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The Times
  • DA candidates turn legal matters against each other

  • Shadowing both candidates running for Herkimer County district attorney are pending legal issues they each say makes their opponent unfit to be the county’s top prosecutor.

    For Herkimer County Acting District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter, a $50 million notice of claim accuses him of maliciously prosecuting a local man infected with HIV for biting a police officer.

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  • Shadowing both candidates running for Herkimer County district attorney are pending legal issues they each say makes their opponent unfit to be the county’s top prosecutor.
    For Herkimer County Acting District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter, a $50 million notice of claim accuses him of maliciously prosecuting a local man infected with HIV for biting a police officer.
    His opponent, former assistant county attorney Mary Iocovozzi, is accused in a civil lawsuit of conspiring with her aunt to drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from the estate of an elderly family member before she died.
    Each candidate dismisses the claims against them.
    But when discussing the allegations against their opponent, Carpenter and Iocovozzi suggest the claims reflect the troubling character the other would bring to the DA’s office if elected.
    Civil case against Iocovozzi
    Iocovozzi and her aunt, Violet DiMaggio, have been facing civil litigation since 2010, accused by family members of deceiving Iocovozzi’s other aunt, Nancy Christofaro, before her death at 90 years old. According to the litigation pending in Chemung County, they are accused of shuffling thousands of dollars to DiMaggio and other family members, including Iocovozzi’s mother, Rose Seppi, and the funeral home of Iocovozzi’s brother Vincent. These assets, the lawsuit states, should have been distributed to Christofaro’s children and grandchildren according to her will after she died.
    Iocovozzi said Christofaro asked her to revise her will in 2007. But then Christofaro became aware of money she never knew about, Iocovozzi says Christofaro chose to distribute the funds in certificates of deposit to family members, instead of including them in the estate.
    The lawsuit doesn’t accuse Iocovozzi of any personal benefit. Iocovozzi did acknowledge, however, she allowed a power of attorney that was invalid after Christofaro’s death to be used to redirect her aunt’s mail to Iocovozzi’s address, according to a transcript of her testimony at a 2010 hearing.
    Recently, Iocovozzi would not comment on the “family dispute.” She did, however, say raising this issue was Carpenter’s “desperate attempt” to divert the public’s attention from his own record, and she would continue to protect the elderly and vulnerable if she is elected DA.
    Carpenter questions why this litigation never was revealed publicly when Iocovozzi ran for Herkimer County Family Court judge in 2010. He also questioned whether someone could be a credible district attorney with such claims looming against them.
    “If I was facing allegations of fraud, deceit and undue influence as Ms. Iocovozzi currently is, I would not be seeking the office of Herkimer County district attorney,” Carpenter said. “Because if any of those allegations are proven to have been committed, the effects on the criminal cases, the victims of those offenses and the taxpayers of Herkimer County could be devastating.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In response, Iocovozzi said a family civil matter does not have any implications for taxpayers or any criminal prosecution. “There is a world of difference between making allegations and proving them,” said Iocovozzi, a Democrat. “I will not be held hostage for protecting the wishes of a person now deceased because that is my job as an attorney.”
    Lawsuit against Carpenter
    As for Republican Carpenter’s own legal matter, Iocovozzi has been telling voters Carpenter was responsible for a potentially “costly mistake” to taxpayers involving an aggravated assault conviction that was vacated in June by the state’s Court of Appeals.
    In a notice of claim filed Sept. 5 against Herkimer County, David Plunkett alleges a variety of civil rights violations, including false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and defamation.
    The notice accuses Carpenter, as well as former DA John Crandall and former First Assistant DA Prescott Klosner, of prosecuting HIV-infected Plunkett for biting an Ilion police officer in 2006, despite previous court rulings that state someone’s teeth are not considered a dangerous instrument.
    “New York’s highest court found Mr. Carpenter to be wrong on the law,” Iocovozzi said. “Regretfully in the future, the taxpayers may very well have to pay damages to Mr. Plunkett because of these mistakes.”
    The problem, Carpenter said, is he had no part in prosecuting Plunkett’s case and only got involved after the fact in handling the case on appeal to the state’s highest court. Only one charge was dismissed, while Plunkett’s other two lesser assault convictions remained intact.
    “This is a completely frivolous notice of claim and is absolutely politically motivated in an effort to affect the race for district attorney, based on the players that are involved and the timing that it was filed,” Carpenter said. “I was not wrong on the law because I did not handle the matter.”
    Although Iocovozzi has included this claim in her campaign mailings and website, the origin of the notice still remains unclear and Plunkett has yet to retain an attorney.
    Iocovozzi said she had no part in drafting or filing the document.
    Plunkett’s former attorney, Audrey Baron Dunning, also said she doesn’t know who wrote the claim, although she did notarize the document and had a member of her law firm serve it on the county as a “favor” to Plunkett.
    Dunning is an active member of the Herkimer County Democratic Committee that endorsed Iocovozzi this year, but both women deny the notice has any connection to Iocovozzi’s campaign.
    Election Day is Nov. 6.

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