ELMONT, LONG ISLAND (PIX11)—Longstanding Nassau County legislator John Ciotti tries to distance himself from accusations of racism and sexism after two of the Republican legislator's campaign workers tried to intimidate a volunteer at the office of Ciotti's Democratic opponent, Carrie Solages. That volunteer, the sister of candidate Solages, captured it all on video seen first on PIX11 News.
"I wanted everybody to see what they were doing," library aide and campaign worker Mickey Solages said in an exclusive interview. "No one should be acting like this."
The acts of Ciotti campaign worker Vinnie Prisco and another man referred to as Joe in the video of the men were severe enough to spur Mickey Solages to file a criminal complaint with police. The Nassau County Police Department has a precinct across the street from the campaign office where the confrontation that was captured on video took place a week ago Saturday.
It began with Prisco and his partner putting up Ciotti campaign signs on the fence adjacent to the office of opponent Carrie Solages. Mickey Solages, 26, was one of three volunteers working in her brother's office at the time. His campaign says that his landlord owns the fence where Prisco placed his signs.
"Go ahead, take 'em down," Prisco taunts Mickey Solanges on the video the hobbyist videographer took of him. "I'm gonna wait here for you to take 'em down."
And wait Prisco did, while the campaign volunteer's camera caught him making an obscene gesture at her, with children and families from businesses adjacent to the Solages campaign office looking on.
As the video shows, Prisco then begins to make a series of offensive comments while his partner eggs him on. The first comment is directed at a woman who happened to drive past and saw what was going on and stopped to express her outrage about the confrontation.
"Despicable. Absolutely despicable, and disrespectful," the woman says. In response, Prisco makes a comment to his fellow campaign worker, "Call animal control so we can arrest them."
Mickey Solages says she was stunned. "I couldn't believe he said that. He has no regard for anyone. He's trying to send the wrong message."
The messages continued. Fully aware that he is on camera, Vinne Prisco calls the woman shooting the video a pig. "I was shocked again," Mickey Solages told PIX11 News. "Another case of him trying to pull me down. I don't know why. My father came here from Haiti, served in Vietnam, and was an NYPD cop to put all of his kids in prestigious universities. This is sad this is going on nowadays," she said.
The encounter continued with what Solages called the final insult. Prisco, who is white, says on video to Solages, "Don't worry, we will put them on the back of the bus where they belong."
"I had to walk away," Solages told PIX11 News. I didn't want to be around him even more with his hate. I just turned off my camera and walked back into the office." She stayed inside the office at 1630 Dutch Broadway in Elmont for about ten minutes, and emerged to find the two men still there, sitting on a public bench that's on the sidewalk outside of the office.
Prisco then looked at the camera and asked, ironically, ""What channel are you going to put it on so we could watch it later?" Mickey Solages has retained a lawyer, Gino Girogini, as a precaution. "It was horrific," Giorgini told PIX11 News. "It was like an episode of The Sopranos came to Elmont."
Police contend that there was no cause for them to pursue an arrest in this case, but Giorgini maintains that criminal activity did take place, including menacing and possibly trespassing and bias crimes. Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has said that her office will review any complaint filed in this case to determine if legal action needs to be filed.
Meanwhile, the legislator whose name is on the signs not only denounced what happened, John Ciotti fired Vinnie Prisco from his campaign. Ciotti told PIX11 News that this act was not by his order. "It is deplorable, it's despicable, it's absolutely disgusting for anyone to do that," Ciotti said.
The eight-term incumbent said he did not know what role Prisco had within the campaign but referred to him thoughout his interview with PIX11 News as a "campaign worker." He added that while he knew of Prisco, he didn't personally know him or his title within the campaign. Yet when PIX 11 showed him Prisco's picture, he rattled off his name right away.
In addition, New York state campaign finance records attained by PIX11 News indicate that Prisco was cut a reimbursement check for $138.97 by Ciotti's campaign in 2009 for office supplies. Traditionally in small campaigns, even when there is a treasurer, the candidate is intimately aware where they sit financially and who is receiving a check and for what reason. Yet Ciotti told PIX 11 he has "never" signed a check for any campaign. His treasurer is the only one that cuts any checks and knows the flow of his campaign dollars.
Ciotti's campaign spokesman and manager, Tom Alfano, contacted PIX11 News to provide the campaign's take once more by officially stating that, "Vincent Prisco doesn't know the candidate John Ciotti very well." Yet PIX11 News uncovered campaign records of Alfano from an Assembly run in 2002. Both Ciotti and Prisco made contributions of $100 dollars. Alfano acknowledged the campaign contributions, but said that his candidate does not know Prisco, even though both made the donations nearly 10 years ago.
For his part, Vinnie Prisco was not available for comment in spite of numerous efforts by PIX11 News to hear his side of the story. However, his mother and a family friend say that Vinnie Prisco was done wrong by being fired by the Legislator Ciotti, who they describe as Prisco's friend.
"What he did to my son," Prisco's mother, Anne, said to PIX11 News about John Ciotti, "That's not right!"
"I think it might have been a slip of the tongue," a family friend said. "He's not a racist. He is the nicest guy in the world. He'll help anybody. We have black neighbors on this block. He's the first one when it snows to go and help them shovel the snow."
But the woman Prisco confronted looks at the whole encounter as an act of intimidation meant to upend the democratic system. "It should be the voter's opinion," she told PIX11 News. "Not his opinion and hate trying to sway votes."
PIX11 NEWS REPORTERS MARIO DIAZ AND KIRSTIN COLE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT