Off-duty Rutland County Sheriff’s Office deputy Viro Caselnova was shot by local police in Saratoga Springs, New York last fall. A judge has dismissed the criminal charges he was facing in connection with his alleged actions leading up to the shooting.
On November 20, 2022, Caselnova and his girlfriend got into a fight with three men from Utica, New York. Investigators said at the time of the incident that Caselnova and one of the Utica men shot each other.
Responding officers from the Saratoga Springs Police Department could be heard on body-cam video shouting at Caselnova at least eight times to drop his gun. He did not comply; the officers shot him and one of the bullets grazed his girlfriend’s arm.
A Saratoga County grand jury indicted Caselnova in March in Ballston Spa, New York on eight criminal charges, including attempted murder.
“It wasn’t until we were given the (grand jury) transcripts and started digging into them that there were some issues that needed to be brought to light,” defense attorney Gregory Teresi said.
In dismissing the indictment, Judge James Murphy III wrote that the Saratoga County District Attorney’s office failed to properly instruct the grand jury on the law.
“He thinks that there should be more expansive and more detailed instruction as it relates to justification and self-defense,” District Attorney Karen Heggan said.
“In New York state, we’re allowed to defend ourselves during certain situations,” Teresi said. “One of those situations is if you believe that a serious crime is about to be committed against you or somebody with you.”
Judge Murphy added that an assistant district attorney made a series of mistakes in presenting the case to the grand jury that formed “a demonstrated pattern of unfairness”. The judge continued:
“The cumulative effect of these errors in this grand jury proceeding rendered it so flawed as to be fundamentally defective and cannot be said to be fair in any sense of the word.”
“I can’t talk about what happened in the grand jury,” Heggan said. “I’m not allowed to do that, by law.”
However, Heggan called attention Thursday to several points.
“Mr. Caselnova was not absolved of any wrongdoing at any point in time during the course of that 31-page decision,” she said. “And in fact, at the end of it, Judge Murphy makes a decision that grants my office leave to re-present this case. Further, as part of that, (he) did not make any findings that any of (Caselnova’s) actions were legally justified or that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges.”
Heggan said her office is carefully considering how to proceed and won’t rush a decision of whether to seek a new indictment. For his part, Teresi said he’ll continue to prepare Caselnova’s defense as if the case will go to trial.