Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 21, 2012

Sign guy returns to court

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — TOWN OF LOCKPORT –– David J. Mongielo is going through Lockport Town Court again.

The auto shop owner appeared Tuesday, attempting to file a motion asking to quash charges that he had violated the town’s sign ordinance. The motion said charges should be dropped, because the court’s jurisdiction over the matter was in question.

Town Justice Raymond E. Schilling did not accept the motion, stating he could not because Mongielo’s lawyer was not present. Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Mongielo was represented by Frank Housh, who was not in court to defend Mongielo. The motion document also did not have a signature, another reason it was not accepted, Schilling said.

Schilling said either Housh had to be present or a document would have to be filed stating Housh was no longer representing Mongielo. Mongielo objected.

“I have a legal document here,” Mongielo said, just before he asked for a written reason why the motion was denied.

Schilling said he would provide a week before Mongielo’s next appearance, which will be Dec. 4.

Mongielo was sentenced to 15 days in Niagara County Jail and fined back on April 17 in Lockport Town Court by Schilling, after being found guilty the previous month, following a nonjury trial in December 2011. 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. He was fined $750 at that time, $250 for each count of violating the ordinance.

The condition for the discharge was that Mongielo could not break the sign law again. Nearly a year after the first conviction, Mongielo’s sign was videotaped advertising a fundraiser for an injured Niagara County Sheriff’s deputy during which the image changed every few seconds.

The sign law says any sign which is capable of changing the format or message may not change more than once every 10 minutes. Any violation in the town’s ordinances is a misdemeanor, which by state law means a person charged with such is entitled to a jury trial.

Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy ruled last month Mongielo should have a new trial, because the town did not offer Mongielo a jury trial. He also ruled that Schilling did not follow procedure when he allowed Mongielo to represent himself without a “searching inquiry” in that December 2011 nonjury trial.