This is the next in a series about New York State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castorina, Jr.
On August 1, 2018, Judge Castorina gave testimony before a grand jury in Staten Island, New York. The target was Richard Luthmann, a writer for this website.
The alleged crime – the creation of fake Facebook and other social media accounts to lampoon or, as the prosecution said, illegally impersonate political figures.
Key to the prosecution was Castorina.
At the time, Castorina was a New York State Assemblyman in a heavily Republican district.
Castorina’s 2018 testimony was mainly about his 2016 election and the use of a fake Facebook page targeting his opponent.
In the summer of 2016, Castorina had it made in his bid for Assembly. He faced no Democratic opponent.
Then one day, he got bad news. Attorney Janine Materna, a long-time Democrat, switched parties, became a Republican, started a committee, and chose to run against Castorina in a Republican primary.
Castorina went to his friend, attorney Richard Luthmann, and told him the news in a private message on Facebook,
“Janine Materna filed a committee,” Castorina wrote.
Luthmann replied, “Time for a fake Janine Materna site.”
Instead of being aghast or telling him to stop, when Luthman wrote, “Is there a picture of her with Hillary?”, Castorina wrote, “I’m looking for one.”
The plan was obvious. Show voters the truth by fooling them.
Show them the truth that Materna was a Democrat who switched parties because a Democrat can’t win in the district.
If Materna could fool voters by switching parties, Castorina and Luthmann could fool them right back by pretending to be her and showing she was a Democrat in spirit.
A photo of Clinton supposedly standing with Materna appeared on the Facebook page with the statement. “On September 13” — the date of the GOP primary — “we will make HERstory.”
If voters were fooled that the postings were coming from Materna, Luthmann and Castorina felt they were telling a higher political truth.
She was a Democrat, trying to fool voters by pretending to adopt Republican ideals.
Castorina said it best to Luthmann, “she is a vicious animal.”
Let us be clear, for when you read Castorina’s testimony, you might think when Castorina was asked by Luthmann if there was a photo of his opponent with Hillary, one of the least liked creatures in all Staten Island, said something like, “Fie on you Richard Luthmann. I won’t participate in this knavish charade, this venal deception.”
No Castorina did not say that. Instead, he wrote back. “I’m looking for one.”
Castorina won the primary. But not before the two opponents, one with Luthmann’s help, turned vicious.
If Castorina and Luthmann published fake photos and fooled voters into believing what they believed was a valid account of Materna being a Democrat in Republican clothing, Materna, in turn, published false things about Castorina.
She alleged he had been arrested – when it was only a speeding ticket – years before.
She claimed he did not live in the district when the falsehood was derived from Castorina’s purchase of his parent’s home outside the district. He occasionally used it as a second home, but had his home in the district, something she undoubtedly knew.
When that lie was outed, Materna called him a tax cheat because, when he took over his father’s house, Castorina took the $300 STAR exemption his father had, which remained on the tax bill.
Castorina was not entitled to the small deduction because it was not his primary residence. But Materna attributed the most egregious motives to it.
At one point, a Materna campaign worker was arrested for sending messages seemingly threatening Castorina.
It was an ugly campaign.
Similar to many in New York City and its swampy environs, and probably better belonging in the now-closed Staten Island Dump.
After she lost, Materna blamed it on the Facebook page that mimicked her.
Though the fake Facebook page clearly stated it was not an official campaign site for Materna and linked to her real Facebook, she called it foul play.
Luthmann was indicted and served time in prison.
We are investigating whether Judge Castorina committed perjury in the grand jury that indicted Luthmann.
We began our coverage with: Did NYS Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castorina Commit Perjury in Phony Facebook Case?
FR followed up with: More Evidence of Judge Castorina’s Potential Perjury In Fake Facebook Case.
In this installment, FR releases more exclusively-obtained evidence that shows Castorina, despite saying he didn’t, knew about Luthmann’s fake social media activities.
He knew about them during his 2016 campaign, and also a year earlier in 2015, when, ironically, the District Attorney who sought to prosecute Luthmann was the target.
Castorina grew up in Brooklyn and went to St. Francis College in Brooklyn, then SUNY at Buffalo School of Law. His first job was as a law clerk for a judge in Staten Island. Then clerked for a judge in Brooklyn, and again for another judge in Supreme Court, Kings County. Then he opened a law practice in Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst, then on Staten Island, in the Sunnyside area.
His practice was predominantly wills, trusts, and estates; matrimonial/divorce; family law; some personal injury; and the general practice of law.
In time, he became a Commissioner of the New York City Board of Elections for Richmond County, and when an opening in the New York State Assembly came, he ran in April 2016 in a special election unopposed.
But there was a primary in September. Materna popped in, and then a general election in November, where he was again unopposed.
At the time of his grand jury testimony, Castorina served in the Assembly for two years and kept his private law practice going.
After the grand jury testimony, Castorina was chosen to run for judge and was elected to the New York Supreme Court 13th Judicial District. He assumed office on January 1, 2022. His term ends on December 31, 2035.
Castorina’s Grand Jury Testimony: “I told him to stop.”
The key to Castorina’s testimony in the grand jury convened to indict Luthmann was that he was a species apart.
Suppose an Assemblyman condoned or defended Luthmann for having a First Amendment right to lampoon on social media to fight his [not Luthmann’s] opponent. In that case, the grand jury might be swayed not to indict.
What do they know about First Amendment? Castorina was their Assemblyman.
It was crucial that Castorina tell the grand jury this did not have his seal of approval – even though he was the beneficiary of the fake Facebook page targeting Materna.
His testimony was critical.
The challenge for the prosecution was that Castorina had many Facebook Messenger exchanges with Luthmann.
Castorina told the grand jury these communications were unwanted.
“I told him to stop,” Judge Castorina testified.
Q. And other times, in terms of the private messenger — and I’ll show you some documents in a few moments — but did it also indicate “Richard” on top? If you recall.
A. I — I know that it had his name on it, I mean, because I knew that it was a communication coming from somebody purportedly as Richard Luthmann. I assumed it was him. I believe it was him.
Q. Assemblyman, did you have any back communications with him regarding some of the messages that you’ve described for the grand jurors here today?
A. I told him — I told him to stop. I told him not to communicate this type of stuff to me. That’s for sure.
Really? Castorina told Luthmann to stop?
Was that before or after Luthmann asked, “Is there a picture of her with Hillary?” and Castorina wrote, “I’m looking for one.”?
Luthmann “Never Indicated” He Would Make a Fake Materna Facebook Page
Castorina testified Luthmann “never indicated he was going to make a page or that nobody asked him to do anything like that.”
Q. No, but from your own recollection at the time of the events, Assemblyman, from your recollection in terms of what was going on politically or — or in public at the time and in private based upon those messages, was there some discussion about a fear of — of yourself or your campaign coming across as bullying and that could have a negative impact?
A. Not my campaign, but I can tell you what the — I think there was kind of this notion and belief that Luthmann had created a fake Facebook page and that he was using that to attack Miss Materna.
Now, he never indicated that he was going to create a page or that nobody asked him to do anything like that, because he was also doing this kind of stuff on his — on his public page, but I believe that I had a discussion with Joe about how it might be Luthmann who’s doing this, I hope he stops because I don’t want people to think that I’m supportive of or that I’m behind this type of behavior, which I couldn’t prove.
He never admitted to me at the time. He admitted later on that it was him, but I believed that, if anybody, it was probably him.
The Facebook Messenger messages between Castorina and Luthmann were introduced before the grand jury. These messages raise doubts about the veracity of Castorina’s testimony and doubts about the competency or bias of the special prosecutor.
Heart of the Matter – Luthmann’s 2015 Political Attack on DA McMahon:
Castorina was aware Luthmann was behind attacks in 2015 against Richmond County Democratic District Attorney Candidate Michael E. McMahon and Richmond County Democrat Party Chairman John Gulino.
Luthmann sent Castorina a link to a post on his Facebook page where Luthmann accused Gulino (who he dubbed Skeletor) of running a political candidate in violation of the law.
Castorina did not write “stop.”
He wrote, “good for u.”
Castorina: Skeletor lmfao
Luthmann: Fuck him
McMahon’s people must be going crazy by now.
Castorina: Totally nuts – good for u
Luthmann Makes Fake Twitter Account @RealJohnGulino:
Luthmann made a troll Twitter account to lampoon Democratic Chairman Gulino. Again Castorina did not say stop.
He was amused.
Luthmann: Gulino isn’t happy
Shared Link: https://twitter.com/realjohngulino
Senaste tweets fran Real John Gulino (@realjohngulino). I am the Exalted Leader from New Dorp, Staten Island, New York. Talk to me about hair care products and gels, creams and devices that stimulate. Staten Island, NY
Castorina: The funniest post is about “waiting for my new device.” Lmfao fucked up and wrong on so many ways lol
Luthmann: Fuck him
Let him sue me…I will subpoena his medical records and prove it to be true.
dingle dick Gulino
When it came time to harpoon the Democratic DA candidate, whom Castorina had every reason to oppose, since he was a Republican election commissioner whose legal work was dependent on patronage and friendly-elected Republican, Castorina did not tell Luthmann to stop.
Luthmann made a picture of DA Candidate McMahon alongside the Grinch. Castorina wrote it was “hysterical” and “spot on.”
The image appeared on a fake Mike McMahon Facebook Page.
Castorina: Lmfao- fucking hysterical ha ha ha. Your the best rich. I just got home and saw this and cracked up. It’s spot on. Lol
In 2015, which was a year before the Castorina-Materna assembly race, Luthmann created a fake Facebook page for Democratic District Attorney Candidate McMahon.
Luthmann referred to McMahon as “Smiling Jack,” and McMahon’s advisor, former Judge Carmen Cognetta, as “Girl Get On Your Back.”
The latter reference was to sexual harassment allegations that forced Cognetta to resign from the Family Court bench in 1993.
Castorina, in turn, referred to “TEAM MCMAHON” as “the Irish mafia.”
Castorina: Wow- lmfao girl get on your back— holy shit – I’m fucking pissing my pants lmfao- wow ha ha ha
Smiling Jack ain’t too happy with me.
Castorina: what happened
Luthmann: I am responsible for all his problems apparently.
Castorina: i love the smiling jack reference
and “girl get on your back” fuckin amazing
you were very demure in your comments last night
Luthmann: All of the POLITICAL HACKS that he surrounds himself with are not the problem.
Castorina: the irish mafia lol
Castorina Knew About “Irish Mafia” Chart
This Irish mafia reference inspired Luthmann to create an image called the “McMahon Organizational Chart” and posted it to the fake Mike McMahon Facebook page.
The document represents “TEAM MCMAHON” (or, as Castorina referred to them, the “Irish Mafia”) like a crime family organizational chart produced by law enforcement.
It was identified as political satire with a disclaimer that read, “MATERIAL PROTECTED UNDER U.S. CONST. AMENDMENT I.”
Castorina approved. He did not say stop even then.
Luthmann: You like the Org chart?
Castorina: Ur missing gulino on the chart-as well as gigante…Love the Carmen stuff lol
Luthmann: We’ll leave them out for now…
GETS WHACKED REGULARLY
Castorina: Love it lmfao
the sword! Ha ha ha
quite the swordsman
Castorina Dishonest About Luthmann in Grand Jury?
Anyone who reads Castorina’s entire Facebook Messenger messages with Luthmann knows the two had a friendly relationship. Castorina knew what Luthmann was doing in 2015 against Gulino and McMahon. He knew what Luthmann was doing in his own race against Materna in 2016.
But Castorina told the grand jury under penalty of perjury, “I told him — I told him to stop. I told him not to communicate this type of stuff to me. That’s for sure.”
But where did he do that? All the Messenger messages say the opposite: Don’t stop. This is hilarious.
In a future post, FR will publish more Facebook Messenger messages, where Castorina not only did not tell Luthmann to stop, but also requests Luthmann’s “expertise” in his race with Materna.
So how did this become criminal?
In 2018, attorney Eric Nelson was the second Special District Attorney in Luthmann’s fake Facebook case.
District Attorney Michael E. McMahon handpicked him.
Yes, the same candidate Luthmann called Smiling Jack, and Castorina said he was the leader of the Irish mafia. He was selecting special prosecutors to get Luthmann.
MacMahon’s first Special Prosecutor, Attorney Thomas Tormey, reviewed Luthmann’s case and handed it back. It was not prosecutable – at least outside the swamp – because of the First Amendment.
The second Special District Attorney, Eric Nelson, had the same concerns, but he knew that to please McMahon, he had to indict Luthmann.
We will show in a future post that Nelson wrote to a disbarred attorney about how to avoid mentioning the First Amendment in front of a grand jury.
To overcome the First Amendment, Castorina was critical.
The question is not so much whether Castorina lied to the grand jury, but did Special District Attorney Nelson encourage Castorina to testify in a certain way before the grand jury to ensure a lie or lies by omission?
Was there a sweetheart deal offered to Castorina to throw the man he called his “true friend” under the bus?
To tie it together, we must include the role of McMahon.
Perhaps only denizens of the swamp or biologists who study the swamp (or here, the Staten Island dump) will understand it.
The rest of the populace does not believe in the swamp and presumes it is bright clean water; only what they see on the surface is true.
An ethical DA, who himself was a victim, hands the case to a ethical special prosecutor, who indicts a criminal so justice is served. They are helped by an ethical assemblyman who tried to stop the criminal from doing his crimes.
But motive rules the deeds of swamp creatures, as it rules the deeds of men.
Only the deeds in the swamp are less transparent, for the water is murky, and morals are stagnant.
District Attorney Michael E. McMahon – who sought not one but two special prosecutors to indict Luthmann -was a direct target of Luthnmann’s fake Facebook pages.
In 2015, MacMahon ran and won in a tough-fought contest.
He knew Luthmann was behind the targeted attacks – calling him Smiling Jack and implying he had a swamp-like Irish Mafia to do his legal and political bidding.
So, after his election, McMahon got a chance to get even.
Of course, he could not prosecute directly – since he was a ‘victim” of Luthmann.
So he got a special prosecutor to get Luthmann. When the first one, Tormey, returned and said there was no crime because of the First Amendment, McMahon went to a more pliant attorney as special prosecutor.
Enter Castorina, a Republican.
Castorina understood the swamp. He had not just dipped in once or twice, but swum there for years. Castorina knew McMahon wanted Luthmann badly.
He could either protect his friend and get in the way, or step aside and cooperate.
A Democrat, McMahon could turn on Castorina. He could make a case that Castorina was a co-conspirator. After all, if we examine motives, who gained the most from the fake Facebook page?
What did Luthmann get?
Castorina did not need McMahon investigating him. Neither did he need the DA as his enemy in the swamp.
Luthmann was disposable.
True, Castorina was elected with Luthmann’s help. But as an incumbent, Castorina did not need help with reelection in a heavily Republican district.
He could be an assemblyman for life – unless, of course, he was indicted.
But if he decided to distance himself from Luthmann, to say he barely knew him, knew nothing about the Facebook pages, and when he did suspect, he asked him to stop, tried to avoid him, etc., etc., he could gain favor from swampers that counted.
We are not here to judge whether a DA should get special prosecutors to chase enemies and put them in prison.
We are not here to judge whether the First Amendment protected Luthmann’s activities.
We are here to glimpse the swamp and ask if we are ready to accept that assemblymen-cum-judges are part of the swamp, and lying comes as easy to a judge as an assemblyman?
Castorina knew Luthmann well. He enjoyed their relationship, but when the DA went head hunting, Castorina knew he had to preserve his ass.
That required him to throw Luthmann under the bus.
He was rewarded.
When it came time for Castorina to rise above mere Assemblyman and for Democrats to pay him for his good offices, they let him run for judge against weak Democratic opponents with no resources behind them.
After all, with the killing of his friendship with Luthmann, as a favor for DA McMahon, Castorina became a made man.
Luthmann was evicted from the swamp, where he caused too much turbulence, and was sent to prison.
Castorina had risen above party politics, and like McMahon, he became a keeper of the swamp. They now rule the Staten Island dump together.