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Sacco cleared in taking of political sign

The former Niagara supervisor won a victory in court this week as a justice dismissed a charge of stealing a political sign.

Wheatfield Justice John J. Mattio cleared James A. Sacco of a petit larceny charge, ruling that the sign Sacco took from land near the former Military Road School last year was not an actual political sign.

Mattio based his decision on a Town of Niagara sign ordinance -- drafted by Sacco while he was supervisor in the 1990s -- that states a political sign can't portray a negative message concerning a candidate and that anyone putting up a political sign needs permission.

The sign in question featured the names of Sacco and Councilman Robert Clark, then a candidate for the Town Board, with a slash running across their names.

Mattio ruled it could be considered as litter that anyone could remove.

The matter went to Wheatfield Town Court to avoid a conflict of interest.

Niagara Town Police Chief H. James Suitor has said a witness reported seeing Sacco take at least one sign at about 8:30 a.m. Nov. 7 -- Election Day -- from property owned by National Grid on the 4400 block of Military Road.

The signs belonged to Niagara Supervisor Steven C. Richards, who was not a candidate in the election.

Richards, a Republican, had defeated Sacco, a Democrat, in the 1995 town supervisor's race and has held the office since 1996. Sacco had previously served as supervisor for 16 years.

For the first time publicly, Sacco admitted Wednesday to The Buffalo News he had taken the sign.

"Am I sorry? Heck no," he said. "If he puts them up again, I'll take them down again."

Sacco still faces a $1.9 million libel and slander lawsuit that Richards filed in State Supreme Court.

"He'll probably get the [Town Board] together to change the sign law," Sacco said of Richards.

Richards could not be reached Wednesday. But in a previous comment to The News, he said of Sacco, "at the end of the day, he stole property that belonged to me."

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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