Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 29, 2013

Mongielo jury trial to start July 29

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

David J. Mongielo will get his jury trial.

On July 29 the Town of Lockport auto shop owner will be tried for violating the town’s electronic sign ordinance that prohibits signs from changing the format or message more than once every 10 minutes. It's the second time Mongielo has been charged with violating the ordinance.

The jury will consist of six people and one alternate. If convicted by the jury, Mongielo could be sentenced to up to six months in Niagara County Jail, according to Town Prosecutor Bradley Marble.

At a court hearing Wednesday, Donald Jablonski, a town zoning board member, testified he shot a nine-minute video of Mongielo's sign, recorded in August 2011. The sign is located at Mongielo's shop, Mongielo's Auto Specialties on Robinson Road.

In the video, the sign displays two scenes, one with words highlighting a fundraiser for an injured Niagara County Sheriff's deputy and the other with the deputy's picture.

Mongielo objected to the video, stating it looked as if it had been edited due to some jerkiness seen in the video. Jablonski said on the stand he did not touch the video after he shot it.

The reason for Jablonski shooting the video was a political one, Mongielo alleged in court. Jablonski is also the town Republican committee chairman, of which Mongielo is a member.

Mongielo claimed he had another version of the video, where in it Jablonski reportedly can be heard on the phone saying he has the video. Jablonski testified that he was on the phone while shooting the video.

Mongielo asked Jablonski if the sign's format or message had changed in the video. Marble objected, saying that was for the court to decide.

Mongielo asked Schilling for permission to submit a variety of evidence supporting his charge that the video was shot as some kind of political attack. His request ranged from having town officials testify to minutes from Republican committee and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings.

Schilling denied the requests, stating they didn't have anything to do with the case.

Mongielo was originally sentenced to 15 days in Niagara County Jail and fined on April 17, 2012 in Lockport Town Court. The jail sentence was the result of the violation coming within the one-year conditional discharge Mongielo received on Sept. 14, 2010 for his first violation of the sign ordinance. The condition for the discharge was that Mongielo could not break the sign ordinance again. 

But, Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy’s ruled in October the second conviction had to be overturned and a new trial given.

The reason for Wednesday's hearing was to decide again if a violation of the one-year conditional discharge had taken place. Town Justice Raymond E. Schilling found Mongielo guilty of the discharge violation, but suspended sentencing pending the outcome of the trial.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.