Gary McCaslin is accused of stealing a GPS tracking device attached to a campaign sign he removed from the side of a public road.

The sign was placed by the campaign of Republican Congressman Tom Reed, and contained the words “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” with a link to the corresponding website, ExtremeIthacaLiberal.com.

We covered the controversy, and the history of the “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” campaign in “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” yard signs disappear, perp caught by embedded tracking device (#NY23):

Ithaca used to be in the old NY-22 District, which was gerrymandered to keep Maurice “Red” Hinchey in office. After the 2010 redistricting, which was done judicially in New York, Ithaca became part of the new NY-23 District, which has a Republican +3-4 electorate. The District runs along the Southern Tier of upstate New York, bordering Pennsylvania. It’s a huge district geographically, and has elected Republican Tom Reed in every election since the redistricting.

Reed’s campaign has what must be the best trolling campaign ever. Under the banner of “Extreme Ithaca Liberal,” Reed contrasts himself against the liberals (sometimes from Ithaca, sometimes from elsewhere) who inevitably run against him.

The “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” campaign drives Extreme Ithaca Liberals crazy. They hate it.

Reed used that campaign theme to perfection against Martha Robertson in 2014.

Reed was excoriated by Ithaca liberals over the “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” theme, but he won in a landslide in 2014, and again in 2016.

The “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” campaign theme works because there is a truth to it. I say that respectfully, since some of my best friends are Extreme Ithaca Liberals. (Actually, that’s not true, but it sounds good.)

Reed has renewed the “Extreme Ithaca Liberal” theme for the 2018 election cycle. And Ithaca liberals are still furious about it, as I wrote in April 2018, Rep. Tom Reed (#NY23) centers 2nd Amendment in reelection bid, revives Extreme Ithaca Liberal theme

The accused thief, Gary McCaslin, is a well-known anti-Reed activist. He doesn’t live in Ithaca, but still seems to have been upset with the lawn signs. His defense was that he was just cleaning up road debris, and always intended to return the GPS device. When Reed’s campaign manager Nick Weinstein requested McCaslin return the tracking device, however McCaslin refused and said he was keeping it. McCaslin dared Weinstein to call the police. It was all caught on video:

“You found the sign. I’m keeping the tracker. You call the police then. I’ll be right here.

We covered McCaslin’s defense in Accused campaign sign thief: I was “simply acting as a good citizen to keep our highways clean” (#NY23):

McCaslin just pleaded Not Guilty to the charge in court and his lawyer filed a Motion to Dismiss(pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post).

The key defense is that McCaslin, after initially refusing to return the GPS device, tried to return it but the police arrested him before he could do so:

10. At set forth in greater detail below, shortly after Mr. Weinstein left Rev. McCaslin’s home, Rev. McCaslin attempted to return the device to Congressman Reed as he did not want bring about unnecessary problems, but was unsuccessful because Congressman Reed’s campaign office was closed and a staffperson at Congressman Reed’s constituent office told Rev. McCaslin that the constituent office could not become involved with campaign matters.

11. Rev. McCaslin intended to turn the device over to proper authorities, but was arrested at his home before he had the opportunity to do so.

The motion further alleges no intent to steal the sign, but rather, an attempt to clean up campaign sign clutter on the roadside:

27. As with his decision to retrieve the lone Max Della Pia sign, Rev. McCaslin did not intend to steal property belonging to the Democratic candidates, Congressman Reed, or whoever placed the sign reminding people to vote. Instead, his intention was to clear the area along the highway of abandoned political clutter nearly a week after the Democratic primary had taken place.

McCaslin’s motion to dismiss the Petit Larceny charge was heard in court this morning.

McCaslin apparently was offered a plea deal which would have had the charge dismissed after 6 months, but he rejected the deal, forcing the court to rule on the motion to dismiss.

The court thereafter denied the motion to dismiss, and the case will move forward.

WENY reports:

After a plea offer was denied by the defense this morning, the case of the alleged stolen GPS tracking device inside a Congressman Tom Reed campaign sign is moving forward.

The Steuben County District Attorney’s Office offered Gary McCaslin an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, or ACD. The ACD would allow all charges to be dismissed in six months if McCaslin didn’t break the law in that period of time, and wrote a letter to the Reed Campaign apologizing for causing inconvenience. McCaslin’s attorney, Christina Sonsire, says they denied the motion because it could still be seen as an admission of guilt.

“Myself and Attorney (Ray) Schlather, who are co-representing him, feel so strongly that once all the facts are heard by a jury, that he’ll be fully vindicated. It’s for that reason that we simply couldn’t allow him to accept an ACD,” Sonsire explains….

“The Congressman would have been happy with an outcome that was presented to the defendant today, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, with an admission of guilt or at the very least a recognition of inconvenience that this has caused the campaign. That would have been something that we had been happy with,” [Reed Campaign Manager Nick] Weinstein explains. “If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s theft, and it’s in the hands of the court system now,” he adds.

We reached out to McCaslin’s attorney Christina M. Sonsire for comment, who provided this response:

Rev. McCaslin did not commit a criminal act, and therefore should not suffer any further detriment. The reputation of him and his wife have been harmed by this prosecution. Nothing short of an outright dismissal or acquittal after trial is justified under the circumstances.

We will update this story if more details emerge about today’s court proceedings.