Schmidt Calls Child Witnesses ‘Heroes’ Behind Conviction
MAYVILLE — A northern Chautauqua County resident could be behind bars for the rest of his life after being convicted of six counts of sexual acts against children.
If you ask District Attorney Jason Schmidt, 27-year-Dustin Post was found guilty because of the courage and bravery of five children who shared their stories of abuse in open court. The girls were abused when they were as young as 3 years old in Fredonia, Dunkirk, and in public places including land near the Seneca Nation of Indians Reservation.
Schmidt calls the girls heroes.
“To have them go out there on the stand, in a very difficult atmosphere, beyond strange, beyond scary, and to do what they did, they’re my heroes. They’re my inspiration,” he said.
Post had already been convicted of up to 50 years behind bars on child pornography charges for videotaping the sexual acts he committed with the children.
Even though Post was already convicted federally, Schmidt said that wasn’t going to stop his office of moving forward with charges for abusing these girls.
“There were several children that were victimized here in Chautauqua County and there was just no way that we were going to allow that to go unanswered,” Schmidt said. “I have no clue whether his federal sentence will be carried out to the fullest extent or whether that will be subject to an appeal.”
Schmidt noted that in general, it’s not unusual for a person who has been sentenced for 50 years in federal prison to get that sentence reduced to 35 years. “If you have someone in their mid-20s, late 20s, they can be out in their late 50s or early 60s. … Our goal here was to see that he doesn’t get out,” he said.
Post can be sentenced anywhere 25 years to life per indictment. Schmidt said his office will be asking for the maximum.
Schmidt also said he wants others who abuse children to be put on notice that his office will go after them. “I want this to send a message to all these other people in the community that would do this to the most vulnerable members of our community — our children — that we are going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Schmidt credited other “heroes” in the case as well, including those who work at the Child Advocacy Program. Sometimes called “CAP,” the organization is a safe, child-friendly center that supports a multi-disciplinary investigative approach to child physical and sexual abuse allegations.
CAP worked with the children who were assaulted by Post to help them process what happened and be able to share their stories.
“They didn’t just do the hand-holding to get us to the point where we could file charges, they have been in that courtroom and been with these families every step of the way. … I just can’t speak enough about that group. They are so often the unsung heroes,” Schmidt said.
DEFENSE TEAM RESPONDS
Post was convicted on six counts. At the start of the trial, there were 13 indictments against Post. County Court Judge David Foley removed four of the indictments at the end of the trial but kept the remaining nine in place. Each indictment was for a specific act done against an individual child.
The jury, made up of seven women and five men, found Post guilty on six of the charges and not guilty on three of them.
They deliberated in private for around five hours over two days. Three times they had portions of the trial read back to them or listened to Post’s interview with state police where he confessed to many of the crimes.
Public Defender Nathaniel Barone, who represented Post, thanked the jury for not rushing to a conclusion.
“During jury selection they all promised to keep an open mind, to be fair and be impartial and to view the evidence and not make any decisions until the close of the case,” he said. “Certainly from what we could see, they did that. That’s always important, especially in these types of cases that can be so emotional and so charged.”
Barone felt it was the right decision to find his client not guilty of three of the charges and for the judge to remove four indictments before deliberations began.
“We’re extremely pleased with where we began and where we ended up,” he said.
Barone requested two weeks to file motions regarding some of the guilty counts. “We would still suggest that, especially with a couple of those, we don’t believe the elements for the burden of proof was met,” he said.
Post is scheduled to be sentenced by Foley on April 10 in county court.
Barone said once sentencing is complete, they will file their notice of appeal.
From 2015 to 2019, Post abused multiple children in northern Chautauqua County. Schmidt declined to say if all the abused children testified at trial or if there were others.
In November 2019, state police received a complaint from a mother of an 8 year old girl who had been abused the summer before. That led police to eventually being able to seize Post’s cell phone, laptop computer and four flash drives which contained multiple images and videos of child pornography. The federal Department of Justice was able to place charges against Post in February 2020 and got their conviction in 2022.
On May 26, 2021, Schmidt announced a 24-count indictment against Post. He said this week that those 24 charges were paired down to 13.
For this trial, Jury selection began Jan. 17. Opening statements took place Jan. 26. Along with the five child victims, the prosecution brought forth three mothers, two investigators and a computer analyst over a four-day period. The defense did not bring forth any witnesses and Post himself did not take the witness stand.