A leader of a group that regularly protests against U.S. Rep. Tom Reed has been charged with petit larceny after being accused of stealing campaign signs.
Following the disappearance of campaign signs, members of Tom Reed's campaign team installed a tracker in the signs, which eventually led them to the home of Gary McCaslin.
But McCaslin, who leads Citizens for a Better Southern Tier, wasn't giving up everything. "You found the sign, I'm keeping the tracker — you call the police," he told Reed's campaign manager.
According to Reed's office, McCaslin, a retired pastor of the First Baptist Church in Painted Post, was caught last week stealing "Extreme Ithaca Liberal" signs. He was charged with petit larceny on July 5.
After past incidents in which Reed's signs went missing, Reed's campaign team installed a tracking device inside a sign. The tracking device led them to McCaslin's house.
This was the tracking device that was inside Tom Reed's campaign sign. (Photo: Provided photo)
An unidentified woman in the video said McCaslin didn't steal the signs, but that they were supposed to be taken off the highway and "it was a gesture of goodwill."
A video released by Reed's office shows McCaslin admitting to taking several signs. According to Reed's office, McCaslin said he could give back only one sign when he was pressed with police involvement.
After returning to a vehicle, Reed's campaign team realized the sign they received did not include the tracker that led them to the house, the email from Reed's office stated.
Nicholas Weinstein, Tom Reed's campaign manager, returned to the house, but McCaslin said he would not return the tracker and that they should call the police, a video shows.
"I can't believe this, Nick. You tracked this sign to my house?" McCaslin says in the video. "Is Tom Reed that desperate that he has to put little things like that inside of a sign and track it?"
Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard said deputies responded to the complaint of the larceny of election signs, one of which had the tracker, and that there was probable cause to charge McCaslin. Deputies charged McCaslin with petit larceny, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, the release stated.
Allard said McCaslin cooperated with law enforcement as they charged him with petit larceny.
Weinstein responded to the alleged thefts.
“It is no surprise that our opponents are resorting to stealing our signs," Weinstein said. "They know just how far out of touch they are from values the majority of us care about and are willing to go to criminal lengths to try and hide their 'Extreme Ithaca Liberal' agenda from the public.”
While Tom Reed's office is accusing McCaslin of theft, McCaslin's lawyer, Christina Sonsire, said he was practicing stewardship when he removed Reed's sign on July 2 six days after the primary election. She said Reed's sign was laying on the ground as were signs belonging to Democratic candidates Max Della Pia, Linda Andrei, and a sign reminding voters of the primary date. Sonsire said McCaslin took all of the signs because he thought they were discarded signs from the primary.
Prior to the confrontation, McCaslin had planned to take the tracker to the Steuben County Board of Elections, Sonsire said.
When he was confronted by Weinstein, he was "in the moment and not sure of what to do," Sonsire said.
An hour after Weinstein left and prior to being charged, McCaslin decided to go to Reed's Congressional office to return the tracker, but was told by the staffers that they wouldn't accept it, Sonsire said. He also left a note and had someone record him on video as he attempted to return the tracker.
"There is no factual predicate to show that Gary McGaslin committed a crime," Sonsire said. "We feel strongly that there was no criminal wrongdoing. This shines a light into just how inappropriate the political climate has become."
McCaslin's court appearance is scheduled for 3 p.m. July 19 at the Corning Town Court.