A Niagara Falls attorney and political operative, already facing rape and related charges, was arraigned Wednesday in City Court on felony and misdemeanor counts in connection with an election fraud investigation that appears to be tied to his sex crimes case.
Nicholas D. D’Angelo, 30, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree attempted tampering with public records, an E Felony, second-degree forgery, a D Felony, first-degree identity theft, a D Felony, and two misdemeanor counts of campaign contribution to be in the true name of contributor, violations of New York’s State Election Law. D’Angelo entered his pleas before Buffalo City Court Judge Andrew C. LoTempio.
LoTempio conducted the arraignment because all of the Niagara Falls City Court judges recused themselves from D’Angelo’s case.
D’Angelo is due back in City Court on April 20 for a felony hearing. He is free without bail because none of the charges he faces are bail eligible.
In a statement released Tuesday, the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit (SIU) announced that it had taken D’Angelo into custody for what was described as an investigation into “campaign fraud.” SIU investigators said “it was determined that D’Angelo forged records and used a victim’s identity to make a false campaign contribution.”
Sources with knowledge of the investigation told this newspaper that the identity theft victim is the husband of Assistant Erie County District Attorney Lynette Reda, who is acting as a special prosecutor in D’Angelo’s sex crimes case. The alleged fraud was uncovered by campaign officials working on the 2021 election of Chief City Court Judge Janelle Faso, who said they discovered what appeared to be a mailed election contribution from Sam Reda.
Jamie Depetris, who served as the manager of Faso’s campaign, declined to comment and referred questions to her attorney Mark Grossman. Asked about the handling of the alleged campaign contribution from Sam Reda, Grossman said, “Neither Ms. Depetris nor Judge Faso, Janelle Faso, at the time, knew what is in that envelope (which bore markings indicating that it had come from Sam Reda). Jamie Depetris, in her individual capacity and in her capacity in the campaign to elect Judge Faso had nothing to do with it and neither did Janelle Faso.”
A spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Kait Munro, declined comment on the charges against D’Angelo or the allegation that a family member of a prosecutor in the office was the identity theft victim. However, Munro did say that, in light of the new charges, that prosecutors would “be filing a bail motion” in the sex crimes case.
D’Angelo has been free, on his own recognizance, after the original judge in his sex crimes case, now retired State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., found that he was unlikely to be “a flight risk.” The attorney has also continued to practice law while his first criminal case is pending.
On March 31, D’Angelo is scheduled to be back in Niagara County Court for a motions hearing in connection with his sex crimes case.
D’Angelo was charged in November 2020 in a 12-count indictment that accuses him of multiple rapes and sex crimes and patronizing an underage prostitute. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the counts in that indictment.
Progress in the sex crimes case has been hampered by court shutdowns triggered by the Covid pandemic and the need to appoint a replacement for Kloch, who retired in December 2021. State Supreme Court Justice Debra Givens was assigned to the case in July and has been considering a request by D’Angelo’s defense attorney to issue judicial subpoenas that would allow him to see the confidential medical records of one of his alleged victims.
Jury selection for a trial for D’Angelo is currently set for May 9.
State Police investigators said the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office assisted in their investigation. DA Brian Seaman confirmed his office’s involvement in the case and said it will continue to be handled by his prosecutors.
“There is no ask for it to be moved somewhere else,” Seaman said.
He declined to comment on any specifics of the election fraud case. Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco handled the arraignment on the election fraud complaint and is expected to prosecute that case.
Calls and text messages to D’Angelo and his defense attorney, on Tuesday, were not immediately returned. If he were to be convicted on the remaining 11 counts in the sex crimes indictment, D’Angelo faces a potential prison term of 35 years.
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