MALONE — Brushton Mayor Kevin Pentalow was convicted of two driving while intoxicated charges Thursday but acquitted of bribery and assault charges stemming from a fight in Brushton last year.
A six-man, six-woman Franklin County jury found Pentalow guilty of DWI and driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 of 1 percent or greater, both misdemeanors. But the jury returned not-guilty verdicts on a felony charge of second-degree attempted bribery, a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault and a violation charge of second-degree harassment.
The charges all stemmed from a fight in the parking lot of the Old School Apartments on Oct. 11. Pentalow was accused of striking a woman in the face during the fight, then offering her and another person money to not report the situation to police. The DWI charges were filed because Pentalow drove away from the scene after consuming beer and wine just prior to the fight.
The jury’s decision “renews my faith in the jury system,” defense attorney Peter Dumas said after the verdicts were announced. Jurors “weighed the evidence very carefully and made the right decision,” Dumas said.
“Justice was really done here,” he added.
Assistant District Attorney Kelly Poupore, who led the prosecution, merely thanked the jurors for their work when asked for comment. Jurors deliberated roughly 3½ hours over two days before reaching their verdicts.
Franklin County Judge Derek P. Champagne set sentencing for Sept. 30. He released Pentalow after reducing his bail from $10,000 to $5,000, citing the felony acquittal, but added a provision that Pentalow be supervised by the Franklin County Probation Department while awaiting sentencing, noting that the mayor was jailed briefly after leaving the county without permission while awaiting trial.
Champagne also imposed a curfew and forbade Pentalow from consuming alcohol — a stipulation that will be enforced by a monitoring device he must wear at all times.
The prosecution and defense presented two very different pictures of what had taken place on the night of Oct. 11. The prosecution’s two main witnesses, Stephen P. Spence II and Samantha Larock, had testified that Pentalow instigated the fight and had deliberately punched Larock when she tried to separate the combatants. The defense argued that a third man, Jessie Snyder, had started the fight after pushing Pentalow during an argument and that if Pentalow had struck Larock, he had done so accidentally while defending himself.
Testimony from several prosecution witnesses who were not involved in the fight was more in line with that of the defense witnesses — Pentalow and his sister, Mary — than it was with Spence and Larock’s version of events.
Spence and Larock had also testified that Pentalow had offered them several hundred dollars not to report the incident to police; Pentalow acknowledged that he had offered money, but said it was to cover the expenses of taking Larock to the hospital and for her medical treatment because he knew she did not have the money to cover them.
Dumas highlighted those discrepancies during his closing arguments and said after the trial that his focus on the credibility of the witnesses formed the “lynchpin” of his case.
Jurors left the courthouse without commenting on their deliberations, but several stopped to congratulate Dumas as they walked out.