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Rotunno case may be transferred to NDNY

The federal prosecution of a Greece man accused of making threats against former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney may be moved from Rochester.

A request is pending in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District to have the case considered by the Northern District instead. Assistant Federal Defender Mark D. Hosken Wednesday told U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson that based on information developed from an investigation by his office that it was unlikely that any threats were ever made in the Western District.

Rotunno, 24, is charged with expressing a threat to kill or harm a former president. According to the complaint, Rotunno said he was going to discharge his shotgun into the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to be arrested or killed by police. He is also accused of saying if President Bush was in the same room with him, he “would kill him with his bare hands.”

There are additional allegations of threats made against Cheney. Rotunno, whom police were seeking in October after he left his job in Greece, allegedly asking a co-worker if Cheney was still alive and said he was going to go home, grab his shotgun and head to Washington.

After being contacted by a Secret Service agent, Rotunno turned himself in at the Owego Police Department in Tioga County which is in the Northern District of New York. Hosken said the claim is that Rotunno made statements there to other secret service agents.

Rotunno was later taken to St. James Mercy hospital in Hornell which has an adult psychiatric unit. Hornell, in Steuben County, is located in the Western District. Hosken said Rotunno made no threats while at the hospital, contrary to an earlier complaint. Hosken maintains Rotunno made no threats at either location.

“We don’t believe there were any threats at all,” he said outside the courtroom.

Hosken said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley E. Tyler is waiting to hear from the assistant U.S. attorney in charge in Syracuse on whether or not charges against Rotunno will be filed in the Northern District.

An update is expected Tuesday morning when a detention hearing is scheduled. Rotunno, who has been incarcerated since October, also changed his mind about his Hosken representing him. He had asked for a new attorney when he appeared May 3 before Payson who ordered him to first discuss his concerns with Hosken.

“Mr. Rotunno advised Judge Payson that he wishes to continue with his current counsel,” Hosken said.

Rotunno is being held as a federal prisoner in the Steuben County Jail.