In 2020, New York State convicted Richard Luthmann for operating half a dozen satirical and political Facebook pages, which a special prosecutor claimed impersonated political figures in New York City.
Even though disclosures on the Facebook pages that they are not official pages of candidates, and content that clearly showed the pages were lampooning, an emboldened Special Prosecutor, Eric Nelson, secured an indictment of Luthmann.
Nelson, a struggling attorney in Staten Island, depends on City and County assignments.
Nelson’s assignment to indict Luthmann came from the top. One of Luthmann’s Facebook targets was Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon.
DA Michael McMahon and Judge Judith McMahon
McMahon wanted Luthmann indicted after he used Facebook to mock him, calling him “Smilin’ Jack,” and asked whether his wife, State Supreme Court Justice Judith McMahon used her influence to refer McMahon’s cases to sympathetic judges.
Luthmann’s satirical McMahon Facebook page had, for instance, a “breaking news” story that spokespersons for breakfast cereals endorsed McMahon for DA, and included endorsements from Tony the Tiger, Captain Crunch, The Trix Rabbit, Count Chocula, and the Lucky Charms Leprechaun.
McMahon’s Lucky Charms “Endorsement”
Another story on Luthmann’s Facebook showed lawn signs promoting McMahon as “Tax Hike Mike” – a reference to McMahon’s former stint as an NYC councilman when he voted to raise property taxes 18.5 percent.
Luthmann published a photo of McMahon next to the Grinch.
Another photo showed McMahon as the underboss of the McMahon Organization and the Boss, his wife, Judge McMahon.
While it might be hard-hitting or funny, depending on your point of view – or even nasty, the First Amendment protects all kinds of speech.
This is not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.
Even if Luthmann had not clearly labeled the McMahon Facebook page “unofficial,” it is hard to imagine how anyone would think McMahon published the Facebook page.
But it is not wise to insult a DA, especially one who is not above using the color of law to get his enemies. McMahon sought to have a grand jury indict Luthmann for lampooning him.
He had two challenges.
The First Amendment protects lampooning.
Two, he was the victim, so he could not indict directly.
McMahon sought to cure the First Amendment problem with the allegation that Luthmann was trying to make people believe it was McMahon himself publishing pictures of himself with the Grinch or Tax Hike Mike signs, so he could claim it was criminal impersonation.
McMahon solved his second problem by arranging the appointment of a special prosecutor – a dependent attorney – to indict Luthmann.
The case was remarkable, as the special prosecutor had to be schooled on avoiding the First Amendment in front of the grand jury, as email evidence shows.
It is also remarkable that the critical grand jury witness, State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castorina, Jr., a beneficiary of one of the Luthmann Facebook lampoon pages, provided essential testimony that he barely knew Luthmann and knew nothing about the Facebook pages.
Judge Castorina encouraged and participated in creating and searching for content for the Facebook page lampooning Castorina’s opponent for the State Assembly.
However, Judge Castorina’s efforts to support District Attorney Michael McMahon’s vendetta against Luthmann could lead to criminal jeopardy.
While McMahon may wash his hands and deny any conspiracy to indict Luthmann falsely, Judge Castorina seems to have given testimony larded with perjury – provable by Judge Castorina’s private messages to Luthmann.
Luthmann served two years for the bogus offense, mainly because he was indicted on unrelated federal charges and could not mount a defense while in federal pretrial custody.
Now out of prison, Luthman filed a 264 page motion in New York State Supreme Court calling for Justice Marina C. Mundy, who sentenced Luthmann, to refer Judge Castorina’s potential perjury to New York State Attorney General Letitia James for criminal charges.
Justice Mundy will hear Luthmann’s request, with a return date set for February 14, 2023.
NYS Supreme Court Justice Marina C. Mundy
How Serious Is This for Judge Castorina?
Judge Castorina – then an NYS Assemblyman – appeared on August 1, 2018, before the grand jury.
Richmond County Special District Attorney Eric Nelson led the prosecution, and the grand jury issued an indictment based primarily on Castorina’s testimony and Nelson’s dubious presentation.
Luthmann included all the Facebook Messenger messages between him and Judge Castorina. Frank Report published many of these private messages, which show a pattern of outrageous perjury by Judge Castorina.
In his motion, Luthmann also asks Judge Mundy to disqualify Special Prosecutor Nelson, claiming Nelson committed prosecutorial misconduct, including the felonies of aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law and the subornation of perjury of Judge Castorina.
Luthmann also requests that Special Prosecutor Nelson be precluded from billing New York City more fees on the case.
DA McMahon tapped Special Prosecutor Nelson, an attorney in private practice, to indict Luthmann.
Records show Nelson billed $700,000+ to the NYC Comptroller’s Office for services rendered on this prosecution and other matters.
“I’m ready for a fight,” Luthmann said. “These Swamp Creatures committed multiple felonies to get a bogus felony indictment on me. I did three years for Fake Facebook satire and lampooning. They should all do at least three years and a day for extreme violations of the public trust,” Luthmann said.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castorina
Luthmann asked Judge Mundy to vacate his felony conviction and dismiss the indictment with prejudice.
Luthmann claims, in addition to claims Castorina offered perjured testimony, that Nelson’s legal consultations with Perry Reich, a disbarred attorney who did federal prison time, violated the law.
Nelson sought out the disbarred lawyer to guide him on how to avoid the apparent legal challenge, which is that the First Amendment protected Luthmann’s activities.
Luthmann’s recent filing included an email between Special Prosecutor Eric Nelson and disbarred felon Perry Reich. Luthmann asked Judge Mundy to refer the matter to attorney disciplinary authorities to consider whether disbarment actions are indicated by the conduct of Judge Castorina, Attorney Nelson, and DA McMahon.
Luthmann also filed an Attorney Grievance with the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts based upon Ronald Castorina and Eric Nelson’s conduct.
Richard Luthmann and New York State Attorney General Letitia James in Albany, New York, in 2012. Luthmann also filed an Official Public Corruption Complaint with the Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James’s Public Corruption Unit, supplemented by this recent Supreme Court filing.