail that was set in Gardiner Town Justice Court: $100,000.
Drunken driving arrests are hardly news, except in the case of Hong Luong, a 45-year-old resident of Saugerties. Luong was arrested in mid-August and charged with drunken driving and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. It was the type of motor vehicle that made the arrest newsworthy: Luong was stopped on Route 9W while driving a zero-turn lawn mower. Luong’s case is still pending.
Finally, this puzzler: when is it OK to ignore a traffic sign? When the signs themselves are not legal.
Saugerties police are not writing traffic tickets for travelers failing to heed traffic signs that indicate turns are not permitted at the intersection of Partition St. and Main St.
Got that? Neither did we.
Sinagra told the Village Board in mid-August that signs had been placed at the construction-crazed intersection by state Department of Transportation officials without any local laws being adopted as an enforcement tool.
Sinagra said he didn’t believe it was equitable for drivers to be ticketed for disobeying signs that weren’t legal to begin with.
If all goes as scheduled — and that’s a big “if” — permanent traffic lights are expected to go online this week, thereby eliminating the state’s signs and motorist confusion.
Stories like these attracted the attention of WPDH-FM’s Boris and Robyn morning show, leading them to wonder if Saugerties is the strangest town in the Hudson Valley. Village Mayor Bill Murphy called in to the show and denied the charge.
Sinagra, asked if it seemed to him that cop stories like these had contributed to a particularly “wacky” summer season, Sinagra laughed and said no.
“‘Wacky is taking on the job as chief of police and having three bank robberies occur over the next 18 months. No. Compared to that, it’s been a docile summer.”