Lewiston Party House trial on hold pending Tuesday hearing | Crime

LEWISTON — With the start of jury selection slated to begin later today, the trial of the two remaining adult defendants in the Lewiston Party House case has been stopped before it started, pending further proceedings on Tuesday.

The Gazette has learned that summonses sent to prospective jurors have been recalled, while Niagara County prosecutors and defense attorneys for Gary Sullo and Jessica Long, along with their clients, will meet with Lewiston Town Court Justice Hugh Gee to reportedly explore a potential resolution of the case.

Prosecutors declined comment on the delay of jury selection. Attorneys for Sullo and Long could not immediately be reached.

Earlier in August, prosecutors and the defense said they were close to finalizing the guidelines to be used in the upcoming trial. After meeting with Gee, both sides said that they had “reached an agreement” on a number of critical pre-trial issues.

Sullo and Long are the remaining adult defendants accused of providing booze and pot to teens who would gather at a Mountain View Drive home to party. The parties earned the residence the moniker of the “Lewiston Party House.”

Their trial had been expected to last two weeks.

Lawyers in the case preciously said that they had “agreed on how to address (to a jury) Tricia Vacanti’s role in this case.”

Vacanti was the third adult to be charged with providing marijuana and liquor at the teen parties in the home she shared with Sullo. She had faced 41 counts of unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the house parties.

But she died, suddenly, on July 3, 2022, and the charges against her were set aside.

Vacanti had been accused of providing booze and pot to at least three teenage girls, who later claimed they were sexually assaulted in her home by her then-teenage son, Christopher Belter. Belter was indicted, and pleaded guilty in June 2019, to felony charges of third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse and two misdemeanor charges of second-degree sexual abuse for encounters with four teenaged girls that occurred during the parties at the family’s home in 2017 and 2018.

In November 2021, Belter was sentenced to eight years of sex offender probation. A month later, he was classified as a Level 3 sex offender.

Level 3 is the most serious classification and legally indicates a “sexual predator.” Belter was also declared a sexually violent offender.

Lawyers have also told Gee that they had agreed that there would be no mention of Belter’s criminal case during Sullo and Long’s trial.

“I think we’ve agreed none of that should come in,” Gee said. “There are to be no Christopher references.”

The trial was set to begin more than four years after the first charges were filed, in December 2018, against Vacanti, Sullo and Long.

Sullo, 57, and Vacanti, were originally charged with 19 combined counts of unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the parties at their home. In January 2020, Niagara County prosecutors leveled an additional 22 counts of endangering and unlawful dealing against Vacanti and another eight counts of the same allegations against Sullo.

Long, 43, has been charged with single counts of unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child.

Jury summonses were sent out on Aug. 11 and prosecutors warned Sullo and Long’s attorneys that if they wished to accept a plea offer in the case, that would have to be communicated to Gee before that date. Assistant District Attorney Christine Savoia has not said whether or not a plea offer has been made.

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