Who is the judge presiding over the fatal Evergreen Court fire case?
Judge Kevin Russo has been presiding over the case involving the 2021 Evergreen Court fire in Spring Valley that killed a resident and firefighter Jared Lloyd.
On Tuesday, father and son rabbis Nathaniel and Aaron Sommer took a plea deal that is expected to keep them out of jail. Investigators say they started the fire at the Evergreen Court Home for Adults in Spring Valley while using a blowtorch to kosherize the kitchen. They were accused of turning off fire alarms at the time and leaving burning materials unattended.
Earlier this year, Judge Russo acquitted two Spring Valley building inspectors, Wayne Ballard and Ray Canario, of filing false inspection reports about the Evergreen Court stemming from authorities’ investigations into the fire.
Russo, a 67-year-old Rockland County resident, was elected to the County Court in 2016 for a 10-year term after garnering 70,376 total votes on the Democrat, Green and Working Family party lines, according to county results.
State campaign finance records show he received $33,438 in donations for that election. A total of 217 donations ranged from $5 to $600 – mostly coming from individuals.
His online biography shows that Judge Russo had a private law practice from 1995 to 2016 and was a village justice for West Haverstraw from 2008 to 2016.
Robert Fellows, a civil attorney, called him a “decent person."
"I think Russo is independent and not afraid to make decisions that might not please the public if he thinks he's doing justice and he's acting in a proper way, based on the evidence before him," he said.
Last August, Russo handed out a life sentence to a Hillcrest man who killed two women in 2020.
News 12 called the courthouse and was told that Judge Russo does not do interviews. According to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, there have been no disciplinary actions against the judge.