Report says trustee ‘inappropriate’

Since the middle of December, Fredonia village Trustee Joseph Cerrie has attended board meetings. He has voted on significant village resolutions, including the contract with Pomfret regarding fire district protection.

He also has been on legal probation due to an incident that occurred last summer.

Cerrie was charged with forcibly touching a 28-year-old woman’s breasts while bartending at Heenan’s in the village. Recently, the OBSERVER obtained a copy of the police report filed in the early morning of June 28 by the female victim. After a night out at the local bar, the woman told police the 43-year-old trustee directed inappropriate comments toward her and groped her at one point during his shift.

“We (myself and a male co-worker) were having a beer and the bar was pretty slow, so the bartender, who I know as Joe Cerrie, was having a conversation with (us),” she stated in the report. “The conversation then started to turn inappropriate …”

Cerrie then reportedly came over to the table the two were at and asked the woman how big her breasts were. The three of them allegedly laughed it off at first, but Cerrie reportedly continued to ask the woman about her breasts.

“I started talking to (my co-worker) more instead of listening to Joe,” the woman stated in the report. “I just sat there kind of laughing, trying not to make an issue of it. Joe had gotten up off my lap and was standing behind me when he then decided to reach around the front of me and place his hands on my breasts. He had placed a hand on each one of them and squeezed them from the outside of my dress for about 10 seconds … .”

The woman said in the report she was in “complete shock” at that point, while Cerrie reportedly walked away laughing on his way back to the bar. The woman and her co-worker apparently left right after the incident, but not before Cerrie allegedly asked her if she was going to make a report with police. The woman allegedly did not answer him and left.

According to the report, the woman’s co-worker asked if she was OK afterward, to which the woman reportedly replied she was “still in shock.”

“The more we talked about the situation, the more I knew it was inappropriate and I thought I should file a report,” she said in the report. “I felt violated by Joe’s actions and at no time did I tell him or give him any indications that it was acceptable to touch my breasts.”

After giving her testimony to police, she signed the report under penalty of perjury.

The OBSERVER, which is withholding the victim’s name, reached out to the woman for a possible interview, but she declined to comment.

Mike Cerrie, Joe Cerrie’s legal counsel, also declined to comment to the OBSERVER on the police report, citing the case as ongoing.

However, a letter on Page A6 from Fredonia attorney John Gullo finds fault with this article. “It is a rehashing and repeating of old and available information and, frankly, only seems consistent with someone trying to harm Joe personally, professionally and politically,” Gullo writes.

A plea deal was unofficially agreed upon in Cerrie’s legal case in December, and according to prosecuting attorney Paul Webb III, the original forcible touching charge, which is a misdemeanor, may be lowered to a lesser offense. Webb added Cerrie’s plea is “still being held within the court” and has not officially been entered yet.

While on interim probation, Cerrie must report to a probation officer every so often while his case is pending in court. The original charge may be lowered if he cooperates with that probation for six months, according to Webb.

“Right now, he’s cooperating with probation, and he has to continue doing that until at least June, and then we will come back and look at the case again,” Webb said in a recent phone interview with the OBSERVER. “We should have some sort of resolution in June. It may be that he pleads to a harassment charge at the end.”

Webb added the female victim was “fine” with the pending deal. He declined to comment on her police report.

Cerrie has served as a Fredonia trustee for about 10 and a half years and is currently two and a half years into his third term.

Comments on this article may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com