Rochester-based group decries state’s correctional system — By Rob Varley
AUBURN - As the jury selection got underway at the Cayuga County Courthouse for the trial of Dino Caroselli, an Auburn Correctional Facility inmate accused of assaulting two corrections officers, an 11-person protest settled on Genesee Street to decry the system.
They bore signs that read "Why is there no accountability?" "God is watching us," and "Get rid of bad apple guards." When a Department of Correctional Services van passed, several waved at the figures behind the darkened windows.
The protest was organized by Edge of Justice, a Rochester-based group that provides legal assistance to inmates in New York prisons. President Cheryl Kates said they’ve received a number of complaints about a selective group of guards in Auburn who habitually abuse inmates.
"They’re trying to give someone a life sentence when they beat the crap out of him," she said, referring to the pending trial.
On Dec. 17, according to statements by corrections officers, Caroselli bit one guard above the left eyebrow in an unprovoked attack. After a struggle that injured another guard, Caroselli suffered a broken leg, a broken hand, broken fingers and numerous facial injuries.
Caroselli, 46, is serving 35-years-to-life for his 1993 conviction for attempted assault on a peace officer, weapons possession and attempted first-degree robbery.
Kates dismissed the notion that they were opposed to the prison or the correction officers.
"We’re not saying their first priority is not safety and security in the facility, but when they go the extreme when they have broken several bones and knocked teeth out, that’s excessive force. They should be held accountable for that," she said.
The DOCS in Albany declined to comment on the matter. The NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association was unavailable for comment.
Caroselli’s wife, Anna Horan, made a brief stop with the protestors before going to the court building. She drove from Florida with her sister, Connie Loffredo, who handed out pictures of a bruised and battered Caroselli.
She said officers were brutal to make an example out of her husband.
"My husband wasn’t the first and he’s not going to be the last," she said.
She went beyond calls of acquittals when asked what would be an acceptable result.
"Justice. We don’t want these kind of criminals wearing (correctional officer) uniforms," Horan said.
Horan said Caroselli is traumatized.
"He’s not the same man he was before. He’s afraid to sleep at night," Loffredo said.
Horan admitted her husband wasn’t an angel, but this incident did little to prepare him for life after prison.
Joyce Hackett Smith and Florence Smith, both of Auburn, joined the protest.
Teresa Rodriguez, a former inmate who served at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, drove from Rochester in a show of solidarity.