NY court rules county can't prosecute former ambulance squad treasurer for alleged theft
The case against the former treasurer dates back to 2015 and at one point involved 29 criminal charges
The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.
WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. — An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Warren County cannot prosecute the case of a former EMS agency treasurer accused of stealing from the organization's coffers, on the grounds that the alleged crime happened outside the county.
Edward G. "Grant" Gentner was facing trial on three felony grand larceny charges after prosecutors said he stole $3,900 from the Lake George ambulance squad.
The case has a long history. Gentner was arrested in December 2015 by state police on a felony grand larceny charge. The case was assigned to the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office because Gentner had been a witness in a previous case prosecuted by the Warren County District Attorney's Office and was acquainted with a prosecutor in the office at the time.
Gentner was indicted in April 2018 on 29 charges accusing him of stealing $18,000 from the organization in 2012 and 2013. However, 25 charges relating to his alleged thefts in 2012 were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
A trial on the remaining charges was held in the fall of 2018. It ended in a mistrial when his defense attorney became ill.
In February 2019, Hamilton County prosecutors asked to be removed from the case because they did not believe they could handle the workload. The case was sent back to Warren County, which no longer had the conflict.
Then-Warren County Court Judge John Hall dismissed one of the four charges — falsifying business records — in October of that year because he deemed there was not sufficient evidence.
Gentner's new attorney, Karl Sleight, filed an appeal to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court on the grounds that Warren County did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case because the alleged illicit withdrawals happened at a bank in Saratoga Springs. Warren County argued that the loss of funds from the EMS agency could deprive Warren County residents of emergency medical services.
The appeals court did not support that argument, ruling in its decision that for Warren County to have jurisdiction the county "was required to establish not only that petitioner's alleged conduct had a materially harmful impact to the well-being of the Warren County community as a whole, but also that petitioner intended his conduct to have such an impact."
The court barred Warren County from prosecuting the case.
Sleight issued a news release touting the victory.
"The court's decision represents the final nail in the coffin for this ill-conceived prosecution. All previous charges were dismissed by the county court. This case should never have been brought. Now it is finally over," Sleight said.
Sleight claims that the allegations against his client stemmed from a split in the organization in 2012 about whether it should remain a volunteer organization or transition to a for-pay entity. Gentner supported remaining as a volunteer group, but the other side won by a slim majority.
Sleight said the case against his client was not very strong.
"The prosecution of Mr. Gentner under these circumstances was shocking. The protracted nature of this case and the stress that it brought to Mr. Gentner and his family over the years only exacerbated the injustice," he said.
He and his client also thanked Joe Brennan, of the law firm of Brennan and White, for his assistance on the case.
Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said when the case was sent back to his office in 2019, it was clear that there were some procedural or jurisdictional issues that needed to be resolved.
Assistant Warren County Attorney Robert Terwilliger represented Carusone's office.
Carusone said Terwilliger attempted to make the argument that while the alleged crimes occurred in Saratoga Springs, Warren County was affected by the conduct. However, that argument was not accepted by the court.
"We have an answer now that says there's nothing for us to prosecute," Carusone said.
(c)2021 The Post Star (Glens Falls, N.Y.)