Kinderhook, New York
Enid Futterman

The story of a brutal beating at the home of Alex and Kelly Rosenstrach is finally being told, at least in part.

Kelly Rosenstrach has been put on administrative leave from her job as a sheriff’s deputy, but the public information officer in the sheriff’s office won’t say whether with or without pay, because it’s a “personnel matter”, so I’m guessing with pay.

But until just now, when I read Harold Handy Jr.’s heartbreaking Facebook post, I hadn’t heard directly from anyone in Harold Handy III’s family, and most of the story, beyond what comes straight from the sheriff’s press releases, has been cobbled together from second-hand sources. Until this:

“What if your child was punched and choked by seven people?
What if you were told that you were not allowed to call 911?
What if you had to cover him up to stop the blows?
What if you were told to get him the f*** out of the house before he dies?
What if you were dragging him out just to have him kicked in the face again?
What if …
A body builder
A corrections officer
A sheriff’s deputy
A federal agent
And 3 others did this to your child?
What if????????”
–Harold’s father

And now I have another source, who can’t be named, probably for fear of reprisal, but who has unequivocally confirmed that Harold’s father did write the post above. (A few questioned the authenticity of the post.) My source has also confirmed that Harold’s father was not at the party and did not witness the attach, and that he was referring to his son’s fiancée, Kaitlin Williams in lines 2 to 10, especially her efforts to help Harold during his ordeal.

By ‘body builder’, we can assume she means Alex, and because the sheriff’s office is claiming that Kelly was the only deputy there, maybe she means her. Or maybe Kelly wasn’t the only deputy there.

As for the “federal agent”, she meant FBI agent Bryan Haag, who my source says kicked Harold in the face.

For several days, no one who was in a position to know, was talking. I put my ear to the ground, which of course means Facebook, and much of what I heard, later came out in press releases from Sheriff Bartlett’s office. But the releases were sketchy, and said nothing of what had actually happened. So I filled them in with
what I heard and what I read and constructed a coherent account of what probably took place with a disclaimer. But now I think it’s fair to say that the story has been close to verified by, at the very least, an immediate family member.

On the evening of July 4th, at a party at the Kinderhook home of Alex Rosenstrach, owner of ClubLife Health and Fitness in Valatie, and his wife, Kelly Rosenstrach, a sheriff’s deputy, 31-year-old Harold Handy, owner of Handy’s Auto Repair in Kinderhook, was badly beaten until he was close to death.

Rosenstrach and others, including, it had been said, but maybe not, troopers, deputies and previously mentioned FBI agent and corrections officer were celebrating Independence Day by demonstrating chokeholds, and Handy, who was observing, let it be known that he was claustrophobic. Whereupon, Alex and some of the others pounced on him and beat him until he was unconscious or barely conscious and 911 was finally called.

Or maybe Handy let it be known that he was claustrophobic first and someone thought it would be funny or fun to demonstrate a chokehold on him, and then the rest. There is also something about phones being taken away from guests, and a report that Kelly stopped Kaitlin from calling 911 until Kelly saw how bad it was. (Harold and Kaitlin are to be married in August.)

When 911 was finally called at 1.10 am, and EMTs arrived minutes later, Harold was intubated on the lawn of the Rosenstrach home (a rare, but in this case, apparently necessary occurrence), taken by ambulance to Albany Medical Center, kept on a ventilator until he was released on July 6 with a broken eye socket that may need surgery and a broken knee.

There have been no arrests, but the house has been searched for evidence by state troopers, and supposedly phones were confiscated.

That the Sheriff’s Department is the lead agency in the investigation, with the NYS Police assisting, raises the glaring question of conflict of interest, given that Kelly is a deputy and Alex is her husband, that the Rosenstrachs have donated $6000 to Bartlett’s re-election campaigns, and that other members of Columbia County law enforcement may have participated in the assault.

That Alex opened ClubLife in defiance of Governor Cuomo’s order for gyms to remain closed and further defied a cease-and-desist order from the Town of Kinderhook does not make him guilty of this crime. (The investigation finally shut ClubLife down Tuesday.) Nor does the fact that he organized the Back the Blue demonstration in direct opposition to and at the same time as a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kinderhook Village Square on June 8. (He appears elsewhere on imby.com/kinderhook in a video shot that day, looking menacing and acting aggressive before giving the finger to the BLM protesters.) But they do suggest a sense of entitlement, and the incident and the silence are indicative of a culture that puts law enforcement above law enforcement.

Another Facebook post includes a template for calling the conflict of interest to the attention of the New York Attorney General’s office with the following text to be sent to: public.integrity@ag.ny.gov:

“I’d like to report a conflict of interest on a case involving a brutal attack that took place over the holiday weekend here in Columbia County. (Story from CBS or ABC attached.) Please read the article below. An “investigation” has begun, but the wife of the person who allegedly committed the violent crime is a Deputy Sheriff for the investigating department. Please feel free to reach out to me, as I would like to see justice served for the victim. I can be reached by phone at: XXX XXX-XXXX.”

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Wayne Sheridan
Wayne Sheridan 12 July 2020 10:31AM

This is horrible. I hope the investigation in thorough and transparent.

    Doug 12 July 2020 10:28PM

    When the investigation is over and finally gets to the bottom of all of this – and Harold Handy takes these people to civil or criminal court he is going to have the last word on the matter.

    And the people at this party all knew one another and were acquainted; and many of them are in law enforcement??? Good gawd.


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