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Rus Thompson said he would have shaken hands with David Zelonis, who sent him threatening e-mails.
John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo


Fired toll collector pleads guilty to harassment

By T. J. Pignataro
December 03, 2009, 6:52 AM /

The fired Grand Island Bridge toll collector who sent threatening e-mails to an anti-toll activist on the Island pleaded guilty to a violation charge of harassment Wednesday evening in Grand Island Town Court.

David Zelonis, 53, was fined $150 and assessed a $125 state surcharge by Grand Island Justice Sybil Kennedy, who also continued an order of protection for Zelonis to stay away from Rus Thompson for an additional one year. He could have faced up to 15 days in jail.

Zelonis initially was arraigned on a misdemeanor charge of aggravated harassment after targeting Thompson in early 2007. One of the threatening e-mails suggested a fire could start in Thompson’s house.

Thompson leads an ongoing charge to have the toll barriers removed at the Grand Island Bridges. It was alleged that Zelonis believed he would lose his job as a result.

Instead, Zelonis’ actions resulted in his termination.

The Thruway Authority fired Zelonis on Nov. 4 for misconduct in connection with the e-mail messages they said were meant to repeatedly “badger, harass and intimidate” the customer, Thompson said.

Thompson said he requested Zelonis be spared jail time.

“I didn’t want him to go to jail,” he said. “It’s over with and that’s all I wanted. It’s been dragging on for three years now.”

Thompson said he would have been willing to shake Zelonis’ hand after his court appearance, but Zelonis seemed unwilling. Thompson said he also doubts the sincerity of Zelonis’ apology.

Instead of apologizing to him directly, Thompson said, Zelonis said he was “sorry to Mr. Thompson” while addressing Kennedy at the bench and then to assembled media outside the courtroom afterwards.

Zelonis could not be reached to comment later Wednesday evening.