By Charlie Specht
The infamous cell phone incident that ended Robert M. Restaino's career as a City Court judge in Niagara Falls has become an issue in his campaign for Assembly.
Restaino, a Democrat seeking to unseat Republican John D. Ceretto in the Niagara-centric 145th District, held a news conference Thursday to challenge what he called "filthy character assassinations" by local Republicans.
Restaino took aim at a mailer that references his removal from the bench for jailing 46 people in 2005 when a cell phone started ringing in his courtroom. Restaino jailed nearly the entire courtroom when no one took responsibility for the ringing phone.
The cell phone issue "personified a lack of respect" by his opponents, Restaino said. Besides, his supporters said, Restaino was not totally out of line when he took issue with the cell phone.
“I own a small business in downtown Niagara Falls, so I know first hand how disrespectful it is for others to be rudely talking on their cellphones,” local businesswoman and town clerk Sylvia Virtuoso said in a statement sent by Restaino's campaign.
A Ceretto aide declined to comment on the ad, saying it was sent by local Republicans, not the campaign itself.
When Restaino announced his candidacy in May, he said the cell phone issue was "a part of my past" and that voters would look forward.
But five months later, a political mailer has brought it to the forefront once again.