According to The Batavian, LeRoy Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau initiated a physical altercation with neighbor and local property developer Pete McQuillen over a dispute about some tree branches and where they happened to land.
Barbeau allegedly attacked McQuillen because "Barbeau was upset because a tree on McQuillen's property fell and Barbeau believed a portion of the tree came down onto his property."
Barbeau was arrested by LeRoy police and charged with Second Degree Harassment which, under New York Penal code happens when:
A person is guilty of harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person: 1. He or she strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or 2. He or she follows a person in or about a public place or places; or 3. He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose. Subdivisions two and three of this section shall not apply to activities regulated by the national labor relations act, as amended, the railway labor act, as amended, or the federal employment labor management act, as amended.
Barbeau by his own admission in the following quote from The Batavian committed the violation:
"It was quite heated," Barbeau said. "He got heated right back. I pushed him with my hands open on his chest and he fell to the ground."
This quote tells you a couple different thing. First, when Barbeau says that 'It was quite heated,' he is referring either to himself or his opinion of the entire situation since he modifies that statement immediately with the following, 'He got heated right back.' The statement tells us unequivocally that McQuillen responded in a way that mirrored Barbeau's 'heated' actions until those actions became physical in nature. There is also a reasonable understanding that, at this point, Barbeau was on McQuillen's property and, by Barbeau's own admission, initiating physical contact.
I take no issue with the police response or with the charges levied against Mr. Barbeau for his admitted actions except for this:
In Genesee County, NY, alleged crimes rising to the bare minimum level for charging under the statute have been previously charged under the current District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, particularly when they involve political figures to wit NY v. Charvella in which a political activist was charged with Misdemeanor Aggravated Harassment under NY Penal code 240 for placing a phone call in which the defendant stated to an elected official's answering machine: 'Thank you for reading my blog.'
NY v. Charvella was later dismissed by a Town Justice in that same county.
The District Attorney in that county later stated after being accused by the defendant in the case as well as educated commentors outside of the case as making political decisions rather than legal ones that his ""political affiliation is always irrelevant. I don’t look at anybody’s politics when I get involved in a case, neither the victims nor the defendants nor the witnesses nor anybody else."
If the Genesee County DA was in any way serious when he made that statement he should, based on his history of charging crimes clarified in the the very weakest letter of the law, upgrade this charge to Assault in the Second Degree (a misdemeanor) which states:
A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when: 1. With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person;
Or, at the very minimum, Menacing in the Third Degree which states:
A person is guilty of menacing in the third degree when, by physical menace, he or she intentionally places or attempts to place another person in fear of death, imminent serious physical injury or physical injury.
The Genesee County DA should also reserve, and exercise , the right to upgrade this crime based on any injuries Mr. McQuillen may have sustained during the altercation.
The justice system only works when it is used in a manner that is equal for all under its purview. Whether that person is the accuser or the accused should not matter. Consistency must be the watchword. Consistency from case to case.