- Rich Klein
WINDOW SHATTERED AT CABERNET FRANK'S; OWNERS BELIEVE IT WAS A PELLET GUN
PARKSVILLE - The outer pane of a window at Cabernet Frank's on Main Street here was shattered at about 11:30 pm on Wednesday, the owners told The SullivanTimes early this morning. (Thursday).
Wade St. Germain and RJ Baker - a married, gay couple - said they believe their window was smashed by a pellet gun, but that could not be confirmed at press time.
Baker said he was sitting inside the establishment in front of the window that was shot at. He said there were six or seven customers onsite at the time, which is about a half hour before the venue's scheduled closing at midnight.
St. Germain said that a customer called the Sheriff's Office immediately and they reportedly arrived with four vehicles at about 11:45 pm.
Although the owners were interviewed by officers, St. Germain said that the officers who responded seemed more interested in the window's replacement value than investigating who was responsible for the incident.
Because they are a gay couple, one of the customers asked the officers if they would investigate the incident as a hate crime. New York State has such a statute.
Below, in parenthesis, is information from the website of State Attorney General Letitia James:
(With the passage of New York’s Hate Crimes Act in 2000, the legislature recognized in its findings that “crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt entire communities and vitiate the civility that is essential to healthy democratic processes.” The law offers local District Attorney’s Offices, who are tasked with enforcing its provisions, sentence enhancements to criminal defendants who are found to have committed a criminal offense – or who intentionally selects the victim of such an offense – in whole or substantial part because of a belief or perception of the victim’s sexual orientation, among other relevant characteristics. While New York’s Hate Crimes Act does not explicitly address gender identity-based hate crimes, under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the definition of “hate crime” has been expanded to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The federal law also gives the United States Department of Justice expanded authority to prosecute such hate crimes when local authorities do not. Individuals cannot privately enforce either the New York or federal hate-crimes laws.
New York state’s Executive Law also contains a provision requiring the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to collect and analyze data on, among other topics, the number of hate crimes reported to or investigated by local police departments).
Although there are currently no suspects in the pellet shooting, the couple has been harassed in person and online by their neighbor, Joseph Peters, for at least the last three years. Peters has said publicly that he wants to drive the couple out of business and out of town. The couple has had multiple orders of protection against him.
Baker has had his adjacent Beaverkill Studio business decimated by the harassment, which includes Peters parking his car directly in front of the studio and blasting music for hours at a time.
Peters has been served with many violations for his actions against the couple and was convicted on two criminal charges in a bench trial conducted by Liberty Town Justice Kirk Orseck in November 2018. But Peters was never sentenced - even though Orseck promised to do just that. Those charges were later dropped as a result.
In May, Peters was served with 20 criminal charges for his campaign of harassment against the couple. He is reportedly due in Town of Fallsburg court in early July to answer those. Attorney William Brenner is the last known attorney representing Peters. On May 24, Peters was caught on video winding up and punching a woman in the back of the head as she was walking away from him near the Rail Trail adjacent to Cabernet Frank's. The blow sent her to the ground. It wasn't the first time Peters has instigated violence on Main Street.
One Sunday afternoon in July 2018, he sat across from Cabernet Frank's holding up a sign that directed patrons not to eat there. When St. Germain confronted him and tried to remove the sign from Peters' hands, Peters began pummeling him, seriously injuring St. Germain. That also sparked a street brawl that included Baker, Joe Peters Jr. and a woman who was shoved to the ground by Peters, Jr.
Meanwhile, a civil suit against Peters is proceeding in State Supreme Court, Sullivan County later this summer.The couple, which opened Cabernet Frank's four years ago this month, is represented by Goshen civil rights attorney Michael Sussman.
Sussman warned in a Zoom interview with The SullivanTimes last month (that also included Baker and St. Germain) about an escalation of violence against the couple and described it as "homophobic."
"Without people standing up, the laws are meaningless," he said.
Photo contributed by Cabernet Frank's showing damage to window last night