By Michael Seinberg
Asbestos has become the bane of anyone who owns property but in New York, it has become the boon of trial lawyers and now, felons. New York’s famously asbestos-friendly courts have now reached a new low. Two convicted felons have filed separate but related lawsuits against a Monticello temple, the Landfield Avenue Synagogue alleging asbestos exposure.
The first suit was filed by Chris Colvill, 41, a convicted child sex offender who is also accused of stealing a $35,000 torah from the temple. It seems he worked for the temple as a laborer but exactly what he did and when is unclear in published reports.
The other suit was filed by Charles Shortridge, who is accused of cashing a fake cashier’s check in August of 2011. A fine citizen, Shortridge served two lengthy sentences, one for manslaughter and one for reckless endangerment and possessing stolen property. Just to prove he has initiative, Shortridge is now charged with attempted grand larceny in that he demanded the temple’s rabbi, Ben-Zion Chanowitz pay his $2400 bail or he would report that the temple illegally disposed of asbestos.
The alleged exposure took place in July 2010 when a third man who was doing court ordered community service uncovered asbestos while removing insulation from the temple. The two erstwhile jailhouse lawyers also allege they were exposed to asbestos in several other buildings owned by the temple. Shortridge worked for affiliated corporations of the temple between April 2010 and July 2011.
Finally, it appears that Shortridge convinced Colvill to file his suit and both men are representing themselves in court. It might just be because even trial lawyers have limits when it comes to frivolous cases filed by felons.