Amsterdam alderman facing felony counts back in court

PHOTOGRAPHER:

City of Amsterdam 4th Ward Alderman Stephen Gomula, left, appears in Amsterdam City Court on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. He is represented by Montgomery County Assistant Public Defender Theodore Hartman.

AMSTERDAM — The assignment of a special prosecutor is still pending and a judge from a neighboring city is now presiding over felony charges against Amsterdam 4th Ward Alderman Stephen Gomula.

Gloversville City Court Judge Traci DiMezza presided over Gomula’s appearance in Amsterdam on Friday. Amsterdam City Court Judges Lisa Lorman and William Mycek have each recused themselves from hearing the case.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Manpreet Kaur noted in court that an application seeking a special prosecutor is pending approval by District Administrative Judge Felix Catena.

After charges were filed last month, Montgomery County District Attorney Lorraine Diamond said she would request the case be handled by an outside prosecutor due to the past employment of Gomula’s former fiance by her office.

Despite the alleged discovery of illegal weapons in Gomula’s possession by city police, the investigation was also referred to state police due to his elected office. His past employment by the Montgomery County Department of Social Services has created further conflicts for local law enforcement officials.

The gradual assignment of outside officials to the case does not appear to have delayed its progress to date.

Kaur informed the court that discovery materials have been provided to defense counsel and a certificate of compliance has been filed confirming that all evidence and materials have been disclosed.

Montgomery County Assistant Public Defender Theodore Hartman, representing Gomula, confirmed receipt of the materials, but said they had not yet been reviewed with his client.

The defense lawyer waived Gomula’s right to a preliminary felony hearing on the charges against him. DiMezza noted proceedings can therefore be transferred to superior court at any time for possible grand jury action.

Since being charged, Gomula has been free from custody on pretrial release, which DiMezza continued on Friday. The case was adjourned until Gomula’s next scheduled appearance in City Court at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 10.

The only remarks made by Gomula during the brief court appearance were to answer direct questions from DiMezza. Both Gomula and Hartman declined comment immediately following the brief court appearance.

Gomula, 49, is charged with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, both class D felonies, for having an assault weapon and a large capacity ammunition feeding device.

State police in a felony complaint filed in City Court on Dec. 14 allege that Gomula possessed a 30-round detachable rifle magazine and .223-caliber Windham Weaponry rifle with a forward hand grip, pistol grip and flash suppressor. Both are illegal to own in New York state.

The charges stem from the earlier recovery of the devices from Gomula’s home by city police during a call for service after Gomula threatened to end his life with a shotgun on the afternoon of Dec. 10. All of the weapons were confiscated by officers.

Gomula has acknowledged the criminal charges against him are unrelated to the mental health crisis he experienced that day. He has since sought treatment and publicly disclosed his past diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder from a career in emergency services.

Resisting calls from fellow officials to resign from office to focus on his mental health and the criminal charges against him, Gomula has said he plans to use his platform as an alderman and his recent experience to bring attention to mental health struggles commonly facing emergency services personnel.

Depending on the outcome of the charges against him, Gomula could be barred from holding elected office. Felony and certain misdemeanor convictions can prevent individuals from holding public office.

Gomula was previously convicted of second-degree menacing and served 30 days in county jail for pulling out a gun and aiming it at another man during an argument in 2003. He was a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy at the time.

Off-duty during the altercation, Gomula displayed his service weapon before eventually lowering the gun while another on-duty officer stood by. The incident resulted in disciplinary proceedings before he ultimately resigned and later pleaded guilty to the menacing charge.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

By Ashley Onyon

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