Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that include criminal possession of a firearm, which is a felony, and misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child and failure to properly secure firearms in a dwelling.
Warren appeared in a Monroe County courtroom along with her estranged husband, Timothy Granison, who faced the same charges as Warren. He also pleaded not guilty, and both he and Warren were released after the court appearance.
Mayor Lovely Warren and her estranged husband, Timothy Granison, appeared Wednesday in a Monroe County courtroom for arraignment. Hear from prosecution and defense lawyers about the case in this video by WXXI News photojournalist Max Schulte.
The charges stem from a May 19 raid on Warren's Woodman Park home, which at the time she shared with Granison, from whom she is legally separated. Police have said that during that search, they found a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle. According to the indictment against Warren and Granison, the criminal possession of a weapon charge relates to the handgun, while the charges of failure to properly secure firearms deals with both guns.
The search of the house was the result of an extensive, seven-month sting by law enforcement agencies into what prosecutors have called a mid-level drug ring. Granison was one of seven people charged as a result of that investigation. An indictment accused Granison of selling powder and crack cocaine and of criminal possession of a weapon.
Granison previously pleaded not guilty to those charges, and there was no indication that Warren was involved in the alleged drug operation.
But authorities have said that the raid and the investigation leading up to it turned up two unsecured guns and an unregistered pistol in their home, in which Warren's and Granison's 10-year-old daughter was left alone.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Bezer said these particular charges require that the defendants knowingly possessed the guns. He also said the gun directly led to the child endangerment charges.
“Anyone in her same position, given the nature and circumstances of the case, where the firearms were found, and given our surveillance of the case would be charged the same way,” Bezer said.
Bezer said the District Attorney’s Office is preparing to turn over months of surveillance video footage from the investigation into the drug ring. That footage, Bezer said, led to their knowledge of the firearms in the house.
Warren's attorney Joe Damelio said the charges, especially the weapons violations, aren’t warranted. He said the District Attorney’s Office knows who owns the weapons. Damelio also claimed that most people would not be facing some of the charges that Warren is.
“My client was charged with two counts of violating the Rochester City Charter," Damelio said. "In my 30 years of experience, I have never seen someone indicted on violating the City Charter. So I think that’s kind of transparent, and it tells me that they wanted to indict her on her own law, so to say, to show that she's in violation of the city of Rochester charter.”
Granison’s attorney John DeMarco is seeking to have all the charges dropped. He said his client couldn’t testify to a grand jury because of a mail mix-up. He said he recently moved his office from downtown to Browncroft Boulevard, and the District Attorney's Office sent the notice to his old address.
"They have an obligation to notify the defendant as to when the presentations are going to occur," DeMarco said. "I was not notified at my address."
Bezer disagreed, saying that the District Attorney's Office went beyond what's necessary to give Granison an opportunity to speak.
DeMarco said Granison didn’t know he could testify until last Friday, the day the indictments were announced.
Judge Thomas Leone will review the motion next week.
Warren is scheduled to face trial in September on campaign finance fraud allegations.