In a jury trial in Yates County Court all last week, DENISE AULT, 41, of Norris Road, Himrod, who was accused of 15 charges in three indictments, including 10 felonies, the highest being 1st degree burglary and 2nd degree arson (class B violent felonies) in an extreme case of domestic violence, was acquitted of three felonies and one misdemeanor.
After her defense attorney, Travis Barry, argued the case was one of self-defense, Ault was found not guilty of two counts of 1st degree criminal contempt, one count of 3rd degree criminal mischief (class E felonies), and one count of 2nd degree menacing (class A misdemeanor). The jury instead found her guilty only of two counts of 2nd degree criminal contempt as lesser, included class A misdemeanors, for violating court orders of protection. Judge Jason L. Cook continued Ault’s release on $20,000 bail/$40,000 bond until her reappearance Dec. 17 for post conviction hearings. Sentencing is yet to be scheduled.
Two other indictments charging the more serious felony matters of 1st degree burglary, 2nd degree arson, 1st degree reckless endangerment plus others, were first reduced by Cook upon review of motions filed by Barry; then, upon revisiting the motions, Cook dismissed those two indictments altogether.
In his ruling after reviewing the grand jury minutes and reviewing relevant case law, Cook states”... the Court finds that the Assistant District Attorney’s legal instructions to the Grand Jury on all seven counts contained in Indictment 19-04, as well for all four counts contained in Indictment 19-05 were prejudicial to the defendant and may have affected the integrity of the proceeding.” Cook states that ADA Alyxandra Stanczak in her presentation to the grand jury, “read the language (of) each indictment, verbatim, to the Grand Jury as the sole legal instructions, both prior to and following the presentation of evidence,” instead of reading “the relevant statutes” to them. Cook goes on to state, “At no time did the ADA indicate these were only allegations,” and ruled the ADA’s actions were “improper, legally insufficient, and prejudicial to the defendant.” In response, a new indictment, 19-52, charges Ault with only misdemeanors, for which she will appear Nov. 12.
Following a pretrial hearing in this case, Cook also suppressed a confession Ault made to Penn Yan Police Investigators after her arrest on the arson charge. According to sources, Cook ruled that since Ault had invoked her right to a lawyer in her previous arrest on other charges, police should not have spoken to her on that later charge without her attorney.
While disagreeing with those findings, Stanczak stated she was satisfied with the process and thanked the jury for their service in the case that did come to court.
Ault was last arrested Nov. 21, 2018 by Yates County Sheriff’s Deputies investigating a domestic incident where she allegedly damaged property, threatened her victim with a dangerous instrument, and made physical contact with him.
According to District Attorney Todd Casella, Ault’s victim was one of the same people she attacked in July 2018 when Penn Yan Police Department arrested Ault for allegedly breaking into a residence on Clinton Street where she allegedly assaulted one person and punched a second; a woman who was sleeping with a 10-month-old child in her arms.
After Ault had posted bail, and following an investigation into a suspicious fire July 15, 2018 at the same Clinton Street address, Penn Yan Police arrested Ault again July 17, 2018.
Penn Yan Firefighters extinguished the fire before it spread to the rest of the occupied structure.
Members of the Yates County Fire Investigation team ruled the fire as suspicious. Police questioned Ault because of her recent arrest at the property, where she was overheard making threats to burn down the house. After her arrest for the domestic incident July 13, 2018, Milo Town Justice Michael Christensen had issued two orders of protection, ordering Ault to stay away from the property and protected parties. It was alleged that in anger about the previous domestic incident, Ault walked to the house and set the fire.
The defense noted previously that Ault, an army veteran, had re-enrolled in mental health, substance abuse, and post traumatic stress disorder treatment with the VA in Canandaigua.