Many charges dismissed in Kinderhook beating case tied to Columbia County sheriff's office
Typically, when public officials release news of interest late on a Friday, it is considered a news dump, giving the story less impact as more people aren't paying attention to the media while they enjoy their weekend. Late on Friday, Dec. 10, Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek announced he was dismissing several charges against the public servants who beat a man nearly to death during a July 4 party in Kinderhook in 2019. Tim Blydenburgh and Mike Goodwin report in the Times Union that a Columbia County sheriff's deputy and her husband, an IRS agent, and a fourth man all had four of 12 counts against them dismissed by Koweek. The judge said there was insufficient evidence for the gang assault charges against former Valatie gym owner Alex Rosenstrach, 38; County Sheriff's Deputy Kelly Briscoe Rosenstrach, 34; IRS law enforcement agent Bryan Haag, 37, and Cory Gaylord, 31, a contractor. Harold Handy, the victim, was hospitalized for two days and needed two surgeries because of the beating he took at the home of the Rosenstrachs on County Route 21. He had a large hematoma over his left eye, and a broken orbital bone and one of the surgeries was to put a "plate" to cover the area where the operation was performed, according to the judge's decision. But the judge said there was not enough evidence that Handy suffered serious physical injury to warrant the gang assault charges. The judge wrote, "No evidence about permanent impairment of a body organ or disfigurement or permanent scarring was received," as he also dismissed second-degree assault counts against Alex Rosenstrach and Haag. The judge also dismissed two counts against Kelly Rosenstrach for allegedly reading discovery requests that police officers have access to, but criminal defendants are not supposed to see. While another sheriff's deputy testified to the grand jury that he saw Kelly Rosenstrach looking at discovery requests, the judge wrote that "he did not know exactly what he was looking at." That comment hints at the ethical minefield the case has, with the police investigating the police. Soon after the incident went public, residents and politicians raised concerns about how the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office was handling the investigation of the Rosenstrachs with the apparent conflicts of interest. Besides Kelly Rosenstrach working as a deputy sheriff, her husband Alex Rosenstrach also donated to Republican Sheriff David Bartlett’s 2017 campaign. And the investigation got off to a rough start when Columbia County deputies told a supervisor Handy was not severely hurt and that partygoers were too drunk to be interviewed. Eventually, the State Police Investigations Unit took over the investigation. Now, the defense team is making similar ethical charges. Deputy Rosenstrach wants the judge to remove District Attorney Paul Czajka as the prosecutor because the district attorney's office and her employer, the sheriff's department, regularly work together. Rosenstrach's attorney also argued that she had testified in other cases, but Koweek rejected her request to remove the prosecutor. Pretrial hearings on the remaining charges are now scheduled to begin April 4. Read more about this story in the Times Union.