A year-old feud between neighbors on Staten Island, N.Y., ended in criminal charges for Michelle Conti after she allegedly punched her 80-year-old neighbor in the chest and ran over his hen before putting a cigarette in the hen’s mouth and taking a picture of the dead bird.
Conti, 32, wouldn’t comment Wednesday to the Staten Island Advance about the charges of punching 80-year-old Charles Gabel in the chest, but did admit to running over the guinea hen, which she called an accident. She described Gabel and his wife as nightmare neighbors who have a swastika hanging in a barn that’s visible to her and her husband, who is Jewish.
"I have nothing to say, but one thing I do have to say is, he's got a swastika hanging in his barn that I've repeatedly asked cops to have him remove because my husband's Jewish. It's on the inside, and he purposely opens those barn doors,” she said, according to the Advance. "So it's an ongoing battle. It was an accident that I did hit the bird, I will say that. I'm an animal lover. I've got two dogs, two cats and a horse."
Conti admitted to putting a cigarette in the bird’s mouth, which she said was “bad judgment” on her part. “I was being a jerk, I really was,” she said.
In statement to police, Conti said the hens were a major nuisance. Although she admitted to hitting one of the birds, she said she was just “being a jerk, that’s not a crime.”
"There's been an ongoing dispute with my neighbors for over a year. They are driving me crazy and they own over 15 hens. They make noises and sounds from sunup to sundown which cause me not to sleep. They [expletive] all over my yard and street,” Conti said in court papers obtained by the Advance. “"I drove the car toward the flock of birds, hitting one of the birds. I stopped one house over and got out of the car, walked to the bird and took a picture of it. I later came back, kicked the bird and put a cigarette in its mouth.”
Gabel’s wife, 57-year-old Agnes Gabel, denied Conti’s version of events and said surveillance video proves hitting the hen wasn’t an accident.
"It wasn't an accident with the bird, she deliberately hit the bird," she said. "She also kicked the bird."
Charles Gabel denied that he was causing trouble for the Conti and her husband, Vincent Conti.
"Everybody thinks that I'm the troublemaker, that's what aggravates me," he told the paper. "How much trouble can I cause? I'm 80."
Disputes between the two couples have been going on for a year. Charles Gabel said he called the police numerous times on his neighbors, and Vincent Conti, 41, was charged with public lewdness in October for allegedly flashing his genitals to Agnes Gabel. Charles Gabel also said he lodged noise complaints against the Contis.
Michelle Conti faces charges of assault, harassment, torturing and injuring animals and criminal mischief, the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office told the Advance.