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Friends, family want charges dropped against Brasher Falls man

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"BRASHER FALLS - Friends and family members of a Brasher Falls man charged earlier this month with criminal contempt say those charges and others filed as a result of a dispute with a couple purchasing their home should be dropped.

Instead, Brian and Linda Brunelle said they’ve been the subject of harassment over an increase in the property’s taxes after it was purchased from them. They now want out of the land contract.

Mrs. Brunelle said the incident started after the purchasers claimed the Brunelles lied to them about the annual tax bill, saying it was $3,000 and they had to pay $6,500.

She said they had paid $3,000 when they owned the property. But after the other couple agreed to purchase the property, they had received notification that taxes would be increasing following a reassessment.

“They moved in just as the assessment was changing,” Mrs. Brunelle said.

The Brunelles alleged that, since then, they’ve been the subject of harassment. They said the buyers put up a plywood fence around their property and wrote a number of vulgarities directed at the Brunelles.

“A sign on the fence says we lied to them (about the taxes). She did not even ask us. They had a tax notice saying it was increasing,” Mrs. Brunelle said. “She’s just mad tat the world. They think we lied to her. That’s why she called us tax evaders.”

The Brunelles also alleged the couple intentionally ran two hoses under the fence, draining water from a goose pond onto the Brunelle’s property.

Mr. Brunelle had originally been charged with criminal mischief after he took the hoses and tied them to a tree to prevent any more runoff, the couple said.

Mrs. Brunelle said the hoses had been pumping sewage onto their property for several hours, and they contacted the New York State Police. Troopers told them it wasn’t a police matter and referred them to the Department of Environmental Conservation, she said.

After contacting DEC officials, Mrs. Brunelle said they were told the area was determined to be wetlands and said they would visit the area. At that point, she said, Mr. Brunelle tied the hoses to a tree.

Several hours later, the buyers wanted their hoses back, and they filed charges after discovering a pinhole and alleging that their pump no longer sounded right.

Mr. Brunelle was arrested at home six days later and charged with criminal mischief. An order of protection was also filed against him.

Mrs. Brunelle said they’ve approached town officials about the statements on the sign directed at them, but have received no satisfaction even after the chairman of the town’s zoning board of appeals wrote a letter after determining it was within the town’s purview to handle the issue.

“He said it’s a zoning violation. He said the fence was legal and became a structure (when it was erected). It’s now a sign (because of the lettering across it) and needs to be regulated,” she said.

Mr. Brunelle was charged with second-degree criminal contempt for violating the order of protection earlier this month after his wife wrote a certified letter to the buyers to let them know the property was being foreclosed on because they had not been making payments and Mr. Brunelle mailed the letter.

Mr. Brunelle, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who retired after 30 years at Alcoa, appeared in Brasher Town Court Wednesday night on the criminal mischief charge.

He had more than a dozen supporters in the parking lot of the Brasher Municipal Building. They were carrying signs that proclaimed his innocence. His wife said, prior to his arrest, the member of American Legion Post 79, Amvets Post 4 and VFW Post 1143 had never even received a ticket.

And the supporters didn’t think he deserved to be charged for what they said was harassment on the other couple’s part.

“Dismiss all charges now,” one sign read.

“Is this our justice?? Arrest the harassed, not the harasser?” another sign proclaimed.

Another read, “Brian is not a criminal. Never could be!!!”

Mr. Brunelle was released on $1,000 bail and will reappear in two weeks.

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