Daniel M. Sutton, a former Erie County laborer, Friday became the second person convicted in a scandal involving theft and misuse of taxpayer equipment at the county's Aurora garage three years ago.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia found Sutton, 36, guilty as charged on one count of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, official misconduct, theft of services and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for the theft of two heavy-equipment tires.
Buscaglia, who conducted a non-jury trial, found Sutton not guilty of a second set of the same charges linked to county drain pipe Sutton used around his own Clarence Center home several years ago.
Sutton, now a laborer for the Clarence Highway Department, did not testify and did not visibly react to the verdict. Ted Donner, Clarence highway superintendent, said after the verdict that Sutton's continuing job status "is under review right now, and we will be discussing that with the Town Board and the town attorney."
Glenn E. Murray, Sutton's attorney, said he plans an appeal, but he and Sutton declined further comment. Sutton now faces sentencing July 22 and could get anything from probation up to four years in state prison. He was allowed to remain free on his own recognizance.
Sutton was convicted in the theft of two heavy-equipment tires from the county garage that he then sold for $1,400. He was acquitted on charges related to the theft of several thousand dollars worth of drain pipe from the county.
Commenting in his office after the verdict, Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark lauded prosecutors Mark S. Sacha, Steven Meyer and David S. Kelly and the special grand jury that spent eight months probing the scandal.
"Abuses that took place in those years are no longer taking place, and practices that cost a lot of money and gave us no benefit" as taxpayers no longer exist, Clark said.
The trial ended with Patrick A. Kennedy, a former county highway supervisor and key figure in the case, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer questions from Sutton's attorney.
The former Aurora garage crew chief had been linked to the scandal as a "close associate" of the only other person indicted in the case, Douglas H. Naylon, former head of Aurora garage operations. Subpoenaed by the defense, Kennedy repeatedly invoked his right against self-incrimination and even refused to admit that he ever worked for the county.
Kennedy was never accused of criminal wrongdoing and is currently not under investigation, but prosecutors refused to grant him immunity for his testimony. Kennedy reportedly has a $4.5 million lawsuit pending against the county for alleged harassment, demotion, humiliation and denial of due process in the garage scandal.
On Nov. 15, Naylon, 47, was placed on three years' probation and fined $2,870 by Buscaglia. Naylon, a real estate developer who had been Sutton's boss at the county garage, had pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges for illegally using a county-owned tractor-trailer for his own business.