Cooperstown Sees Its First Two Cases Ever
By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Although applied in the Village of Cooperstown for the first time this summer – twice – bias laws have been on the books for years, according to Cooperstown Police Chief Mike Covert.
What’s changing is public attitudes toward possible racial and homophobic confrontations are changing, he said: “It’s very unusual, but people aren’t going to put up with it.”
That makes them more likely to report what they consider harassment, Covert said: “Years ago, people may have looked the other way. People are being vigilant, they’re seeing bad behavior and they’re reporting it.”
And, he cautions, the penalties are real: “Assault cases usually result in jail time. We’ve had people to go jail for harassment cases too. People have to behave.”
In the second case this year, Lawrence Mileo, 50, of Myrtle Beach, S.C. was arrested Monday, July 25, and charged with assault in the third degree as a bias crime after he allegedly punched a 33-year-old black woman in the face at the Lakefront Restaurant.
According to the felony complaint filed with Otsego Town Court, the victim was exiting the restaurant, the victim alleged, when Mileo “hip-checked” her.
“Whoa, whoa, why are you pushing me?” she said, according to her complaint.
He then allegedly called her a “black ghetto (expletive)”, according to a witness’ affidavit, and when her husband tried to escort her away, Mileo said, “She is going to get you (expletive) killed. This is why you people get killed.”
She returned to the restaurant to tell him not to talk her in that manner, and he punched her across the left side of her face, then allegedly tried to grab a knife from the busboy’s tray, according to her statement. Other diners held him back while the police were called to the scene. She was treated by EMTs
On June 21, Marcus Walters, 40, Waynesville, Ohio, was charged with harassment after allegedly calling a 17-year-old Hartwick resident a series of homophobic slurs after he and his friend “hugged and kissed” outside the Hall of Fame bathroom.
“If you don’t leave me alone, there’s going to be an issue,” Walters allegedly said, while advancing towards the victim with his fists clenched.
In the case of Mileo, two witnesses came forward to corroborate the victim’s story, including one who was sitting next to the busboy’s tray when Mileo allegedly reached in it for the knife.
In the Walters’ case, the son intervened, telling the victim, “My dad is sorry and doesn’t mean it,” although Walters continued to use homophobic and threatening language.
Though both were released on bail, Mileo is scheduled to return to Otsego Town Court on Wednesday, Aug. 17 and faces up to seven years in prison; Walters faces up to four.
“This kind of behavior just isn’t acceptable,” said Covert. “People aren’t going to put up with it.”