Verona: Gardner to get special prosecutor

Oneida County legislator Jack B. Gardner said he intended to plead not guilty to charges of fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation, in Vernon Town Court Wednesday, April 18. But Assistant District Attorney Kurt Hameline recused himself and the county from the case on grounds it would be a conflict of interest.

We can't have any involvement in this, Hameline told Judge Peter W. Bortle. Hameline said the county would appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case. Bortle rescheduled Gardner's next court appearance for 7 p.m. on May 16.

Gardner's lawyer, John J. Raspante, attempted to give the judge a check in restitution for the designer eyeglasses Gardner allegedly broke during a physical altercation with Tombstone Saloon cook William Baker IV. Bortle questioned the move, suggesting that accepting such a check would amount to an admission of guilt which would conflict with Gardner's stated intent to plead not guilty. Bortle suggested he make restitution directly to the victim.

Gardner's troubles began in the wee hours of April 2, just after Palm Sunday. The legislator was found by Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy Grant L. Langheinrich wearing no pants, socks or shoes and attempting to fight off saloon patrons. The bar is on Route 5 in Vernon.

Normally this doesn't happen to someone, Gardner said. It was a compilation of events that the doctor said caused this. They don't call it a mental illness.

Gardner said his doctor called it a mental episode, caused by a temporary chemical imbalance.

It was caused by me ceasing drugs for cholesterol, blood pressure and anxiety, Gardner said. The anxiety medication was the wrong drug. I should have never been on it to begin with.

Gardner had been taking Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac. It's an antidepressant that relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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