I got an email the other day from a guy I have written about more times than I can count, Nick Torchetti, lamenting that an article from last summer about a case he was involved in was keeping him from getting a job. He took an Alford Plea to third-degree robbery for a dispute with an ex-girlfriend in which he took her phone and slapped her, a case he believed was overcharged because of his record and reputation.
My standard response is, if the crime didn't occur, we wouldn't have written about it. So the responsibility typically lies not with media coverage, but the crime itself.
But Torchetti was always a guy whose troubles had always stuck with me, because I remembered him from before he got in trouble, when he was in his late teens and early 20s winning the Adirondack Toughman contest at the Glens Falls Civic Center in the early 1990s. The Toughman contest was a big deal back then, and nicknamed "Inflicting Pain," Torchetti was a beast in the ring.
I told him that I remembered those Toughman contests, and he said something that surprised me: Winning that contest was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Nearly three decades later, Torchetti lamented that his pugilistic prowess made him a celebrity, and he blames it at least in part for sending him down a path that has led to a lot of crime and sorrow.
He was a marked man afterward, every wannabe tough guy in the region wanting to fight him. And fight he did, ringing up many assault arrests, taking on cops, and getting warned by then-Glens Falls City Court Judge David Krogmann at one point that he was going to kill someone if he didn't stop brawling.
"Everybody wanted a piece of me," he said.
We had a long conversation, and knowing his reputation and record, I was struck at how well-spoken Torchetti was. He told me how he had gone to Marist College to play baseball after he got out of high school, which I hadn't known.
But now, at age 48, he said he was too old to keep getting in trouble, and just wants to get a decent job and support himself.
Having just been put on probation for the Warren County cellphone theft last fall, he is awaiting sentencing in a felony drug case in Saratoga County early next month (the case predated the cellphone plea) and worries that he may be sentenced to jail in that case because of his past.
Torchetti knew that getting out of the Glens Falls area was key to trying to get straight.
The Hudson Falls resident said he had been clean for more than a decade before his troubles last year, having moved to the Albany area to get away from the local scene.
He came back to Warren County in 2014 to help care for a long-time family friend, Alfred "Jigs" Canale, as Canale dealt with a terminal illness.
The death of Canale, with whom he was very close, in 2015 led to emotional trauma that he said he medicated with cocaine.
He said he has been clean since his arrest last summer, and drug tests through probation proved it. Despite years of experience as a contractor, welder and plumber, he can't find a job.
"I'm applying all over the place and no one will hire me," he said. "I just want to work. I'm done with all of this trouble."
It's never too late to change. Nick Torchetti says he plans to prove that.
-- Don Lehman