KINDERHOOK — Harold Handy III, who was allegedly assaulted at a party at a sheriff’s deputy’s house last year, denied Monday allegations his father made over the weekend accusing Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett of bribery in connection with his case.
Handy’s father, Harold Handy II, accused Bartlett of official misconduct and bribery during in connection with his son’s alleged July 5, 2020, assault at a rally in Kinderhook in Village Square on Saturday. About a dozen people participated in the rally.
The younger Handy was allegedly assaulted during a Fourth of July party at the Kinderhook home of Columbia County Sheriff Deputy Kelly Rosenstrach and her husband Alex Rosenstrach, the former owner of ClubLife Gym in Valatie.
Handy’s father publicly asserted the sheriff conspired with Rosenstrach, and attempted to arrange a meeting with Carl Williams, of Wil-Roc Farm in Stuyvesant — Handy III’s father-in-law — at a corn field on his farm and offer his son a private payout of $700,000.
The younger Handy and Williams vehemently denied the claims.
“Sheriff Bartlett had reached out directly to see how I was doing,” Handy III said Monday. “My father-in-law Carl Williams and I met Bartlett, not in a corn field, but right in front of my in-laws’ farm shop. There was nothing secretive, and Bartlett was definitely not there as a representative of Alex to negotiate a bribe.”
The older Handy has shared a video of his statements during Saturday’s rally on his social media page online.
Williams watched the footage and also denied the accusations.
“I categorically deny the charges made by Mr. Handy,” Williams said. “Mr. Handy does not live in Columbia County and has not lived here in many years. He is injecting himself into our local political matters with no real understanding of the local facts and circumstances. It is an outrageous falsehood to suggest that any money was offered by anyone — in a cornfield or any other place.”
Bartlett is seeking re-election on the Republican and Conservative tickets against Sheriff’s Deputy Don Krapf, running for sheriff on the Democratic and Columbia United party lines. Saturday’s rally was held 10 days before the Nov. 2 election.
“I urge them to reject negative politics and to reject lies being made on the eve of an election,” Williams said of county residents. “I intend to vote for Sheriff Bartlett and I hope the people of our county, regardless of party, do so, as well.”
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office initially handled the investigation into the Fourth of July suspected assault on the younger Handy at the Rosenstrach’s home during a party, but transferred the case to New York State Police last August at the request of Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka.
State Attorney General Letitia James’s office declined last July to take the case.
During his meeting with Williams and Bartlett, Handy III recalled he voiced concern about the way the first two days of the investigation had been handled, and said he felt the sheriff had not been informed about the course of events.
“My opinion is SIU [state police Special Investigations Unit] did not release information to or work directly with the sheriff’s department,” Handy said. “After the meet-up, we waited to see how the investigation would eventually unravel.”
Four people were indicted in connection with the incident Oct. 7, 2020, about 13 weeks after the party: Kelly and Alex Rosenstrach of Kinderhook, Bryan Haag, 38, of Kinderhook and Cory Gaylord, 32, of Craryville. The 25-count indictment included multiple felony charges against each defendant.
One of the charges listed in the indictment for all four defendants is second-degree gang assault — a class C violent felony.
All four defendants were released on their own recognizance.
A trial date has not been set. In July, county officials cited months of ongoing COVID-19-related delays within the state’s Unified Court System.
“I believe Bartlett had failed to do his job in my case, and I will be voting for Don Krapf for sheriff,” the younger Handy said.
Williams expressed support for his son-in-law Monday and he said he believes justice will be served when the case comes to court.
“From my experience and knowledge, Sheriff Bartlett is a man of integrity and the ongoing campaign of false, malicious rumor and innuendo being made against him is an obvious effort to influence the outcome of an election,” Williams said.
Bartlett thanked Williams for his statements, and referred to comments he made over the weekend denying the claims.
On Saturday, Bartlett said Handy II’s accusations of bribery and misconduct are “outright lies.”
“These are lies that [Handy II] is making up — I don’t have the slightest clue if Rosenstrach or Handy got together,” the sheriff said Saturday. “I don’t talk to Rosenstrach at all. It’s political nonsense.”
Handy II said Monday his planning and timing of Saturday’s rally was not politically motivated.
Rosenstrach donated $500 and $400 separately in 2017 to Bartlett’s campaign during his 2018 run for the sheriff’s seat, according to the state Board of Elections.
Kelly Rosenstrach, who was suspended from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office after the incident, remains employed in the agency, but it is unclear if she is a paid employee. She was seven months pregnant at the time of last year’s party.
The fate of her employment with the sheriff’s office depends on the outcome of the case.