LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On a windy Friday morning, community and national leaders gathered in front of Warren County Municipal Center to acknowledge National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The event is meant to celebrate accomplishments made by victims’ rights movements, as well as to acknowledge the local impact of crime and tragedy.
“Everyone here that’s come to see this has either been touched by crime, impacted by crime, or has made a life trying to help victims of crime,” said Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone. “Every year, the Office of Victim Services gives out a theme (for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week), and I looked at the theme, and it said ‘Help crime victims find justice.’ And that’s what this is always about, and that’s what this has always been about.”
Carusone spoke in front of members of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, County Sheriff Jim LaFarr, Assemblyman Matt Simpson, Senator Dan Stec, and many other local figureheads. The words they heard ran the gamut from the impact of COVID-19 on crime proceedings to the impact those crimes leave on the residents of any community.
As Carusone spoke, he described how the term “victims” can include both direct crime victims and indirect ones – tangential to an incident but still part of the story. That can include loved ones and family members of the person who was the main victim. Carusone pointed out Manon Affinito and Michaela Choppa, specialists with the county Victim Assistance Program.
“I describe it as a funnel,” Carusone explained. “All crime that occurs – everyone that’s a victim of a crime that occurs has the opportunity, in Warren County, to talk to these two. We have thousands of cases, and so it’s pretty remarkable that two people are able to filter that down.”
When a new case comes in, Affinito and Choppa reach out to make connections with families and others tied to the crime at hand. Their job can include connecting victims with law enforcement, but also includes giving them means to contact housing and child care services, domestic violence and Planned Parenthood personnel, and other services.
Carusone spoke about some specific crimes of particular note within the last few years in Warren County. One was the death of Joseph Turcotte, a Brant Lake man killed almost instantly when his vehicle was struck by another during a chase on the Adirondack Northway. The driver, Skyler Crouse, was traveling over 100 miles per hour when he hit Turcotte coming off Exit 25 in Chestertown. Officers had attempted to intercept Crouse after he was found speeding over 90 miles per hour in a work zone in the area of Exit 18, and eventually used a spike strip to slow him down near Exit 25.
That accident took place in September 2019, but it was only this past January that Crouse was sentenced to 15 years in New York State prison, after pleading guilty to manslaughter the preceding December. Carusone cited that case as one where the path to justice was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The original trial was a week away when the pandemic closed down the courts. He also said it served as a reminder of the last step in an officer’s day after responding to a case like that.
“I guess sometimes I didn’t realize that. You’ve just had the most horrific day, trying to help people, and oftentimes the end of your day is now going to a family member to tell them what’s happened.”
Carusone also described a young victim named Casey, who was the victim of a crime and has been patient as the hearing date for her case has been moved multiple times. Casey did not get support from her family in her case, while the perpetrator did not take responsibility. COVID-19 led to multiple delays, but through it all, she stayed strong.
“She persevered,” Carusone said. “This case was reported in 2019, and lingered for years because of this. She stuck to it, through thick and thin, and believe me, it wasn’t easy. Think of the emotions of getting yourself ready to go, as a kid, knowing you’re going to be the star witness in this, and then getting a call and being told, ‘No, it’s not happening today.'”
The victims’ cases were memorialized in bricks, set into the Municipal Center’s memorial site for criminal cases in Warren County. The bricks were etched with victims’ names, free of charge to the county.
Glens Falls High School student Ava Levine was in attendance and sang the National Anthem to begin the ceremony. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Jack Harvey, a former victim of a robbery who has come to every annual Victims’ Rights Week ceremony held since.