Judge dismisses felony counts against Ray Canario in Evergreen Court inspection case

“A Rockland County judge on Tuesday dismissed felony counts of falsely filing inspection reports against former Spring Valley Building Inspector Ray Canario, dealing the District Attorney’s Office another blow in efforts to prosecute people resulting from the 2021 fatal adult home fire case.

Judge Kevin Russo had previously dismissed the prosecution’s case for failure to prove intent to defraud against Wayne Ballard, the former Spring Valley chief building inspector and head of the Public Works Department.

Russo found prosecutors failed to prove Canario intended to defraud in filed reports of building department activities with New York state.

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The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday March 16 with witnesses called by Canario taking the stand.

Peter Walker, a spokesperson for Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh, said the DA would comment after Russo gives verdicts on the three misdemeanor counts. Canario’s attorney, Stefanie Jordan, had asked Russo to dismiss all six charges after prosecutors Ryan Sweeney and Michael Dugandzic closed their case.

The judge’s ruling Tuesday, March 14, means the prosecution has so far failed to get a conviction following the investigation into the fire at Evergreen Court Home for Adults in March 2021. Firefighter Second Lt. Jared Lloyd, 35, and adult home resident Oliver Huestead, 79, died in the inferno at the Lafayette Street facility.

The District Attorney’s Office had plea-bargained dismissal for two Evergreen Court employees, including the director of several facilities owned by the Schoenberger family. Denise Kerr, the director, had allowed two rabbis to cleanse the facility’s kitchen and ovens with a blow torch system without proper permits.

The rabbis − Nathaniel Sommer and his son Aaron Sommer − face court on April 18 on their not-guilty pleas to manslaughter, negligent homicide, arson, assault and other felony charges. The Evergreen Court inferno erupted on March 22, 2021, several hours after the rabbis used a 20-pound blowtorch to cleanse the Evergreen Court ovens and kitchen for Passover.

Walsh has declined comment on the cases since a news conference to announce indictment charges. He declined to discuss if his office has offered Sommer a plea agreement.”

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