December 1, 2022

Organizer of unauthorized motorcycle rally in New Haven receives suspended sentence

Gabe Canestri Jr. did not contest a charge of first-degree reckless endangerment, according to state records.

He was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended execution and three years’ parole.

As described at Cornell Law Librarysuch a plea means “the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the charges but agrees to accept the punishment”.

A nolo contendere, or no contest, plea differs from a guilty plea in that it “cannot be used against the defendant in any other cause of action,” according to Cornell.

Mayor Justin Elicker said in a statement that the city intends to seek restitution for costs incurred at the event through a civil lawsuit.

“Judge (Phillip) Scarpellino has made it clear that Mr. Canestri will be held accountable for his unlawful activities which negatively impacted the city. Although the judge did not include restitution as part of the criminal case, we intend to pursue restitution through civil court,” Elicker said. “Our police department continues to investigate others involved in this occurrence and will lay additional charges as appropriate.”

The city totaled about $80,000 in costs associated with the rally, including overtime for police and public works officials, according to city communications director Kyle Buda.

Canestri was initially charged with inciting a riot and second-degree breach of the peace after attendees allegedly started a stunt show on Waterfront Street during the September 25 motorcycle rally, which was not permitted by the city.

Acting Chief Renee Dominguez said at the time that police had reached an agreement with organizers that the stunt show would not take place.

Nevertheless, the riparian area has been “taken care of” for waterfalls; the crowds, moving in droves, were able to get there too quickly for the department to immediately control the flow of people, she said.

City officials ahead of the planned event had warned people not to come to New Haven for the rally, noting that it had not received the proper clearances to go ahead.

Canestri said at the time that he and his fellow organizers applied for the proper permissions, but were unable to obtain them. He blamed the bureaucratic process, saying they had been “stifled” in their various efforts by the city, despite the police seeking to work with them.

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