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Mistrial declared in camp counselor case after child recants

QUEENSBURY — A mistrial was declared Thursday in the case of a former local camp counselor who allegedly sexually abused numerous campers after one of the child complainants admitted before he testified that he fabricated the allegations.

The shocking turn of events brought the trial of Dylan T. Stolz to a halt Thursday afternoon. It resulted in a directive from acting Warren County Judge Kelly McKeighan for Warren County prosecutors to have all of Stolz’s accusers re-interviewed before another trial can be scheduled. Stolz faces 27 felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly fondling nine boys at Brant Lake Camp in Horicon.

The mistrial was granted after a young boy who was scheduled to testify Thursday made comments to prosecutors before court proceedings began. He said he was “no longer certain” that Stolz had touched his penis as he had earlier claimed and testified before a grand jury, Warren County First Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burin told McKeighan. The boy had also alleged Stolz touched him improperly in a shower, and has not wavered from that claim, authorities said.

Child, mother testify in camp counselor sex abuse trial

QUEENSBURY — The Warren County jury that will decide whether a former camp counselor sexually abused campers heard Wednesday from the first child who accused the counselor, starting an investigation that led to dozens of charges on behalf of nine alleged victims.

The boy was questioned further, and he made a number of conflicting statements about whether the allegations were true, before eventually admitting he “copied” what his camp friends who had also claimed they were molested by Stolz had said. Three of his friends from camp were among the alleged victims, and the boys discussed the allegations last summer after Stolz was fired by the camp.

“He was asked why he copied his friends, and his response in sum and substance was that he wanted to support his friends and be involved in the case,” Burin explained.

The boy’s age was not released, but the indictment shows the boys involved were ages 8 to 10 when they were allegedly molested in recent years.

Several of the boys are friends from downstate and attend school together. Defense lawyer James Knox said he believed a mistrial was warranted, and the District Attorney’s Office did not oppose the request.

The mistrial does not spell the end of the case, but it means prosecutors will re-evaluate it and decide whether to pursue another trial. The case was adjourned until March 8, with no new trial date set.

“We are planning to move forward and continue to seek justice in this case,” Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said later Thursday.

He said he could not comment further on the day’s developments.

McKeighan and Knox commended the District Attorney’s Office for bringing the new information forward as it did.

Knox told the jury in his opening statement Wednesday that he believed the boys who knew each other fabricated their allegations. He said later the developments seemed to show there was truth to his theory about at least some of the boys making up the claims.

Stolz, 51, of Little Neck, Long Island, is free on bail, pending further court action. He has pleaded not guilty.

In all, 10 boys complained of sexual abuse at Stolz’s hands between 2015 and 2018 in bunkrooms and showers at the camp, where he had worked as a counselor for 33 summers. The boys were interviewed multiple times before the case was presented to grand jury, and in preparation for trial.

Charges related to one boy’s allegations were dismissed last month on a technicality related to the grand jury proceeding that led to the indictment, but those can be re-presented for another indictment.

One of the boys, his mother and the camp’s co-owner and director testified during the first day of testimony on Wednesday. The boy said that Stolz fondled his genitalia in a bunk the first night of camp last June. The child then wrote a letter to his mother disclosing the abuse, as children don’t have access to electronic devices at the camp, and a State Police investigation began.


Local
Glens Falls Hospital reducing hours at Salem, Granville primary care centers

Hours are being cut at two of the eight primary care centers run by Glens Falls Hospital.

The hospital will be cutting back on the number of days that Salem Medical Center is open, hospital officials said.

Hospital officials have also cut the hours at Granville Medical Center. The center will be closed on Saturdays.

The hospital hasn’t yet announced which days Salem Medical Center will be closed. The hospital didn’t announce either decision, but informed local employees, who spoke to The Post-Star.

Online, the hospital’s website says that the Salem center is open for primary care Monday through Friday. The center had already been cut back, however, with medical providers on site three days a week. Now that will be reduced further.

“We are working on plans to continue providing care a limited number of days per week to the Salem community,” said spokeswoman Katelyn Cinzio. “We are still finalizing details.”

Employees said they have been told that hours will be cut, but that they have not been given details on the new schedule.

Salem officials, who also heard about the plans, have been arguing with the hospital to keep the center open. They said the hospital was at first planning to close the facility for primary care.

It also provides lab services five days a week and outpatient rehabilitation upon appointment.

Town Board member Bruce Ferguson said he was unhappy with the secrecy over the issue.

“It would be nicer if they were more direct with us,” he said. “But it wouldn’t make it any less painful. It’s been popular with people in town because they don’t have to drive to Cambridge.”

Workers at the hospital’s other six centers said they had not been told their center’s hours would be changed in any way. The unaffected centers are in Corinth, Fort Edward, Greenwich, Hudson Falls, Whitehall and Wilton.

Glens Falls Hospital has made a number of cuts this year, apparently to reduce expenses.

At the main hospital, the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit was closed on Jan. 25.

The hospital also closed the Center for Occupational Health, a service that handled drug testing, injury reports and other work issues for businesses in the area. That closed on Jan. 18 after many businesses apparently chose to get the work done elsewhere. In two years, the number of businesses using the service dropped from 2,000 to 900, according to the hospital’s reports and its website.


Photo provided 

Salem Medical Center


Local
Head of home building company charged with defrauding customers

Burton

MOREAU — The former proprietor of a Moreau-based modular home company was arrested and jailed late Wednesday on charges she defrauded eight customers of more than $1 million, records show.

Sherrie A. Burton, 64, of Moreau, was charged with eight felony counts of grand larceny and a single felony charge of scheme to defraud in connection with allegations made by customers of the now-defunct Valued Manufactured Housing Inc., also known as Valued Homes. The company formerly operated from Route 9 in Moreau as well as Burton’s home on Jackson Avenue Extension.

The arrest came after the state Attorney General’s Office and State Police received numerous complaints over the last two years from people who said they paid Burton and her company tens of thousands of dollars as down payments for homes that weren’t built or were delivered incomplete or without proper title.

“This individual perpetuated a devious scheme to defraud hard-working New Yorkers out of thousands of dollars for her own gain,” Acting State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett said in a news release issued Thursday morning.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a news release that it has heard from over 40 potential victims of Burton’s company so far.

Bank records show a repeated pattern of the company taking deposits from customers for homes, but failing to use that money for the homes as required, prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors allege that Burton falsely represented to customers that they needed to put a substantial deposit down for the manufacturer to begin construction of their new home, while in reality the manufacturers did not require such a deposit.

She also was accused of obtaining financing to buy floor plan or display models and illegally selling them as new models to many customers, leaving the victims without legal title to the homes and the lenders believing the homes were still on display in her showroom.

Three of the victims lost $50,000 or more, court records allege. One of the families reported losing up to $108,000, and one couple reported taking money from a retirement account to try to build their dream home.

The Attorney General’s Office alleged in court documents that Burton spent customers’ money on trips to Turning Stone Resort and Casino, Amazon.com, home shopping networks, cash advances and household expenses.

“Based on my review of the (bank) accounts ... the defendant utilized the deposits and payments from victims for her own personal expenditures,” Attorney General’s Office Investigator Samuel Scotellaro wrote in a court deposition.

Documents filed by the Attorney General’s Office in Moreau Town Court allege that state records show Burton created the company and was listed as its president and chief executive officer since 2013. Customers began reporting problems with construction and delivery of homes beginning in 2015.

Burton declared bankruptcy last October, court records show. She was prosecuted in a similar case in the 1990s, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation that her lawyer said was terminated early.

The Better Business Bureau revoked Valued Homes’ “accreditation” last fall because of unresolved complaints, and the organization gave the company an “F” rating.

Her lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said that Burton maintains her innocence, and that deaths of her son and husband, who helped her run the business, led to the problems.

“They were really in charge of the business,” he said. “It was really a tragic situation for everyone involved.”

He said the jailing of Burton in a nonviolent case was an example of why bail reform was needed in New York.

“It is unfortunate the practice in this state is to incarcerate defendants who are presumed innocent because they can’t afford bail,” he added.

Burton was arraigned late Wednesday before Moreau Town Justice Jeff McCabe and sent to Saratoga County Jail for lack of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bail bond. McCabe also directed a bail source hearing to be held if she attempts to post bail.

Burton is due back in court on Feb. 13. The weightiest charges, three counts of second-degree grand larceny, are punishable by up to 15 years apiece in state prison.