Man pleads not guilty in Albany sword attack

ALBANY – In shackles and chains, and wearing a bright yellow jail jumpsuit, 42-year-old Randell Mason pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in Albany County Court to the entire three count indictment against him unsealed by Judge Roger McDonough.

Mason faces two counts of attempted murder and one count of assault. The possibility of bail was never entertained. Mason’s defense attorney never made the request.

It was inside a homeless shelter on Sheridan Avenue in Albany where Mason brutally and viciously attacked a shelter employee last week with a sword, leaving that worker with critical injuries.

That worker was Jon Romano, 34, who in 2004 walked into Columbia High School in East Greenbush and fired several shotgun blasts at students and teachers.

“When Jon went to prison, he dedicated his entire life to non-violence,” said Jose Pineda, who befriended Romano in prison, and is now co-director of After Incarceration, an organization dedicated to helping individuals adjust to normal life when they’re released from prison.

“He dedicated his entire life to non-violence, became a Buddhist, he got involved in higher education, and he helped people for the entire 15 years he was in prison, and helped deal with things with mental illness,” Pineda pointed out.

Romano was working with homeless people when he nearly lost his life.

“He wanted to dedicate his life to serving the people who are the most vulnerable, and he felt that homeless people were those people,” Pineda stated. “We’re asking people do work for minimum money. Jon wasn’t making no money doing this. He wasn’t getting rich helping homeless people. He was getting rich in his soul.”

Pineda is now questioning whether society is committed to dealing with mental illness, or whether those in power are willing to provide the resources that he believes are needed. He remains passively optimistic.

“From tremendous pain comes the power to create tremendous transformation,” Pineda asserted. “I know this for a fact.”

Jon Romano’s condition was unavailable from Albany Medical Center Thursday evening.