Niagara Gazette

Courts

July 29, 2013

Mistrial declared in Lockport sign case

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A mistrial has been declared in the ongoing sign case involving David J. Mongielo.

Lockport Town Justice Raymond E. Schilling made the ruling Monday in response to a motion by Mongielo's attorney, Frank Housh. Housh said in court that Schilling began the jury selection process without a court reporter present.

Housh said even though the session was audio recorded, that's not enough when someone's freedom was at stake.

"You can't rely on the recording," Housh said.

Mongielo is to be tried for violating the town’s electronic sign ordinance that prohibits signs from changing the format or message more than once every 10 minutes. It's the second time Mongielo has been charged with violating the ordinance.

Monday was the start of jury selection for Mongielo's trial. Not a single juror had been interviewed as potential jurors sat in court for about an hour. A jury would consist of six members and an alternate.

Schilling said Housh has until Oct. 1 to file motions. A date for oral arguments will be determined at that time, Schilling said.

Housh said he plans to file motions asking for Schilling to recuse himself and for a change in venue.

Mongielo's case has been quite a journey so far.

The Town of Lockport auto shop owner was originally sentenced to 15 days in Niagara County Jail and fined on April 17, 2012 in Lockport Town Court.

The jail sentence was the result of the violation coming within the one-year conditional discharge Mongielo received on Sept. 14, 2010 for his first violation of the sign ordinance. The condition for the discharge was that Mongielo could not break the sign ordinance again. But, Niagara County Judge Matthew Murphy’s ruled in October the second conviction had to be overturned and a new trial given.

If Mongielo is convicted this time around, he would face up to six months in Niagara County Jail.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.

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