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Oneida County Corrections Officer cleared of selling steroids
UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oneida County Corrections Officer Peter DiNardo hugged several fellow corrections officers after Oneida County Court Judge Barry Donalty dismissed the case against him on Monday.
DiNardo had been charged with selling illegal steroids to a police informant.
In court on Monday, New York State Police Trooper Michael Benedetto testified that while he was with the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team in 2009, he took part in an undercover sting to try and catch two Oneida County Corrections officers in the act of selling illegal steroids.
Benedetto testified that he couldn't say for sure that DiNardo actually passed steroid pills to fellow corrections officer Zachary Lazore from hand to hand during surveillance back in July of 2009, outside of DiNardo's Deerfield home.
"I was able to see them exchange some sort of object," Benedetto said. "I have an idea of what it was, I can't be certain of what it was."
Benedetto, now a trooper with the State Police out of Herkimer says he and another undercover officer followed Lazore to Delmonico's on North Genesee Street in Utica, where two other officers involved in the sting operation witnessed Lazore selling the 60 pills of steroids to a police informant named Jason Schultz for $160.
Lazore pleaded guilty last year to selling the drugs to the informant Schultz. In exchange for his guilty plea, Lazore received five years probation, but lost his job with the sheriff's department.
Prosecutors on Monday however, did not call Lazore as a witness.
When Oneida County Court Judge Barry Donalty brought that point up at the end of the four hour trial, Assistant District Attorney Grant Garramone told Donalty regarding Lazore:
"I don't feel that his accounting of how he got the steroids is truthful, and I really don't want to call someone to the witness stand whose testimony I believe isn't going to be true."
"Are you asking me to assume, or presume, or be pretty sure that that transaction like that was a transfer of drugs between Mr. DiNardo and Mr. Lazore. Is that what you're asking me to do?" Donalty asked Garramone after both sides wrapped up their cases.
Garramone asked the judge to take all of the testimony and evidence into consideration, including phone records of the conversations Benedetto said took place between DiNardo and Lazore and Lazore and the informant Schultz.
In the end, Judge Donalty ruled the prosecution did not present enough evidence to convict DiNardo and thus dismissed the case.
DiNardo refused to comment for us after Monday's proceedings were over, but one of his two attorneys from Syracuse did.
Defense Attorney Emil Rossi said his team was confident the dismissal would be the final ruling all along.
"Mr. DiNardo was always insistent that this was the only route we could take, and I'm glad that he was insistent," Rossi said.
When Rossi was asked if there was any explanation by DiNardo as to what the phone conversations between DiNardo and Lazore were about Rossi said, "we just concentrated on what was admissible here in court."
After Judge Donalty's ruling, DiNardo hugged a number of fellow Oneida County Corrections Officers who were in the courtroom.
No word yet from Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol on whether DiNardo will now be reinstated and be paid for backpay he lost while on suspension.