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Assistant DA's Close Ties to District May Explain Why Gunby Not Charged

By Lenny Palumbo

Assistant Niagara County District Attorney, and former Lew-Port School Board member, Heather DeCastro reportedly phoned the writer of this story and threatened him with the ruination of his reputation.

The alleged connection between Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Heather DeCastro and Lew-Port is worthy of exploration and, since she was the prosecutor named in the Hodgson Russ law firm's billing records, it may help explain why no charges were filed against Brian Gunby, the teacher who allegedly had sex with a student on school property.

It may also help explain why it appears there was no serious investigation into whether or not Lew-Port Teacher's Union President Kevin Jaruszewski wrote emails from the union website email address that can best be described as death threats.

Assistant DA DeCastro is a former Board of Education member with decidedly pro-union proclivities. The record of her tenure as a board member shows she worked diligently with former Supt. Walt Polka to create and foster a budget that would steer as high a percentage of taxpayer money as possible toward increased salaries and benefits for teachers, at the expense, critics contended, of the students.

While serving as a member of Lew-Port’s school board, I personally received a call from Ms. DeCastro expressing anger that I had voted in favor of a zero tax increase, which would have crimped the raises she wished for the teachers to get that year.

She was direct on the phone. She expected me to support the teachers over the interests of the taxpayers. When I declined, she finished our conversation by informing me that she and certain associates would “ruin” me.

“We’re going to make it so people in this town never look at you the same way again,” said DeCastro.
Maybe she wasn't bluffing.

Several months later, I was arrested when my neighbor, a Lew-Port teacher who I’d voted to deny appointment to several extracurricular positions, falsely accused me of harassing his family while driving a 1999 Dodge Intrepid that happened to have a faulty muffler.

Soon after my arrest, I learned that the arresting officer’s wife was the PTA president in the building where my accuser was assigned to teach.

It was obvious I was being set up.

The DA's office dogged me for three years and it included a second arrest by a New York State Trooper who made the same false claim of harassment - one where he described in detail how I drove my 1999 Dodge Intrepid with a faulty muffler at him in a menacing way.

In what has become a local legend of journalism, the Niagara Falls Reporter uncovered that the sworn affidavit of the trooper was false when they produced Department of Motor Vehicle records that showed I sold the vehicle to Fuccillo Chevrolet in Grand Island almost a year before the alleged harassment took place.

Mounting publicity generated by the Niagara Falls Reporter and the Vanguard exposing the false charges, ultimately led to the dismissal of all charges.

How much, if any, of this was DeCastro's hidden hand is hard to prove, but efforts to "ruin me" and make it so "people would never look at me the same" were partially successful, despite what might be characterized as DeCastro's failure to put me behind bars.

Is DeCastro also using her influence in the District Attorney’s Office in other ways? Perhaps to whitewash some of the activities of Lew-Port’s political fringe?

Stay tuned.

(Heather DeCastro was contacted for this story and for another planned series expected to appear in future editions. She declined to comment, sending a message through an intermediary that she would not speak to the Reporter.)



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 26 , 2013