POUGHKEEPSIE – A man and his father were caught on video at the Tuesday protest in Poughkeepsie where it appears they were trying to instigate an otherwise peaceful protest. Observers claim that two men were at the corner of Bridge and Main Streets yelling racial epitaphs at protesters and telling them to go home. The story, including the video, can be found here.
One of the men in the video, Ryan Lephew, claims it was a huge misunderstanding.
Lephew maintains that more than two hours before the march, two men in full leather motorcycle riding gear, including helmets, accompanying a woman, approached him and his friends.
Lephew says that the woman offered to pay him and his friends to stay with them throughout the march and participate in civil disobedience after the planned end-time of the rally.
The accused instigator says that the offer made him angry. “I saw the damage that could cause and it made me mad and agitated,” said the 31-year-old Lephew. He claims that he was determined to point them out and warn people that they were looking to cause trouble.
Lephew says he was using a spare phone to record video when he approached them a short time later. “I asked them to take their helmets off” in order to see their faces. Lephew says they became irritated that he was “putting them on Front Street,” and calling them out. A few minutes later, Lephew said he was at Main and Bridge Streets when he saw them marching. At the same time, Lephew’s father, John, was approaching the intersection. The younger Lephew says that he started yelling at the bikers, saying, “Go home – you don’t belong here – just go back from where you came from.”
Lephew says that one of the helmeted men approached him and displayed a handgun from inside of his jacket, causing Lephew to draw his pocketknife.” Still holding his phone from earlier, Lephew says a “short” girl came up and stole the phone that had the video, running away into the crowd.
Some protesters and observers surrounded both Lephew men, keeping them away from the march. Seconds later, rocks or pieces of bricks were thrown at Lephew. One struck him in the head, causing a deep wound, and another hit an observer as she tried to calm things down. Lephew was then seen striking one of the “peacekeepers” by punching him in the head. The assailant claims that he doesn’t remember hitting Mr. Robinson, because he was in a completely enraged state of mind. “I don’t remember hitting the man, and I apologize for hitting him,” said Lephew.
In the video, both Lephew and his father threaten to leave, get guns and return, to shoot people. “I was not mad at the protesters,” he said, stressing that he was yelling at the instigators, not the protesters. “We don’t even own any guns,” said Lephew as he continued to apologize. “The trouble I caused doing that, the repercussions, people got hurt – I got hurt – somebody could have lost their lives, and I am very sorry.”
Claiming that he was misunderstood and was yelling at the three people, not the marchers, Lephew continued to apologize for his actions. “I’m sorry to the people that were involved. I’m sorry to the EMTs, the police officers, and the fire department,” he said, acknowledging that the first responders could have been working to keep everyone safe elsewhere along the march. “I am also sorry to my family,” said Lephew who said he has received numerous threats of physical harm from people he does not know.
“I am not a racist. My mother didn’t raise me that way,” he said. When asked to review his actions, he said “I asked for trouble and I got it.”
MONTICELLO – A proposal to cut four percent from Sullivan County Government management salaries from July 1 through the end of the year was put off for two weeks following heated debate among county lawmakers on Friday.
Those opposed to a vote on the plan were concerned with what they said was a lack of communication by leadership in notifying them of the proposal that would reduce the salaries of some 87 people.
Legislator Nadia Rajsz let her colleagues know how she felt about it during a Zoom-cast meeting.
“We knew COVID existed for months. We knew we were in the crapper. We knew that things were not going to get better. We knew with the layoffs at that point in April that things were not going to get better with the state budget,” she said. “Why didn’t we get together and start talking about how can we resolve this besides taking away money from these who are working shorthanded, working twice as hard and to boot, did not know this was happening.”
Legislator Ira Steingart complained that they were provided with no financial analysis before this issue came up.
MONTICELLO – On Friday, June 5, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office received authorization from the New York State Commission of Corrections to begin populating the new county jail on Old Route 17 in Monticello and hours later, all 68 inmates were transferred from the downtown Monticello jail.
The move ends the use of the former facility on Bushnell Avenue, the oldest county jail in the state, originally built in 1909.
Due to security precautions, the move was kept quiet until the last possible moment. The sheriff’s office was assisted by state troopers and Monticello Police units as successive convoys moved prisoners through the village to the new building. Sheriff Mike Schiff stated that all inmates were secured in the new jail by 5 p.m. without incident.
Despite a ribbon cutting by the county legislature in October of 2019, the jail did not receive a connection to the Village of Monticello water system until December and required additional equipment to be installed and certified for operation.
Working around the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the sheriff’s office was finally able to complete the required training of the jail staff this week and receive permission from the state to begin operation.
Schiff thanked the County Legislature, the County Manager’s Office, the Department of Public Works and the State Commission of Corrections for their support in bringing this project to completion. The sheriff also thanked the Monticello Police and State Police for providing assistance with Friday’s movement of inmates.
MONTICELLO – State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick, Thursday, rejected a legal maneuver to have four inmates at the old Sullivan County Jail released immediately.
Represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the inmates contended their areas where they are houses are rife with mold, leaking water pipes and other issues that compromised their health.
After hearing oral arguments via Zoom, Schick inspected the jail living quarters in person and when he returned, he said he saw issues at the facility that would make them sick.
The justice allowed for a doctor selected by inmates’ attorneys to inspect the jail within two weeks and then return to his court.
It was not known on Thursday that all inmates would be transferred to the new jail the following day.
Schick said the court case would continue even if the old jail is shut down and all inmates are transferred to the new facility before the next court arguments.