ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A Rochester couple who a Black firefighter accused of throwing a racist pool party this summer mocking the Juneteenth holiday said Tuesday that the party was intended to ridicule liberal politicians but wasn’t bigoted.
The couple, dentist Nicholas Nicosia and real estate agent Mary Znidarsic-Nicosia, said their July 7 party had been mischaracterized, but Znidarsic-Nicosia confessed to running a racist Twitter account.
According to a legal notice filed by firefighter Jerrod Jones, the Nicosias’ party featured a display mocking the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the end of slavery in the 19th century, with Juneteenth flags displayed over buckets of fried chicken.
Jones, a 14-year veteran of the fire department, said his captain forced him and two co-workers to attend the party while on duty. He filed a notice of claim against the city of Rochester and the fire department seeking at least $3 million for emotional distress and at least $1 million in compensatory damages.
The fire captain, Jeffrey Krywy, was suspended by the department and later retired.
The Nicosias said Tuesday at a news conference with their attorney, Corey Hogan, that the party was anti-liberal, not anti-Juneteenth. Hogan showed an invitation that described the party as a “liberal smashing splish splash pool party.”
Znidarsic-Nicosia said the fried chicken was not meant as a racist trope but was simply a convenient food choice.
Znidarsic-Nicosia did admit to running an anonymous Twitter account that posted racist images and content but denied being racist. “I have made blatantly racist comments under that persona,” she said. “The culture of Twitter operates that way. It gives you an opportunity to be someone you’re not.”
Nicosia said he has lost patients at his dental practice because of the allegations of racism. “We were tried and convicted on social media in a false narrative that was created,” he said.
Asked about the news conference, Jones’ attorney, Nate McMurray, said the Nicosias had confirmed the substance of Jones’ notice of claim while additionally admitting to the Twitter account. “We will use that press conference as evidence going forward,” McMurray said.