By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In the end, damage to 11 of the Village of Cooperstown’s mask-ordinance signs totaled just under the $250 threshold for a felony charge.
“The total damage came to $238.74,” said Cooperstown Police Chief Frank Cavalieri.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Village Police arrested Luke Smith, 45, Cooperstown, for spray-painting Xes across four large and seven small “Masks on Main” publicizing the must-wear mandate between Main to Pioneer in the Business District. He was charged with criminal mischief, fourth degree, and issued a ticket.
On Monday, Oct. 5, village officials were notified that the signs had been taken and vandalized. According to Cavalieri, the three large signs were found spray-painted and discarded in front of District Attorney John Muehl’s office; the smaller signs from the rain gardens were found behind Pioneer Alley.
“We believe he spray-painted them there,” the chief said. “There were traces of spray paint on
The suspect was caught on camera footage provided to police by local business owners, the chief said adding, “We collected a lot of evidence.”
According to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, the suspect turned himself in Tuesday morning. “He must have realized there was mounting evidence against him,” she said. “When you have video evidence, it’s hard to argue against it.”
“He made a mistake,” said Cavalieri. “I don’t think he’s a criminal per se. He did a criminal act, but he’s stressed and frustrated with everything going on in the country.”
Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, who helped initiate the “Mask on Main” program, said she had seen some pushback when the law was first passed.
“What surprises me the most is that it took this long,” she said. “When I first put out magnets on parking meters and trash cans, I saw immediately that some were taken or moved.”
Because the signs are printed on plastic, Tillapaugh said, any solvent used would damage the image and text, so new signs have been ordered.
“It’s the law,” Cavalieri said, “The reason for it is to protect our most compromised citizens. If you have the possibility of saving someone’s life by wearing a mask, I don’t understand why there would be pushback.”