LOCKPORT – Local auto repair shop owner Dave Mongielo’s attempt at “citizen journalism” led to a council member’s husband physically confronting him inside a Robinson Road restaurant in may.
Now Mongielo is asking the court to return the legally registered firearms he was forced to turn over to law enforcement following separate orders issued in the current case by a county judge and a judge. of the town of Royalton.
During a Friday hearing in Niagara County court, Mongielo’s attorney, James Ostrowski, asked County Judge John Ottaviano to reconsider his order, arguing that his client was not the assailant during the attack. May 10 incident and that the state laws applied in the case lack clarity. .
“I believe that the various laws that we are dealing with in this case are unconstitutional,” Ostrowski said.
The case stems from a May 10 incident at a Robinson Road restaurant where Mongielo stopped for breakfast and saw a group of city officials, including city supervisor Mark Crocker, the fellow city council members Patricia Dufour and Darlene DiCarlo, highway superintendent Dave Miller and Dufour’s husband Ralph seated together at a table.
In court on Friday, Mongielo testified that he pulled out his cell phone and started filming the group because he intended to ask city council members questions about property tax reassessments.
Before he could ask any questions, Mongielo testified, in accordance with statements he made to the sheriff’s deputy who filed a report on the incident, that Ralph Dufour got up from the table, approached him aggressively and dropped his cell phone. her hand.
Mongielo testified that Dufour’s actions cracked his cell phone cover. He also claimed that after Dufour knocked his phone out of his hand, DiCarlo pushed and slapped him.
Dufour was charged with one count of fourth degree criminal mischief and one count of second degree harassment.
No charges have been filed against DiCarlo.
“I didn’t do any of that and the CCTV proves it. I think it’s a personal thing,” DiCarlo said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
Due to a conflict of interest, Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman’s office is not pursuing the Dufour case, which is instead being handled by Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone. as a special prosecutor.
When reached by phone on Friday evening, Patricia Dufour declined to comment, saying only that she and her husband had retained a lawyer and the matter was before the courts.
Mongielo was initially charged with three counts of second-degree harassment. On Friday, he said two of those charges have since been dropped. He has already appeared in Royalton City Court on the sole charge of harassment.
In court Friday, Mongielo testified that Crocker and DiCarlo personally opposed petitions filed by him and 20 other residents seeking to run for positions on the Lockport Republican committee. The objections led to the disqualification of the petitions filed by Mongielo and the other committee nominees by the Niagara County Board of Elections.
Mongielo also testified that he believed, because three of the five city council members were seated together inside the restaurant, that their May 10 meeting represented a quorum, which is the minimum number of elected officials needed for a meeting can take place. be considered legal.
Describing himself as a “citizen journalist,” Mongielo said he often takes videos while interviewing public officials on political and government issues and has posted these videos as part of reports he produces for Facebook. and other social media sites. He estimates that his videos have had over 100,000 viewers this year.
In a comment accompanying the video of the restaurant encounter he captured on his cellphone, Mongielo describes himself as a “video journalist” who has “every right” to ask questions of city officials.
DiCarlo said she doesn’t disagree with the need for officials to answer questions from members of the public, including Mongielo. She added, however, that she doesn’t think it’s unreasonable for residents to treat officials with respect.
“We’re happy to answer his questions if he does so in a respectable way, but he didn’t,” she said.
DiCarlo called Mongielo’s decision to approach city officials that day a “bad time,” saying they ate breakfast at the restaurant on May 10 to comfort a grieving colleague whose son had died. the previous week.
As for Mongielo describing himself as a “video” or “citizen” journalist, DiCarlo said she doesn’t consider him a member of the press and he doesn’t act like one.
“He has a habit of trying to say the city council is corrupt and doing things they shouldn’t be doing and he has no proof,” she said.
Ottaviano and a Royalton judge granted protective orders in the case.
After Friday’s court appearance, Ostrowski said that in order for Mongielo to get his firearms back, he’ll have to convince Ottaviano and the Royalton judge to reconsider their orders.
Ostrowski told Ottaviano that he planned to submit video of the confrontation inside the restaurant that was taken on Mongielo’s cellphone as evidence in the case. He also intends to deliver to the court a copy of another cellphone video obtained by a sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene which was taken by a restaurant employee. Additionally, Ostrowski told the judge he would submit a photo of Mongielo’s damaged cellphone.
Ottaviano said he would review the evidence and review Mongielo’s testimony before making a decision.
Mongielo is due to return to Town of Royalton Court on October 11.