KINDERHOOK — The father of a man allegedly assaulted at a party at a sheriff’s deputy’s house last year accused Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett on Saturday of bribery in connection with his son’s case.
Harold Handy III’s father, Harold Handy, accused Bartlett of official misconduct and bribery in connection with the alleged July 5, 2020, assault on his son 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 made his comments about his son’s case during a rally in Kinderhook on Saturday in Village Square. About a dozen people participated in the rally.
“Sheriff David Bartlett did attempt to bribe Harold with $700,000 provided by Alex Rosenstrach,” Handy’s father said. “What I’m saying is, David Bartlett conspired with Alex Rosenstrach.”
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.
Bartlett, who is running for reelection Nov. 2, vehemently denied the allegations, adding they are politically motivated.
Handy’s father said Saturday that around July 9, 2020, or four days after the incident, Bartlett contacted Carl Williams, of Wil-Roc Farm in Stuyvesant — Handy’s father-in-law — to arrange a meeting with the younger Handy and offered him a payment of $700,000 paid by Alex Rosenstrach.
“This meeting was in the middle of a cornfield at Carl Williams’s farm in Stuyvesant,” Handy said during the rally Saturday. “What transpired in that cornfield is official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor.”
Bartlett said Saturday that Handy’s father’s accusations of bribery and misconduct in handling the case are “outright lies.”
“These are lies that they’re making up — I don’t have the slightest clue if Rosenstrach or Handy got together,” Bartlett said. “I don’t talk to Rosenstrach at all. It’s political nonsense. It’s Harold Handy Sr., again, lying and I don’t have the slightest clue if somebody tried to pay somebody off. I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.”
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.
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.
The state police Special Investigation Unit overseeing the probe reviewed messages and evidence on several cell phones from the Rosentrach home, Handy’s father said Saturday.
Investigators found relevant evidence on Alex Rosenstrach’s second phone, he added, revealing 22 police officials failed drug tests from steroids they used at the gym Alex formerly owned.
“This phone was loaded with intel,” Handy’s father said. “The findings were handed off to the DA’s office. The DA’s office decided not to charge the individuals and is running them through a union formality to remove them from duty. They are given the option to resign or retire. That is fact.”
Bartlett refuted Handy’s father’s claims.
“Why would you have people that have failed drug tests that are still on the job?” the sheriff said Saturday. “That’s not true — again, this guy, he’s a flat out liar.”
The sheriff’s office remains in negotiations with the union about drug testing.
“We don’t even have drug testing right now,” Bartlett said. “Because of new legislation, that’s a negotiated item — any type of drug testing is a negotiated item. You have to negotiate that with the bargaining unit, whether to do that or not.”
Bartlett noted that Saturday’s rally was held exactly 10 days prior to the Nov. 2 election, and called Handy’s father’s accusations politically motivated.
“At the end of the day, if I did not handle this case, or I covered this case up, Mr. Handy would be 100% right — that would be official misconduct,” Bartlett said.
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.
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.
Handy was hospitalized at Albany Medical Center the night of the party and recovered from his injuries for several months. He was first treated at the Rosenstrachs’ home by the Valatie Rescue Squad for about 44 minutes.