by Thaddeus Flint
A January 23 Columbia County Sheriff’s raid on a drinking party at the New Lebanon residence of New Lebanon Town Supervisor Mike Benson on County Route 5 resulted in the arrest of 28 teens.
Twenty-seven teens were cited by Sheriff’s Deputies Hofstetter and Madison for underage drinking. Another teen was cited for possessing marijuana. All of the teens cited were from counties other than Columbia County except one.
[private]The teens were issued appearance tickets for hearings at New Lebanon Town Court on February 2 and February 16. However, due a possible conflict of interest, New Lebanon Town Justice Jessica Byrne said on February 1, “The hearings will most likely be held in another town.” She was unsure as to which town would be named but expected it to be in Columbia County.
As the rural residence where the party occurred is located far from any neighbors who might complain about groups of teens up late drinking on a school night, the questions arise – who called the sheriff and why? and could the call have been politically motivated in targeting the current Town Supervisor?
The Columbia County Sheriff has only said that a male caller alerted them to the malfeasance. Efforts to learn more were stymied by the Sheriff’s Office in Hudson. When presented with a Freedom of Information Request on February 1, Lieutenant Andrews stated that no information would be given until the case was closed. “Your FOIL request is, in effect, denied,” he said. When asked when the case might be closed, Andrews threw up his hands and said, “Who knows?” Lawyers for the youths might keep it going until summer, for all he knew.
An email request to Supervisor Benson for comment was not responded to by press time.[/private]
by Thaddeus Flint