James Vargason

James Vargason

James Vargason was a young lawyer with a fiery, no-nonsense approach to law enforcement when he was elected district attorney of Cayuga County. He was a small town boy who grew up in Cato — a classic “local boy makes good” story. Within weeks of taking office, he was defending a conviction won by his predecessor, Paul Carbonaro. It was a fight he’d ultimately lose.

When an appeals court judge freed Bianco based on 30 lines withheld from initial police reports that implicated another man in the killing, Vargason called the case “indefensible,” and announced he would not retry Tom Bianco. Too much time had passed for him to win a second conviction with the available evidence, he said.

“I have concluded that the case against Thomas Bianco in its present
form is not salvageable,” he said. Tom Bianco, he said, was still a suspect.

Vargason later said John Grossman, who was serving a prison sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl in Rochester, was the prime suspect in the Monson murder. But in an interview, Vargason said Bianco has never been cleared as a suspect. Without an iron-clad case, he said, he would not bring anyone to trial for the murder of Julie Monson.

Vargason’s motives for not retrying the case have been repeatedly called into question. Before he served as DA, he worked as a lawyer in David Weinstein’s law office. Weinstein represented several of the prosecution’s witnesses in the Monson case, including Thomas Calescibetta, who later recanted his testimony against Bianco and accused  Weinstein of coercing him to say Bianco admitted to killing Monson.

After an unsuccessful bid for a county judgeship, Vargason left Cayuga County politics..