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November 25, 2014 - 8:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Cable Television Advisory Board.

Comcast, which is taking over Time-Warner Cable if the merger is approved by regulators, has agreed to address the apparent breaches by Time-Warner in its franchise agreement with the City of Batavia.

According to a presentation by City Manager Jason Molino at Monday's City Council meeting, Time-Warner has:

  • Failed to pay $16,345 in franchise fees -- state regulators reported Time-Warner withheld the money following an audit of the cable company's revenue and fees from 2006 to 2008;
  • Time-Warner has continued to under-report gross revenue, according to what the state says the company should report;
  • Failed to operate a community television studio and staff it appropriately.

Molino said Comcast has agreed to address all of those issues in a new franchise agreement once the merger is approved.  

Comcast will also agree to provide free Internet service to City Hall and the public schools in the city. Comcast will also pay $2,590 of city's legal fees associated with negotiating the terms of the agreement.

In exchange, the City Council is being asked to approve, before Dec. 8, a resolution in support of the Comcast/Time-Warner merger.

On the franchise fee issue, Molino said Comcast will agree to calculate revenue in accordance with recommendations laid out by state regulators during an audit published in 2011. The increase in gross revenue will mean higher franchise fees paid to the city.

Time-Warner disputed the revenue adjustment and would only pay the past-due franchise fees after tacking on 22 cents per month to each customer's bill in Batavia. The city decided that arrangement as not in the best interest of local customers and had no other legal means to pursue the unpaid fees.

A memo on the topic to council members does not explicitly say Comcast will itself pay the back fees, but says Comcast will address the issue as part of a new franchise agreement, which will be negotiated after the proposed merger is final.

A letter from Phillip Fraga, an attorney representing the city on the merger and franchise agreement, informed Comcast that he would recommend the City Council oppose the merger without the franchise issue being addressed by Comcast.

Molino also shared with city council a letter from 2007 complaining to Time-Warner about the cable company falling out of compliance with its franchise agreement by laying off production employees and removing production equipment from its Batavia office that was supposed to be available for community access programming.   

This is another issue Comcast has agreed to address.

The council will be asked to vote on a resolution approving the merger at its first meeting in December.

November 25, 2014 - 7:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD.

By unanimous vote Monday night, the City Council approved the appointment of a Police Facility Task Force to study the need for a new or remodeled Batavia PD headquarters.

The Task Force is charged with making a critical appraisal of recommendations by city staff and Geddis Architects for either building a new facility at one of four locations in the city or remodeling the current location.

Picking any one of the options could lead to expenditure for the city of $9 million to $17 million.

The current headquarters -- in the former Brisbane mansion -- has a number of deficiencies, officials say.

Appointed to the task force are Durin Rogers, Ashley Bateman, Peter Garlock, Alfred McGinnis, James Jacobs, Marc Staley, Bill Hayes and David Lone.

There's no representative from the Fifth Ward because no volunteers could be found willing to take on the job. One person agreed and at the last minute backed out.

Previously:

November 24, 2014 - 2:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, crime, elba, Oakfield, alexander, corfu.
Uriel Ramirez-Perez

Uriel Ramirez-Perez, 26, of Oak Orchard Road, Elba, is charged with first-degree rape, a Class B felony. The defendant was arrested after allegedly raping a female victim at an Elba residence. The charge is related to the previously reported charges of rape against three other Elba men. This defendant was allegedly present during the Nov. 16 incident. He is in county jail on $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 property bond. The incident was investigated by investigator Kristopher A. Kautz, deputy Dana Richardson and Angel Santos, investigator with the State Police.

Shannon Ann Caton, 39, of Fisher Road, Oakfield, is charged with: driving while intoxicated with a previous conviction within the last 10 years; resisting arrest; attempted escape, 3rd; speed not reasonable and prudent; and following too close. She was arrested Nov. 19 on the charges after she allegedly rear-ended another vehcile twice on East Main Street near Harvester Avenue in the City of Batavia. While at police headquarters, she slipped out of handcuffs and attempted to escape. She allegedly physically resisted her re-apprehension and was then jailed without bail. She is also charged with refusing to take a breath test. The incident was investigated by police officers Jason Ivison and James DeFreze.

Thomas K. Lee, 51, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. He was arrested Nov. 18 after allegedly interfering with a Batavia police officer's investigation into a domestic incident involving Lee. He allegedly resisted arrest and "attempted to kick patrols." He is in jail in lieu of $2,500 bail. The incident was investigated by police officers Jason Ivison and Chad Richards.

Shane Zimblis, 43, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with: operating a snowmobile with a BAC of .08 or higher, first offense; operating a snowmobile without liability insurance; no/inadequate headlight; operating an unregistered snowmobile; and following too close. The charges stem from an accident Nov. 18 on Pearl Street in the city wherein Zimblis was allegedly operating his snowmobile and struck an SUV. He is to appear in city court on Dec. 3. The incident was investigated by police officers Chad Richards and James DeFreze.

April L. Walradt, 37, of Bank Street, Batavia, was arrested Nov. 11 and charged with second-degree harassment. She allegedly made comments to another person and a youth that caused them alarm. She was issued an appearance ticket for city court. The incident was investigated by police offier Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Matthew Michael Biggins, 25, of Rail Road Avenue, Alexander, is charged with third-degree forgery and petit larceny. He was arrested Nov. 14 after allegedly stealing three checks, making the checks out in his own name and then cashing them. He was issued an appearance ticket and is to appear in Alexander Town Court on Dec. 2. The incident was investigated by Sheriff's deputy Cory Mower.

Terrance Trae Allen Harley, 18, of Frandee Lane, Rochester, was arrested Nov. 22 on Clinton Street Road in Stafford and charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, speed violation (67 in a 55 mph zone), and having no or inadequate taillights. The charges were issued following a traffic stop for alleged vehicle and traffic law violations. Harley is to appear in Stafford Town Court on Dec. 11. The incident was investigated by sheriff's deputy Joseph Corona, assisted by deputy Andrew Hale.

Jennifer Lynn Stack, 28, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. She was arrested Nov. 23 after she entered the Batavia Walmart and remained in the store. These alleged actions violated an active order of protection issued by Batavia Town Court, prohibiting her from being on the premises. She was issued an appearance ticket and is to appear in court on Dec. 18. The incident was investigated by Sheriff's deputy Chad Minuto.

Adam Paul Hoopengardner, 34, of Bank Street Road, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or more and speeding (52 in a 40 mph zone). He was stopped on Lewiston Road Nov. 23 for allegedly speeding and an investigation revealed he was allegedly intoxicated while driving the vehicle. The incident was investigated by Sheriff's deputy Thomas Sanfratello.

James Russell Kosiorek, 22, of East Main Street, Batavia, was arrested Nov. 20 on a state parole warrant. He responded to the Sheriff's Office to turn himself in and was placed in county jail.

Gloria Susan Moretti, 37, of Main Road, Corfu, was arrested Nov. 7 and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle. She was a co-renter of a vehicle from Sikes Enterprises, which allegedly has not been returned and has not been paid for. She was issued a computer-generated appearance ticket and is due in city court Dec. 2. The incident was investigated by Batavia police officer James DeFreze.

November 24, 2014 - 2:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

UPDATE: below, a rainbow in Bergen sent in by a reader.

November 23, 2014 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, alexander, weather.

At Tops, they might be singing "Yes! We Have No Bananas," and no asparagus and no pink grapefruit and no celery -- the produce section is running low on just about everything.

But help is on the way, according to managers. The fresh produce truck is in route, making other deliveries along the way. There's just no ETA.

Blame heavy snow, of course.

Speaking of running low on supplies, Janelle Larsen and Laura Kauppi, both of Batavia, and, Timothy Zorn, of Rochester, spent the day volunteering in the Buffalo area delivering food and other supplies to people who have been trapped in their homes by heavy snow.

Laura writes:

The efforts of the National Guard and police are concentrated on snow removal. Many people are stuck in their house with little or no food or supplies. We purchased water, milk, soup, bread, cereal, granola bars, crackers and peanut butter, Pop Tarts, (infant) formula, soy formula, diapers, cat food, dog food and baby wipes. We also had medicine, but we were thankful no one needed it.

Most people we helped were disabled or had very small children at home. Many roads are still closed, and lots of people are stuck with no food in travel bans. We drove to the edge of the bans, and then we had to walk, even as much as a mile to get to homes. These were people not receiving help anywhere else, and were very grateful.

We were surprised at how honest people were. One women told us she only wanted cat food and one milk (carton), and she wanted us to "keep the rest for people who needed it more." A young dad took Pop Tarts, saying "I just want something for my kids."

Another women took only milk, but told us about a single dad snowed in next door. He was grateful for some cereal, milk and bread. At a trailer park, we made up bags with two soups, one milk, a cereal, bread and several granola bars. We dropped them on the porch of every snowed-in house. Another mom was incredibly grateful for soy formula, diapers, milk and cereal. She was in the driving ban and with two babies was unable to walk the .5 mile to reach the nearest open store. Another women took wipes, diapers and cereal for the seven children she was caring for.

There is a Facebook group, WNY Storm Help 2014, where people have been posting needs for themselves or neighbors. It didn't take much time or money for us to make a difference, and I hope we have inspired others to do so, either to help with this storm, the inevitable flooding or the next storm.

We also received this storm-related e-mail fromReginaKoehler:

My husband is a truck driver and was stranded on the highway during the snowstorm. There were people from Alexander who got him and his truck to a safe warm place, a fire station, where he remained for three days. There were several people there who had also been rescued. The Red Cross brought in food and cots. I just want to say on behalf of my family and myself a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to the Town of Alexander for saving my husband and my son's dad, and my grandchildren's grandpa. It will be a happy Thanksgiving for us. It could have gone very bad had he been stuck out there and run out of fuel. Bless you all and have a GREAT holiday season....

UPDATE 5:25 p.m.: I almost forgot about this picture below. I stopped by the Tonawanda about 4:30 to see if the creek was rising.

November 23, 2014 - 2:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

A vehicle traveling west on West Main Street lost a wheel at about 1 p.m. causing a bit of traffic congestion, which just cleared a few minutes ago.

Photo submitted by Greg Rada.

November 23, 2014 - 9:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, infrastructure.

This isn't what anybody wants to wake up to on a Sunday morning -- water filling basements, bubbling over onto streets only recently covered with smooth, black asphalt, and the exact location of the water main break a bit of a mystery.

That's the situation at North Street and Trumbull Parkway in the city this morning.

It started with three calls for city fire to pump flooded basements on Trumbull Parkway.

That's when the water main break was discovered, most likely somewhere in the middle of the intersection of Trumbull and North, which was resurfaced this summer.

The leak is likely within the area of the intersection, but exactly where along the line won't be determined until a backhoe cuts into the new pavement, pulls up dirt and uncovers the line.

Water has been shut off, arresting the leak, but that also means four houses on North Street are without water. Other residents in the area may experience water discoloration, said Matt Worth, superintendent of the Bureau of Water & Wastewater.  

The repairs will likely take most of the day, Worth said.

November 22, 2014 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

There is a high wind watch in place for Monday morning through Monday night. Winds from the southwest of 25 to 35 mph expected with gusts up to 60 mph. Possible impacts include trees down and power lines down. Travel could be difficult for high profile vehicles. Holiday decorations and loose outdoor items, such as trash cans, could be blown away. Scattered power outages are possible.

A flood watch, the result of melting snow, remains in effect from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: The flood watch has been upgraded to a flood warning through 4:15 p.m., Monday.

A high of 60 degrees is predicted for Monday. A high of 37 degrees with snow is predicted for Tuesday.

From UMMC: "The blood drive scheduled for Monday, November 24th has been cancelled by the Red Cross. Their mobile unit requires repairs and the necessary parts are undeliverable from Buffalo due to the recent storm."  The blood drive will be rescheduled to a date in January.

Tim Adams sent in these three photos of pumps and hoses loaded and ready for transport to Lackawanna to assist with anticipated flooding clean-up. The equipment is from Godwin Pumps (Xylem). Making the trip from Batavia are Steve Wenzka, Steve Carmichael, Todd Palmer, Dan Judd, Herb Schroeder and Adams.

The Batavian's news partner 13WHAM has a story about anticipated flooding in Genesee County.

November 22, 2014 - 3:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Frost Ridge.

It's the little neighborhood restaurant that could and it will keep chugging thanks to David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell, who purchased the longtime bar-and-grill at 107 Evans St., Batavia, this week.

Luetticke-Archbell have owned and operated the Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy since 2008 and they see their new establishment as an extension and complementary to what they're already doing.

Most recently, 107 Evans has been Delavan's, which owners Bill and Pati Cultrara closed almost exactly two years ago to the day that David and Greg completed their purchase of the property.

They're calling their new restaurant Delavan's The Little Ridge and promising "great food."

The restaurant is situated in a residential neighborhood and David and Greg think it's a perfect location for the warm, friendly atmosphere they hope to create.

It's going to feature American cuisine, much like they already serve at The Barn Grill at The Ridge, which they say has gotten rave reviews from customers, such as "some of the best American food around."

"We hope to knock your socks off," David said.

There will be prime rib, baked chicken, designer hamburgers, fish fries and salmon, with Greg overseeing the kitchen in the winter.

"The fish fries Greg has been doing, everybody has been loving," David said.

As for the salmon, again, David promises we'll love it.

"Everybody who has ever said, 'I don't like salmon' eats his and loves it."

Since some of the menu will be a hold over from Delavan's, David said Bill Cultrara has graciously offered to share some of his secrets.

They also plan to bring in acoustic music and assuming they continue to host live music concerts at Frost Ridge (there are still a pair of lawsuits pending that challenge their ability to do that), the national acts they bring in will be invited to The Little Ridge for pre-concert meals.

David and Greg had given no thought of opening a restaurant in Batavia, and had no idea the location was available until they went to an auction of the contents of the building Oct. 27.

Once they stewed in the idea awhile, they couldn't pass up the opportunity, David said.

"Sometimes opportunities knock and this one just clicked," David said.

The two men, along with help from their children, staff and friends, are cleaning up the restaurant, bringing in new equipment, getting everything ready to serve customers again. They plan to open Jan. 1.

"This was like a diamond that needed to dusted," Greg said. "We see the potential it has. The charm and the smallness of being manageable for one and a Cheers-like atmosphere."

November 22, 2014 - 2:36pm
posted by The Batavian in batavia, hlom.

Photos and write-up by Steve Ognibene.

The 13th annual Wonderland of Trees Gala of 2014 was tonight at the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia. This year there were 38 trees from different area businesses including nonprofits.  Director Jeff Donahue, entering his fifth year at the helm, spoke about how they have had as many as 40 trees in previous years but it became to crowded so they like to keep it under 40. Jeff also spoke a little bit on the history. It originally was held at McCaully Hall (St. Jerome's building) on Main Street and started out small with only a few trees. After a few years, the event shifted locations to the HLOM. Friday's dinner was catered by D&R Depot. This year featured a choir, a local entertainer Don Bouchard on acoustic guitar, a silent auction, and a greater number of donated raffle baskets. The display will continue through Christmas and end just after New Year.

Julie Marino and Brianna Rindall of Batavia.

Amy Worthington of Amy's Fluffy Friends with her tree.

There was a silent auction and basket raffle.

Musical accompaniment by Don Bouchard.

Jim Owen and Marilyn Donahue

The Quaker Muller tree

The Girl Scout tree

Ben Landers

November 21, 2014 - 8:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Oakfield, alexander, Darien, weather.

Top photo, members of the Oakfield Fire Department assist the Alexander Fire Department in clearing snow from the rec hall in Alexander (photo submitted by Jeff Christensen).

Six special rescue trucks from the New York City Fire Department, part of a special task force, were at the Home Depot in Batavia today on their way to Buffalo. The trucks were specifically designed and built for high-water rescues following Hurricane Sandy. The trucks were sent to WNY in anticipation of flooding Monday with warmer weather, rain and snow melt. The vehicles can carry up to 16 people each through high water. (Photos submitted by Steve Hynes Fisher)

Some coverage from The Batavian's news partner, 13WHAM:

The Thruway Authority announced the I-90 has reopened.

Press release:

Motorists should be aware of the following restrictions:

  • Thruway (I-90) between Exit 50A (Cleveland Drive) and Exit 61 (Ripley – Pennsylvania state line) will be limited to essential travel only, including travel needed to exit the region, deliver necessary supplies, and remove snow. In this section, all exits are open wherever localities have lifted travel bans.

The following exits remain closed to traffic exiting from the Thruway, although traffic is permitted to enter at these locations:

  • Exit 56 (Blasdell -- Orchard Park -- Mile Strip Road -- NY Route 179)
  • Exit 57 (Hamburg -- East Aurora -- NY Route 75)
  • Exit 57A (Eden --  Angola)
  • Exit 58 (Silver Creek -- Irving -- NY Routes 5, 20 & 438)
  • I-190 (Niagara Thruway) is open, but there is no access to Exit 1 (South Ogden) through Exit 5 (Hamburg – Louisiana).

The Town of Darien office is closed until 9 a.m., Monday.

Photo -- Steve Ferry digging out the Bartlett residence in Darien:

John Brown's car in Alexander this morning:

November 21, 2014 - 5:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

It took a jury only a couple of hours of deliberation to decide that Dashawn Butler is guilty of criminal use of a firearm, 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon, 2nd, and attempted assault, 1st.

Following the verdict, which came at the end of the second day of Butler's trial, Judge Robert C. Noonan ordered Butler held without bail until he's sentenced at 10 a.m., Dec. 22.

He faces up to 15 years in state prison.

Before he was taken to jail, he collected his personal belongings he had with him -- an iPhone, a necklace of beads and a cross and his black-and-white plaid shirt -- and had a deputy hand them over to his girlfriend, who wept while she waited.

The conviction stems from shots fired incident Sept. 27, 2013, at 117 State St., Batavia.

The case was wrapped up with closing arguments just before 2:30 p.m. Noonan spent about an hour reading jury instructions and then sent the jury into a private room for deliberations.

The jury sent out notes twice with questions and then announced it had arrived at a verdict shortly before 5 p.m.

Today's proceedings included testimony from a witness who is a firearms expert and one defense witness, whose testimony was meant to suggest that Butler's intended victim, Kelly Rhim, came to State Street that night expecting trouble.

Defense Attorney Thomas Burns tried to establish during the trial that without physical evidence that there was a gun, shots were fired, and Butler fired the gun, there was more than reasonable doubt that his client was guilty.

Before closing arguments, Burns made a motion to have the charges dismissed based on the insufficiency, as he sees it, of the prosecution's evidence.

Noonan has yet to rule on that motion. He said he will issue a ruling before Butler is sentenced. It's technically possible that Noonan could still throw out the charges, thereby overturning the jury's verdict.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman takes a different view, of course, of the evidence.

It's beyond a doubt, but not just a reasonable doubt, Friedman told jurors during his summation that the defendant is guilty as charged.

"This defendant possessed a loaded firearm," Friedman said. "That's what the evidence points to and that's what all of the evidence establishes. He pointed it at Kelly Rhim and he intended to shoot Kelly Rhim."

Where Burns called into question Rhim's character, Friedman said Rhim's testimony wasn't even necessary for the jury to return a guilty verdict.

Burns listed off Rhim's long criminal history, his alleged failure to pay child support, his keen taste for marijuana and the inconsistencies in his story and said his version of events weren't trustworthy.

"Would you trust the word of Kelly Rhim knowing what you know now?" Burns asked. "Would you rely on his honesty if it effected the safety and security of your family?"

Friedman didn't try to boost Rhim's credibility. Rather, he told jurors that Rhim's testimony wasn't necessary to establish that Butler possessed a loaded firearm.

"The defense wants to make all of this about Kelly Rhim," Friedman said. "This case is not about Kelly Rhim. It's about Dashawn Butler. To focus entirely on Kelly Rhim and his credibility is ignoring the fact that the most important witness in this case is Traci Leubner."

It was Leubner's testimony that put a revolver in Butler's hand, Friedman said. It was Leubner's account that demonstrated that Butler expected to shoot Rhim and was surprised when all of his shots missed.

Her statements, Friedman said, were corroborated by the other witnesses, even without Rhim's testimony.

Leubner, a former girlfriend of Butler's, is the witness who refused to testify yesterday for fear of her own safety, and, instead, her grand jury testimony was read for the jury.

Burns was unsuccessful in an attempt yesterday to get a sworn statement from Leubner introduced into the record as well, because there are some possible inconsistencies in the two stories presented by Leubner.

The issue of physical evidence, or the lack of it, loomed large in today's proceedings.

Steve Padin, a firearms instructor at the Erie County Police Academy, and 25-year veteran of Buffalo PD, testified for the prosecution about how and why a person firing a handgun could not only miss his intended target, but also completely miss anything else.

Without the gun, there's no way of knowing with 100-percent certainty whether the weapon fired was a revolver, a semi-automatic or an automatic. 

If it were a revolver, Padin testified, it wouldn't automatically eject shell casings, so no casings would be found at the scene.

The smallest caliber handgun most commonly available is a .22.  

A slug fired from a .22 handgun, if it hits no object, will travel more than a mile before losing speed and dropping to the ground.

Burns told jurors that if Butler approached Rhim from the angle suggested by witnesses, then there should have been bullet holes in the wall of 117 State St., if not, then another object nearby.

Friedman argued that Butler would have been firing in a direction that would have sent bullets north on State Street, with the possibility of there being no objects to hit. The slugs would never be found in that case.

Or if the slugs hit a sidewalk, they could have disintegrated or flown off in who knows what direction; and if they hit dirt, they would be nearly impossible to find.

Padin also testified that it would be quite easy for an inexperienced shooter to miss a person standing even just 10 feet away while firing a handgun.

While Rhim testified he was surprised he wasn't hit by a bullet, Padin wasn't surprised at all.

The quality and design of the gun can effect its accuracy, while environmental factors from wind to light can effect a shooter's accuracy. But more importantly, a shooter's ability or inability to keep the weapon pointed at its target while under stress or excitement can easily cause the shooter to miss.

Padin brought a demonstration device. It looks like a pistol but only fires a laser beam. It's used with students to show them how these factors impact accuracy.

Inexperienced shooters, he said, tend to anticipate the gun's recoil, so they might jerk it down, up or to one side or the other just before pulling the trigger.

Friedman: "Is it possible to miss a human-size target, even one as close as 10 feet away?"

Padin: "Yes."

Friedman: "Have you seen that happen?"

Padin: "I have, many times."

Which brings us to the question, "Who fired the gun?"

Obviously, the jury concluded that Butler did it.

Burns didn't offer another alternative, but he did open the door for the jury to speculate. Friedman, of course, reminded the jury to stick to the evidence and not speculate.

"When it comes to the question of any weapon in that Cadillac, it's a case of protesting a little too much," Burns said. "He isn't outraged at getting stopped for DWI. He's upset when nine officers stop him because they believe he has a gun in that car. And after he witnessed this terrible experience where he got shot at in a neighborhood he said he went back to protect his family, and he knew he left family on the front porch, he drives to a parking lot near Ri-Dans and smokes marijuana and then goes into the bar to drink with no concern for (his family member), no concern for the children in the neighborhood."

Going to Ri-Dan's "probably isn't what most people would do," Friedman told the jury, "but that isn't an argument that the shooting didn't happen." 

The one witness called by Burns was Angel Ramos, who said Rhim has been a family friend for many years.

Ramos, who made it clear almost as soon as she sat in the witness stand that she didn't want to be there, testified that she was at her mother's house on Hutchins Place when Rhim pulled up in the white Cadillac that night.

Rhim said, according to Ramos, "Are you strapped in? Are you ready for war?"

That, Burns suggested, was an indication that Rhim was looking for trouble on State Street that night.

"There's no evidence that Kelly Rhim ever possessed a gun at any point in his life," Friedman said. "There's no indication that Kelly Rhim committed any crime that night on State Street."

As for the statements attributed to Rhim by Ramos, they really don't mean anything, Friedman told the jurors.

"Even if you assume, just for argument's sake, that this was a warning to expect trouble, that doesn't mean he was going to do anything or that he had a gun. That would be entirely speculative because we have no evidence (to support the suggestion)."

November 21, 2014 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

If all had gone according to plan, today would be the last day of leaf pickup in the city, but the recent snow storms have made leaf clean up impossible.

Many residents probably still had leaves on some trees when the first storm hit.

City Manager Jason Molino said if warmer weather and snow melt permits, the city may reschedule a period of leaf pickup around the city, but officials won't be able to make that determination, at the earliest, until after this weekend.

November 21, 2014 - 12:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, City Schools.

Press release:

The Batavia City School District is dedicated to providing all students with the educational foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life. To ensure your child's success, we have set high standards that are reflected in what is taught in our classrooms.

We would like to get your feedback about our district. We will use the information provided by all stakeholders in future plans and are asking you to complete the Family Engagement Survey by November 30, 2014. We want to hear your voice regarding Batavia's educational program. Please complete the survey at the link below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8XV7LLC

Your input is valued and we thank you for taking time to share your thoughts, ideas and aspirations for the Batavia City School District.

November 20, 2014 - 11:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Le Roy, weather.

Bernie Thompson and Steve Ognibene face off in a Southside snow blower battle. (Submitted by Steve Ognibene)

Below are some pictures from Le Roy from Rob Radley.

Finally, with perhaps too much time on his hands while snowed in, Bob Trombley rewrote the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's "America."

Let us be Eskimos, we'll build our igloos together/ I've got some hand warmers here in my bag.

So we bought pack of rock salt and tops store made pies and walked off to look for Batavia. "Snovember" I said, as we snowboarded along the way in Oakfield, Corfu seems like a dream to me now.

It took me 4 days to clear off my windshield "I've come to look for Batavia."

Laughing in our igloos, playing games with the muckdogs, she said the man in the snow suit was a good guy.

I said "be careful, his snow plow is really buried."

"Toss me a shovel, I think there's one on my front step." We broke the last one an hour ago."

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine; and the snow fell over an open field. "Kathy, they're lost" I said as the news trucks were live streaming. "Facebook and Twitter are hashtagging silly snow names and I don't know why."

Counting the cars on the New York State Thruway, they've all come to look for Batavia, all come to look for Batavia, all come to look for Batavia.

November 20, 2014 - 11:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

Local photographer Steve Ognibene shared these pictures with of some snow scenes in Batavia today.

November 20, 2014 - 7:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

NOTE: Jurors are instructed by Judge Robert C. Noonan not to read media accounts of the trial. This story contains information not available to jurors. Certainly, no jurors should read the story nor should the case be discussed with jurors.

There's no physical evidence putting a gun in the hand of Dashawn Butler the night shots rang out on State Street 14 months ago, defense attorney Thomas Burns told jurors during opening arguments today in a criminal trial in Genesee County Court.

Three witnesses testified before jurors were sent home for the day, but the most unusual moment of the case came when one of the witnesses scheduled to take the stand refused to testify.

In his opening statement, Burns told jurors that there were no shell casings, no bullet holes in any building or car, no victim shot, nothing to demonstrate clearly that Butler either possessed or fired a gun the night of Sept. 27, 2013.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman kept his opening remarks brief -- to match the briefness of the incident that allegedly took place on State Street in Batavia.

"When all is said and done, through the use of common sense and the collective experience you have in the world to evaluate evidence, you will find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of these crimes," Friedman said.

Butler is charged with attempted assault, attempt to cause serious physical injury, and criminal possession of a weapon.

The charges stem from an incident near 117 State St. when gunshots were reportedly fired at a person standing on the sidewalk.

Butler was named as a suspect not long after the shooting and a warrant was issued for his arrest. It took several months to locate him before he was arrested.

Called to the stand today were Julie Ann Carasone, a resident of State Street, Lisa Strong, a former State Street resident now living in Oakfield, Tracy Leubner, a former girlfriend of Butler's, and Kelly Rhim, the purported target of the alleged gun fire.

The case was moving along briskly, after a late start because of a juror's mistaken belief that court was closed today, until it came time to call Leubner, the third witness of the day, to the stand.

When Friedman went into the hall to retrieve the witness, he wasn't heard from for a minute or two, and then he stuck his head in the door and told Judge Robert C. Noonan that it would be another minute.

As the minutes ticked by, a woman could be heard sobbing outside the courtroom.

After at least 10 minutes of waiting, Noonan sent the jury into recess and Friedman entered and said that his witness, Tracy Leubner, was refusing to testify. Friedman held a document that he said was a police report detailing how Leubner had been threatened by a man whom he believed is an associate of Butler's.

Leubner is reportedly an ex-girlfriend of Butler's and has knowledge of both the incident Sept. 27 and Butler's purported gang ties.

In lieu of Leubner's testimony, Friedman requested using the transcript of her grand jury testimony.

Burns objected on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to make his client culpable in the alleged threats, and at the least, there should be a hearing on the matter to establish such evidence. The case in point, Burns said, was People vs. Smart.

That case (and previous cases) establishes that a criminal defendant surrenders his right to confront witnesses against him if the defendant threatens the witness.

With the jury out of the room, Friedman called Det. Thad Mart, with Batavia PD. Mart was involved in the criminal investigation against Butler, did the initial interview with Leubner, served a subpoena on her Nov. 7, and retrieved her from her home this morning.

Leubner had to be coaxed out of her house and to the court building, Mart testified.

He claimed that Leubner had told him that when she lived with Butler, Butler used to beat her. The detective said that she told him previously she had been tricked into attending a party hosted by Butler at a residence on Holland Avenue. At the party, according to Mart, Butler confronted Leubner and said he would have "kicked the sh--" out of her if he had known about her grand jury testimony, and that he would "kick the sh--" out of her if she testified at trial.

Mart testified that a third party also contacted Leubner and threatened her.

"He told her he heard that she had snitched on Butler," Mart said. "She denied this and he went on and said that he found out she had snitched on him. He said that if Butler wanted her dead, he would be willing to take care of it himself."

During cross examination, Burns asked Mart questions about any follow-up investigation and Mart said he didn't talk with the third party and never confirmed that Butler and this other person even knew each other.

After a lunch break, Burns called witness Gina Bell to the stand.

Bell testified that she was friends with both Leubner and Butler. She was at this trial, in fact, in support of Butler. She said she was also friends with the alleged intended victim of the reported shooting, Kelly Rhim.

Contrary to Mart's testimony, Bell said that it was Leubner's idea to go to the party on Holland Avenue. Bell didn't even know about the party, she said, until Leubner invited her.

She testified that there was no apparent conflict between Leubner and Butler at the party, though she admitted she wasn't with either of them throughout the evening, and that Leubner didn't seem distressed or bothered after coming by Butler's house once she left the party.

"She seemed fine," Bell said. "She seemed like she had a good night. She was happy. She said nothing about any problems at the party."

Bell also said that in all the time she's known Leubner, Leubner never gave any indication that Butler ever harmed her.

Noonan ruled that there was sufficient evidence that Butler was involved in threats against Leubner and the grand jury transcript could be read to the jury. He said the only thing Bell's testimony established was whose idea it was to go to the party, which wasn't material to the substance of establishing why Leubner was unwilling to testify. He said nothing in her testimony directly refuted the alleged threats against Leubner.

To read Leubner's testimony, Friedman read the questions he asked in front of the grand jury and the Assistant District Attorney sat in the witness stand and read Leubner's answers.

She testified before the grand jury that somebody supplied Butler with a small, black handgun prior to the shooting. It was a revolver, she said (which wouldn't leave behind shell casings).

She said that Butler heard some people arguing near 117 State St., and then he heard his name mentioned. She said that a person was calling Butler a fake, a phony.

"'You want to see fake,'" she said Butler said. "He pulled out a gun and proceeded to shoot the man."

She later clarified that she meant to say that Butler shot at the man.

She said she heard four or five shots and then the gun jammed.

Later, at a residence in the city, Butler told a friend, she said, to flush the spent shells down the toilet.

"Dashawn was talking with friends about the gun jamming," she reportedly told the grand jury. "He was upset because he thought the bullets might be too big or something."

It was then that the subject came up that perhaps the bullets were blanks.

It was the only explanation Butler could think of, she said, for why Butler missed the person standing in front of him.

"He didn't understand why he missed," she reportedly said. "He said he was aiming right at him and if it was actual ammunition he wouldn't have missed."

Testifying in the afternoon was Kelly Rhim, the person Butler is accused of intending to shoot.

He said he's known Butler since about 2001 or 2002 and they're nearly the same age.

The night of the alleged shooting, Rhim said he went to his aunt's house at 117 State St. to pick up some CDs. He said he had recently moved to Buffalo and that he worked as a DJ and needed the CDs for a gig later that night.

He arrived on State at about 10:30 p.m. He was accompanied by his brother-in-law.

There were two people on the porch and Rhim and the other two people had words.

The group had a confrontation the night before, Rhim said.

Rhim was upset because one of the men, he said, had been going around telling people that Rhim had been in town the night before with a group of gang members from Buffalo.

"They're not even close to gang members," Rhim said.

He then saw Butler run up from behind the house with a youth.

He said Butler accused him of saying that he, Butler, was fake.

"We fake now. We fake now," he said Butler screamed.

Rhim said, he replied, "Yes, you're fake. You're recruiting a bunch of teenagers to be part of all that B.S."

He said Butler then pulled out a gun and told him to back up.

"I just stood there," Rhim said. "I never moved. He shot three times. I started feeling myself, because I watch a lot of crime shows on TV, to make sure if I was hit or not. I wasn't sure if I was struck or not."

He was talking fast and the court reporter couldn't keep up.

He repeated, "I watch a lot of crime shows. You're not supposed to move if you think you've been hit by a bullet."

He said he couldn't believe what just happened.

"I was shocked because I've been living in Batavia since '85," Rhim said. "That kind of violence doesn't go on here, period."

He said Butler ran off after firing the three shots. He then left with his brother-in-law and drove to Ri-Dans, a bar on West Main Street Road, where they had some drinks.

During cross, Rhim said he never saw a gun, just "flashes of light" coming from Butler's sleeve.

He admitted later that he was arrested for DWI that night and later convicted in Town of Batavia Court of the charge.

He said he didn't have anything to drink prior to driving to State Street in his brother-in-law's white Cadillac and having the alleged confrontation.

After Ri-Dans, he and his brother-in-law sat in the Caddy and lit up a blunt, he testified.

“After I got shot at I smoked some weed,” he said, rolling his eyes and looking as if any reasonable person would have done the same thing.

His previous convictions over the past decade include disorderly conduct (twice), criminal sale of a controlled substance and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

During cross examination, Rhim also conceded that he was driving that evening without a license, which was suspended because of late child support payments.

After leaving the bar, sometime after 2 a.m., he was pulled over so Sheriff’s deputies could asked him about the State Street incident. He said nine deputies with nine guns drawn descended on him and his brother-in-law and had them lie down on the ground. He said one of them asked him who he shot.

He said he didn’t shoot anyone and there was no gun on the two men or in the vehicle. He was found, however, to be intoxicated and was arrested for DWI. Officers found one “dime bag” of weed on him (enough to roll three blunts he says) and nine more “in the console” of the vehicle.

Continuing with questions possibly intended to cast the prosecution's witness as having less than sterling character, Burns then asked Rhim if had been arrested for allegedly stealing meat from Top’s Market. The case is still pending.

“It was not no meat. It was $240 worth of stuff,” the witness said. “Roses for my mom’s tombstone, paper goods and stuff. I thought I lost my money. I backtracked out the store and before you know it I was outside the store at my car.”

He claims his clarity of mind had been affected by medication he had been given for an abscess, which made him “disoriented and delusional.”

But going back to the matter on trial -- whether Dashawn Butler used a gun to try and shoot Rhim on Sept. 27, 2013 -- the witness stood by his testimony, even though it varied from what he had signed in a sworn statement to Batavia PD.

“They switched the words on me,” he told the jurors.

Burns asked if he remembered telling police that the incident with Butler was related to something posted on Facebook.

He replied that he never said the derogatory remarks about him on Facebook came from Butler. He said he doesn’t know who posted them.

Lastly, Burns asked him if he remembers telling officers when they pulled him over after he left the bar, “You don’t know what the f--k you’re getting into.”

No, the witness said, “They were making things up.”

State Street resident Julie Ann Carasone testified that she was in her daughter's room watching "Law & Order" while her daughter and a friend played a game on the Xbox hooked up to the living room TV when she heard the possible gunshots.

"I heard somebody say, 'get down mother f--ker, get down mother f--ker' and then I heard, pop-pop-pop, and I thought 'oh, my God, it's gunshots,' " Carasone said. "I turned down the TV to make sure it wasn't on TV and then I heard a female saying, 'I can't believe you shot him.' "

She said she ushered the children into the bathtub, thinking they would be safer there if there were any more shots fired, and called 9-1-1.

Asked how she recognized the sound of gunshots, she said her father was a military veteran and the family spent a lot of time on military bases, near firing ranges, and that her father had taught her about guns.

Lisa Strong testified that she was sitting on her porch smoking a cigarette five doors down from 117 State St. when she heard what sounded like people arguing. She heard the gunshots and then saw a white car, possibly a Cadillac, speed away. She said from two to six people then ran in various directions.

She did not call police. She went in her house and locked the door.

The trial resumes tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Billie Owens contributed to this report.

November 20, 2014 - 12:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents.

A two-car accident is reported at 148 Bank St. by Washington Avenue. The drive of one vehicle is complaining of back pain. City fire and Mercy medics are responding.

November 18, 2014 - 3:00pm

Don't miss the 13th Annual Wonderland Of Trees Gala at the Holland Land Office on Friday November 21st from 7 pm-10 pm.
 
Thank you to the 2014 Gala Sponsors:
 
D&R Depot Restaurant
585-768-6270
 
Double L Rentals
585-344-0023
 
Reed Eye Associates
585-249-8300
 
Wanted Good Quality Antiques
585-813-2581
 
Edward Jones
585-345-1773
 
Stan's Harley Davidson
585-343-9598
 
Galaxie 3 Inc.
716-868-6733
 
Marchese Computer Products Inc.
585-343-2713
 
The Batavian
585-250-4118
 
T-Shirts Etc.
585-345-1993
 
Sterling Tents & Awnings Inc.
585-343-3726

 

November 18, 2014 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

Much of Genesee County remains under a travel ban (Darien, Pembroke, Alexander, Bethany, Pavilion) and the rest of the area is under a travel advisory.

The weather service is calling for more lake effect snow, with up to four inches an hour hitting the western and southern parts of the county.

Here's some photos from around Batavia this morning.

Top: Heidi Urban cleans her driveway on North Street.

A Batavia Housing Authority employee blows snow outside 400 Towers.

Skyler Fronczak, 11, helped her family on Ross Street with snow clearing by spreading salt this morning.

Steve Hawley was keeping his walk clear this morning in front of his insurance office on Main Street.

The entrance to the Thruway in Batavia was closed.

A DOT plow truck downtown.

St. Mary's in the snow.

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