- Rich Klein
EDITORIAL What Took DA's Office So Long On Peters Case in Parksville?
Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan has been Sullivan County's Chief Assistant District Attorney since 2016. Yesterday - five days before Election Day - she announced that a Sullivan County Grand Jury handed up a multiple count indictment against Joe Peters Sr., who had been terrorizing a couple in Parksville repeatedly for about five years.
Peters was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal contempt, a felony; five counts of second-degree criminal contempt and three counts of fourth-degree stalking, both misdemeanors; and one count of trespass, a violation.
That indictment relates only to the actions of Peters from April 2020 through October 2020.
But what took the District Attorney's Office so long?
Now, it could be fairly argued that the delay in justice wasn't her fault since Jim Farrell (her former boss and now County Court Judge) was in charge until this past January.
However, throughout this campaign and especially during the recent debates, Galligan has bragged regularly about all the authority she has had to fight crime and improve lives in Sullivan.
Another issue that needs to be raised about the delay is whether it was tied to the very real possibility that Farrell did not have the stomach to prosecute a case that was largely based on bias.
That certainly is plausible since it was never brought up in previous charges against Peters under Farrell's leadership and the indictment announced yesterday says nothing about hate crimes - even though there was plenty of cumulative evidence in Peters' spoken and written words to clearly indicate his alleged criminal acts were motivated by hate.
In New York State, there's a Hate Crime Statute that gives prosecutors the option to add charges under a law that was created to send a message that hate crimes inflict severe damage to the fabric of communities.
But Galligan has said little about bias as a cause of Peters' alleged criminal behavior. In fact, she was quoted earlier this year that the Parksville dispute was about dead cats. (And If that was true, then how did the neighbors' dispute about cats a few months ago rise to multiple criminal contempt charges? Was there a new piece of evidence that suddenly appeared?)
Staying on the subject of hate, though, it's hard to find any cases during Farrell's long tenure in which hate crimes were part of any prosecution. (When swastikas were painted in Cochecton and Narrowsburg, he was eerily silent about what those symbols do to inflict fear among Jews and other minorities. That's a softball for a DA or a chief assistant DA to show they have NO tolerance for intolerance).
Parksville will certainly be better off if Peters is literally taken off the street so this hamlet can FINALLY return to normal.
But don't forget that Peters' almost daily actions have cost Parksville and the County the loss of business and the loss of tourism dollars for at least the last five years. He literally chased many customers away from Cabernet Frank's, the restaurant owned by the couple, and decimated Baker's film production company next door. All residents and businesses of Parksville suffered greatly during this saga.
We are happy that Wade St. Germain and RJ Baker finally appear on the verge of getting long-denied justice. And hope that the woman who Peters' sucker punched in the back of the head earlier this year also gets justice from the DA's office.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that Farrell and Galligan have made the Peters case any kind of priority the past five years. Had it not been for the values and hard work of a handful of Assistant District Attorneys and some in the Sheriff's Office, this grand jury indictment might not have even happened. They should be commended even as Galligan is claiming credit.
Another obstacle to stopping Peters' campaign against his neighbors was Town of Liberty Judge Kirk Orseck, who found Peters guilty on two earlier charges but then sat on the sentencing for more than a year. That failure led to a dismissal of the charges and allowed Peters to resume his provocations without fear of the justice system.
Information about the Hate Crimes Statute in New York State.