Trial underway for ex-Spring Valley employee in connection to 2021 fatal fire at Evergreen Court
The trial is underway for a former Spring Valley Village employee facing charges stemming from the fatal 2021 fatal fire at the Evergreen Court Home for Adults.
Wayne Ballard sat quietly yet intently in Rockland County Court Tuesday as his nonjury trial began in front of Judge Kevin Russo.
Ballard, former chief of Spring Valley’s Building and Public Works Department, is facing two counts for allegedly filing false inspection reports back in March 2020, which claimed the Evergreen assisted living facility had been inspected.
A third charge was dismissed by Russo in May 2022.
In March 2021, 79-year-old resident Oliver Hueston and 35-year-old volunteer firefighter Jared Lloyd died during the fire at the facility on Lafayette Street.
News 12 was in the courtroom for opening statements.
"Evidence will show the defendant filed his written instrument knowing that the 1203 report contained false statements and false information,” said Ryan Sweeney, Rockland County’s supervising assistant district attorney.
Sweeney and Michael Dugandzic are prosecutors assigned to the case.
Ballard’s defense team stated the prosecution is focusing on one piece of information on a 1203 building report document and said their client has no motive to lie.
"I submit to you that the evidence will actually show the opposite and everything single answer the Mr. Ballard gave was supplied to him by his staff, including the number in question,” said defense attorney Noam Greenspan. “That there is supporting documentation for all of that and data to back it up. And that Mr. Ballard had a reasonable belief that everything in the report was true."
It's expected that about a dozen people will testify, including state building and code experts, and former and current spring valley village employees.
Two state building and code experts took the stand in court Tuesday. There was extended cross-examination of one expert regarding a difference of information on yearly and three-year commercial inspection reports.
Ballard is the first to go on trial following the fire. Trials are pending for Rabbis Aaron and Nathanial Sommer and former assistant deputy building inspector Raymond Canario.