SARATOGA CO., N.Y. (News10)-The Saratoga County District Attorney has allowed a temporary gag order against city officials in Saratoga Springs to lapse. But in the meantime, she says she is pursuing new legal action against two top Saratoga Springs officials in order to prevent them from talking about a shootout that ended with officers firing upon a Vermont sheriff’s deputy.
During a Thursday press conference, the city’s public safety commissioner James Montagnino slammed District Attorney Karen Heggen over the temporary gag order saying it had been a waste of resources and taxpayer dollars in legal fees. “A gag order that a reasonably savvy high school Junior would know was violative of the first amendment of the United States constitution,” said Montagnino.
The gag order had been Heggen’s reaction to another press conference back on November 20th, when only hours after an officer involved shooting Montagnino and Mayor Ron Kim released street camera and police body cam footage from the shootout between an off-duty Rutland County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a Utica man. The video shows responding officers repeatedly tell the deputy to put his weapon down and when he does not, three officers fired upon him. 3 people including the deputy identified as Vito Caselnova of Glens Falls were injured but survived. News10 has learned the identity of the other man involved in the shooting as a barber from Utica named Alex Colon.
As for the video, Mayor Kim claims the Heggen walked into his office the day after the shooting demanding they not release it, as well as any information about the shooting. Kim and Montagnino have repeatedly said they had concerns that doing so would be going back on their promise of transparency to citizens. During Thursday’s press conference, Kim said city officials asked Heggen to offer some information that she felt they could release, but she flatly refused. He and Montagnino defended their decision saying they wanted to dispel rumors. “Already social media was talking about all sorts of theories about these individuals, about the possibility that it was gang related, etc. etc. Things that we knew we needed to dispel,” he added.
Heggen told News10’s Anya Tucker that their comments about the interaction on November 20th were mischaracterized and that by releasing the video and sensitive information pertaining to the case mere hours after the shootings occurred may have already hindered her prosecution and taint a jury. “[The] information that they released on November 20 was done within 10 hours of the incident. There were people who were still being identified,” Heggen said.
Heggen insists that she is just trying to maintain the integrity of the investigation. To that end, she says she has now filed an “Article 78” to keep the Kim and Montagnino from revealing any more information about the case. They have 20 days to respond. No arrests have yet been made. Anya asked her why and when the case will go to a Grand Jury. “I’m not going to try this case in the press,” Heggen answered. “It’s not appropriate. It’s not ethical. And it will handled at the right time and in the right way.”