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Defense Comes Out Swinging In Highly Publicized Long Island Dumping Trial

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- Opening statements were made Tuesday, in a highly publicized case of alleged toxic dumping on Long Island.

The dumping turned a public park into a crime scene, and prosecutors claim it endangered drinking water and veterans.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, defense attorneys had some choice words about the case.

Father and son, Thomas Datre Sr. and junior waited nearly two years for their day in court on charges of criminal mischief and public endangerment.

Prosecutors said the men dumped hundreds of tractor trailer loads of filthy demolition debris and tried to pass it off as a donation.

They alleged that fill which was "chock full of hazardous substances" was used to level land for housing for Gulf War Veterans and to refurbish soccer fields at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

"It turned into poison park and that's a crime versus this whole community," Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment said.

It was called an environmental disaster. Asbestos and pesticides were found in debris dumped at four sites including wetlands. Prosecutors said the Datres were motivated by greed, avoiding fees and permits while endangering Long Island's drinking water.

"The hazardous materials include chlordane, DDT, and an acutely hazardous insecticide called dialdine," Suffolk County District Attorney, Tom Spota said.

But the Datres attorney invoked sentiments from the movie My Cousin Vinnie, launching his opening statement by calling the allegations "bull."

Kevin Kearon said the Datres are a prominent political fundraising family and "the most decent people who ever came out of Long Island" and that the case is "rubbish... a political hit."

"There are so many bad actors here, so many people with hostile intentions to the Datre family that it is mind boggling," Kearon said.

Their attorneys said they committed no crime. The park used to be a town dump, so soil samples are tainted.

"Every member of the Datre family acted in this case with good intentions and are the last people in the world to do anything to put anyone's health at risk," Kearon said.

Attorneys said they will prove the donated fill posed no health risk and was perfectly legal.

"I have to conclude that this is a political attack on Thomas Datre Sr. The man has not done a damned thing wrong," attorney Andrew Campanelli said.

The Datres and their company are on trial, but the D.A. is also being judged, having been accused by the defense of orchestrating a malicious conspiracy.

In a statement Spota's office called the defense counsel's allegations "completely false."

"This case is about the defendants dumping toxic and hazardous debris in our communities for profit. The jury will hear and see evidence during this trial proving exactly that, and the defendants' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense counsel's allegations are completely false and will not be supported by the evidence."

The town of Islip has been faulted for abysmal management of the park.

The trial could last three months.

The park has still not reopened while remediation and monitoring wells are in the works.




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