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Judge sends Abrams to county jail while attorneys attempt to uncover more about burglary allegations

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Court Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini this afternoon remanded a Town of Alabama man to county jail for at least the next several days while attorneys on both sides look into the circumstances surrounding an alleged burglary on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

Isaac D. Abrams, 22, who apparently owns smoke shops and dispensaries on the reservation, was charged by State Police with second-degree attempted burglary, a Class C felony, in connection with an incident at a dispensary on the evening of March 10.

He was arrested on March 30 and subsequently released with non-monetary conditions pending today’s court appearance.

Abrams has been under intensive probation supervision as a result of previous criminal charges, including first-degree burglary of a dwelling, causing injury, a Class B felony, and third-degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

During today’s proceedings and in light of the latest charges, Cianfrini pointed out that the probation department has recommended the revocation of Abrams’ IPS status – action supported by Assistant District Attorney Andrew DiPasquale.

At that point, Fred Rarick, who has represented Abrams since 2018, claimed that the charges were “merely allegations” and that his client turned over recordings that will show that “some people have ulterior motives.”

Rarick said that Abrams was invited to mediate a dispute at the business, and that the business owner, Cassi Abrams, “notified state troopers that my client did absolutely nothing wrong.”

“It’s a little bit premature to revoke the IPS,” Rarick said, adding that Abrams has been doing well in mandated drug treatment court.

Cianfrini, however, indicated that Abrams tested positive for marijuana on Thursday, and at that point, asked both lawyers to approach the bench. Following a five-minute discussion – during which Rarick could be heard stating that Abrams was asked to assist in the dispute involving family members – Cianfrini rendered her decision.

“I’m not revoking the interim probation supervision, but these are serious allegations,” she said. “I am remanding you, without bail, at this point (to let the attorneys research this).”

Before being handcuffed and led out of court, Abrams pleaded with the judge to set him free as “I need to get more recordings, please.”

Abrams is scheduled to return to treatment court next Thursday – two days after a scheduled appearance in Alabama Town Court.

Outside the courtroom after adjournment, Rarick said he respected Cianfrini’s decision, “but it’s just very interesting that this allegedly occurred weeks ago and he was just recently arrested.”

“Severe allegations of an armed robbery and he threatened to kill somebody? He did go and talk to the troopers and he explained everything. There are recordings which, when we go to trial, will be brought out to find out what these motivations are.”

Rarick also said there is a co-defendant in the matter.

“We’ll have to talk to his attorney. I don’t know, I wasn’t there,” he said. “There’s a lot going on with Mr. Abrams. He had his dispensary and he had another dispensary that was burned down. His other dispensary was robbed. So, I’m going to be looking into the motivations of these people.”

Concerning the positive test for marijuana, Rarick said that he has been informed that Abrams possesses a medical marijuana card.

“This whole thing is about relations, land disputes and it’s so sad,” he said, noting that cousins are at odds with each other, “Things that are happening on the Reservation. It used to be who gets to have a fuel station and now it’s who gets to have dispensaries there – and there are dispensaries every 50 feet or so.”

Rarick said Abrams was accused of taking money from a safe.

“I do question that when there is an allegation that a gun was involved, why the troopers didn’t go out immediately -- they know where Mr. Abrams is – to find this guy,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense and I think that will come out in the trial once we get these people under a real oath versus a misdemeanor.”

Previously: Judge gives Tonawanda resident a chance to put his past behind him

Man pleads not guilty to Alexander dairy farm murder during arraignment

By Alecia Kaus

Prince Wilson, 23, of Albion, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment  Friday morning in Genesee County Court.

Wilson is facing a five-count indictment handed up by a Genesee County Grand Jury last week. Wilson and a Warsaw man, Raul Cruz, 18, are each accused of the crimes of murder, first degree, a class A-1 felony, two counts of murder, second degree, a class A-1 felony, arson 2nd degree, a class B violent felony and petit larceny, a class A misdemeanor, in the deaths of Marcelino Gomez Hernandez and Elibander “Ivan” Morales on March 11 while at a local dairy farm located at 10216 Rt. 98 in the town of Alexander. 

At his previous court appearance on July 18 before Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini, Wilson was unhappy that assigned Public Defender Jerry Ader would not give the okay for Wilson to testify at the Grand Jury hearing in his case. Wilson attempted to represent himself during that court appearance. Cianfrini advised Wilson to work things out with Ader or hire his own attorney.

Today, Wilson did not say very much in court. When asked by Cianfrini if he wanted her to reassign the public defender, Wilson responded, "I guess, yeah," allowing Ader to speak on his behalf. Ader then waived a reading of the charges and entered a plea of not guilty. 

District Attorney Kevin Finnell told the court the people are ready for trial, however, Finnell also said his office is still waiting for a swab sample to be submitted by the defendant for a DNA test.

Wilson remains in jail with bail set at $300,000/A, $600,000/B and $800,000/E. He originally was remanded to jail without bail by a local court when first arrested. Wilson is to return at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 24 in Genesee County Court for oral arguments.

Holley man sentenced to prison for rape at Batavia college

By Alecia Kaus


A Holley man was sentenced to two years in prison Friday after admitting he engaged in sexual intercourse with another person without that person’s consent during a September 2020 incident at Genesee Community College in the Town of Batavia.

The female victim has said that she was incapable of consent due to her level of intoxication, rendering her helpless.

Genesee County Court Judge Melissa L. Cianfrini sentenced Juan M. Mendez, 21, to a determinate sentence of 2 years in prison and 10 years of post-release supervision during his sentencing on Friday morning.

Citing a letter written to probation by Mendez, Judge Cianfrini asked his attorney William Swift if Mendez still accepts the plea to rape 3rd degree. Cianfrini says in the letter the comments made by Mendez did not show he was admitting there was no consent by the victim as she was incapable.

“The comments showed a callousness, and I considered rejecting the plea, you tried to explain away what happened,” Judge Cianfrini said.

Swift affirmed his client accepted the plea and that the victim was incapable of consent.

“In his mind he understands,” Swift said.

The victim in the case addressed the court explaining that she thought she was with a small group of friends that she trusted on Sept. 3, 2020.

“They let me down, I was not conscious when he laid in my bed,” the victim told the court.

Since the incident, the victim says she has suffered from PTSD and is not the same person she once was.

“I have turned cynical, he showed me an evil that has made me sick to my core," she said. "I don’t feel safe at home, and I have trust issues, I am suffering.”

The victim, who said she knew there was a chance some would not believe her, and that the justice system often fails many women, said she decided to take a chance and move forward.

“He knew what he did was rape, but he did it anyway.”

The victim told the court she had a hard time accepting the plea deal that was offered. She addressed Judge Cianfrini directly.

“Judge, you have an opportunity to show that the justice system will not let women down. I’m asking you to bring forth the justice he deserves and sentence him (Mendez) to prison,” the victim said.

Mendez, 21, of Holley, NY, pleaded guilty to rape 3rd degree, a class E felony, this past April in a plea deal. He was originally facing three other charges in the indictment, rape 1st degree, a class B violent felony, sexual abuse 1st degree, a class D violent felony, and sexual abuse 3rd degree, a class B misdemeanor.

Mendez’s attorney requested that the court not sentence him to incarceration, as he is a young man and has pleaded guilty and accepts his responsibility and the consequences, and to consider that he is a father, and has a job, and to not take him away from his family.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl expressed that the victim put forth a strong argument for state prison and requested the maximum sentence.

Judge Cianfrini addressed Mendez before sentencing, referring to letters received from family and friends showing a very family-oriented person.

“You are not the same person in these letters, I do believe she never consented with you, the evidence indicates in no shape or form she was able to communicate. You knew that you barely knew her, and you had no business being in her room. You don’t get it; you do need to be monitored and you need some insight into your actions.”

Mendez was accompanied by his family in court and chose not to speak during his sentencing. Two orders of protection were issued for the victim and one other person who was a witness. Mendez was warned about the use of social media as contact as well. He was handcuffed by NYS Court Officers and transported to the jail. Upon release, Mendez will register as a sex offender.

Grand Jury: Woman allegedly jumped bail, failed to appear in county court on felony charge

By Billie Owens

Serena L. Snyder is indicted for the crime of bail jumping in the second degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that she did not appear personally on Sept. 26 in Genesee County Court as ordered after having been released from custody on the condition she would do so, nor did she voluntarily appear in court within 30 days thereafter. She was to appear in court in connection with an unspecified felony charge against her.

Steven Obara is indicted for the crime of driving while intoxicated as a Class E felony. It is alleged that on Oct. 8 in the Town of Pembroke that Obara drove a 2007 Jeep on Route 33 while he was intoxicated. In Special Information filed by the District Attorney's Office, Obara is accused of having been convicted of driving while intoxicated, as a misdemeanor, on Feb. 1, 2011 in the Town of Elma in Erie County. That conviction was within 10 of the commission of the crime alleged in the current indictment.

Batavia woman pleads guilty after wrongfully obtaining benefits

By Alecia Kaus

Ellen M. Martinez Brayley, 26, of West Main Street, Batavia, pled guilty to one count of falsifying business records first degree in Genesee County Court this afternoon.

Martinez Brayley pled guilty on an Alford plea, which means she does not admit guilt, but does admit that sufficient evidence exists to convict her of the offense.

Martinez Brayley was charged in October of 2013 after an investigation found that she had falsified business records to wrongfully obtain benefits through Pathstone Section 8 HUD and Social Security Administration.

Martinez Brayley agreed to pay restitution to Pathstone in the amount of $10,059.
She will also pay restitution to Social Security Administration in the amount of $13,086.

Martinez Brayley could face up to six months in jail when she is sentenced in Genesee County Court on April 22 at 1:30.

Jailed Oakfield man admits to sexual contact with 16-year old boy

By Geoff Redick

Anthony Nicosia Jr., of Oakfield, agreed to a plea deal in Genesee County Court today, admitting that he twice had sexual contact with a 16-year-old boy last spring in the Town of Oakfield.

The 55-year old Nicosia pleaded guilty to two felony counts of third-degree Criminal Sexual Act. Under terms of the deal, two counts of Forcible Touching and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child were dropped.

Nicosia has no prior felony convictions affecting this sentence. He faces up to eight years in prison on consecutive four-year sentences stemming from the charges, up to 10 years probation and must register as a sex offender.

An order of protection was logged for the 16-year-old victim. Nicosia remains imprisoned until his Nov. 23 sentencing. Bail is $15,000 cash or $30,000 bond.

UPDATE: I spoke with Judge Robert Noonan to get a definitive answer on the sex offender registration issue. Noonan says he almost always imposes fees -- like sex offender registry fees or DNA Databank fees -- at sentencing, in case the legal organizations that follow sentencing need to administer or re-administer those services.

For example, if a defendant has already contributed to the DNA Databank due to a prior conviction, that defendant will not need to go through the DNA Databank process again. The State Department of Corrections is later authorized to waive the DNA Databank fee imposed at sentencing.

So, Judge Noonan told Nicosia yesterday that he may impose the Sex Offender Registration fee at sentencing. Noonan says the fee may be required to reclassify sex offenders to a higher level. However (upon closer examination), Nicosia is a Level 3 Sex Offender, the highest level possible. Therefore, he cannot be reclassified to any higher level. So, even if the judge imposes the registration fee at sentencing, it would likely be waived later by the Department of Corrections.

Accused arsonist enters 'not guilty' plea

By Geoff Redick

Forty-two-year-old Paul F. Atkinson, of LeRoy, appeared in court today, noticeably limping as he entered courtroom. Atkinson entered a plea of "not guilty" to the charge of felony second-degree Arson.

Atkinson was originally arrested in June, following a destructive fire at his father's Orchard Drive home. Atkinson allegedly admitted to police at the time that he had torched the house after a late-night argument with his father. Atkinson had also written on his Facebook page that night: "Everyone can go to hell, tired of this life."

Public Defender Gary Horton today did not issue any appeal to Atkinson's high bail count. He remains in jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Atkinson will return to court on Nov. 14.

Woman accused of shooting husband says her statements to police were harvested illegally

By WBTA News

Patricia Hardesty appeared in Genesee County Court today, disputing her signed statements to police from the night she was accused of shooting her husband in the leg.

Today's proceedings were a Huntley Hearing, a type of hearing which determines the admissibility of statements to police at a trial.

The 52-year-old Hardesty faces three counts of felony assault. State Police allege that on the evening of Aug. 1, 2010, Hardesty walked onto the deck at her County Line Road home in Corfu armed with a .22-caliber rifle, and shot her husband, Robert, in the knee.

Robert Hardesty was seriously injured in the incident. He was transported to ECMC that evening. Patricia was taken to the State Police barracks in Batavia, where Senior Investigator Kenneth Dubrinski questioned her.

Dubrinski testified in court today that Patricia did not seem hesitant to speak with him, and that he took two statements from her. A second was taken, he says, because the first was found to be incorrect or inconsistent after he spoke with officers at the scene via telephone.

Dubrinski told Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl that he collected Hardesty's statements by "typing them as she talked." Those two statements were entered as evidence in today's hearing.

But Patricia Hardesty says that's not at all how it happened. She says Dubrinski collected "a trash can full" of statements from her, each time printing one out, finding errors or inconsistencies, and tossing it in the garbage. She says she signed as many as five different statements, each one varying slightly from the last in detail.

What's worse, says Hardesty, is that she could not read any of the typed statements being handed to her.

"I was not given Miranda Rights," she said, alleging that the standard rights were not read to her. "(Investigator Dubrinski) said they were at the top of the page there, but I could not read them without my glasses."

She allegedly told Dubrinski as much, so he ordered the glasses brought from the scene. But Hardesty says the glasses delivered were the wrong ones, a 10-year old pair that were too weak for her to use.

"I can't see out of them at all," she said today.

She did, however, sign each statement placed before her, and initialed each printed set of Miranda Rights to confirm that she'd been advised of them.

Hardesty says bits and pieces of her first statement were correct, but altogether it was not correct. She says she told Dubrinski this – and that's when the deluge of statements began.

"He made me so upset, my insides were shaking," she says of Dubrinski. "At the end of it all, I said, 'Just put whatever you want and I'll sign it.' I was tired, I hadn't slept for 24 hours, and I hadn't eaten. There were so many statements, I got confused. I started crying."

Hardesty also accused Dubrinski of improperly recording her statement by trying to make it match other statements from the scene, such as the one from her husband. She says each new draft of the statement included details that more closely matched others' statements – details that she had not necessarily consented to or mentioned.

Hardesty admitted that she'd consumed three or four beers between 3 and 7 p.m. on the evening the incident occurred. She also drank another one after the incident, as she waited for an ambulance to arrive for her husband.

"I was on the deck, and saw that my husband had left a beer there, and I downed it," she said.

Of the original police report, which stated that she and her husband had been fighting all weekend prior to the incident, Hardesty said that was false. She says her husband had not abused her, neither physically nor verbally, and they had not fought.

Judge Robert Noonan did not make a decision in today's hearing. He has taken it under advisement. Defense attorney Mehmet Okay requested a printed transcript of today's proceedings.

The case will resume later this month, 10 days after Okay receives that transcript.

Sheriff's sargeant testifies on accuracy of breath tests in Wendt trial

By Timothy Walton

The case against Ronald J. Wendt II continued today in Genesee County Court with testimony from Deputy Tim Westcott and then Sgt. Brian Frieday.

Deputy Westcott was asked questions by the District Attorney Lawrence Friedman regarding the condition of Wendt at the time of the arrest. When asked if Wendt showed any indications of injury at the time of the accident, he replied with "no."

Wescott stated he was not aware of Wendt's purported forearm injury until after the arrest. When asked about whether he was aware of a pre-existing knee injury, saw any signs of allergies or knew of any allergies that Wendt had, Deputy Westcott responded with "no."

Friedman then asked Deputy Westcott if he had any doubts in his mind about the accuracy of the details in the arrest report and again the response was "no."

It was stated in the report that the last drink that Wendt consumed was at 10:50 p.m. and the accident occured at 11:08 p.m.

Westcott added testimony that when he asked Wendt, after he was under arrest, to submit to a chemical test, Wendt replied with "I don't know" and later consented after he was informed of the consequences if he did not.

Deputy Westcott also testified that, in his opinion, the flashing lights from the emergency vehicles would not have had any effect on Wendt's eyes while performing field sobriety tests, since the officer was facing the lights, not Wendt.

Frieday was called to the stand next. He supervises the midnight shift for the Genesee County Sheriff's Department and is the department's breath analyst advisor. He maintains the records of DataMaster breath tests, including the one given to Wendt the night of the accident.

Frieday testified that the DataMaster is sent to Albany once a year to be re-calibrated and tested to maintain its accuracy. Plus, every six months tests are performed on the machine over a phone line. He added that the supervisor also gives weekly simulated tests.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell then asked him how a BAC is reported on the DataMaster. Frieday said it is recorded in the machine up to three decimal places, but is only displayed on the machine in two. Thus, if a BAC was recorded in the DataMaster at 0.099 it would only be seen on the display and recorded as a 0.09 BAC.

Finnell then provided Frieday with documentation showing that the machine was calibrated accurately and Frieday testified that it was and that the DataMaster also operated properly the night of the crash.

During cross-examination, Defense Attorney Thomas Burns questioned Frieday about the accuracy of the results. Frieday stated that the DataMaster takes breath samples and uses mathematic equations to calculate the BAC, since actual blood samples are not tested.

Burns argued that the equation, which is based on the average person, is not the same for each person, therefore it could not be 100-percent accurate. Frieday subsequently testified that the fixed ratio is higher than the average person, therefore the BAC reading would actually tend to show lower than it really was.

Frieday said that the time that it takes to absorb alcohol into the blood stream depends on different variables including the amount of food in a person's stomach and how much they have eaten.

He testified that after 15 minutes it "would not be absorbed into the blood stream fully."

When asked by Burns if it could take upwards of two to three hours to fully absorb alcohol in the body, Frieday stated that it was possible and would be on the upward side of the absorption.

When asked if it could still be absorbing into the blood stream even after four hours, Frieday responded by saying "I have heard that number, I recall that number, yes."

The judge then dismissed the case until 2 p.m.

Defense calls expert witness to testify in Wendt case

By Timothy Walton

Defense Attorney Thomas Burns called Dr. Fran Gengo to testify this morning in the DWI case of Ronald Wendt. The expert witness answered basic questions from both Burns and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell about his background, education and medical experience.

Gengo is a clinical pharmacologist at the DENT Neurological Institute and currently serves as an associate professor of Pharmacy and Neurology and a clinical assistant professor of Neurosurgery at the SUNYAB School of Medicine. He now practices neuropharmacology research and pharmacotherapy.

During his initial testimony, Burns asked Gengo to relay to his expertise concerning alcohol in the body, as well as his knowledge of the breathylizer he was experienced in using.

Gengo testified to analyzing breathylizer results and making use of the data for many years. He also informed the court that he took what he believed to be was the same training that police officers take to become certified in giving a breathlyizer test.

Since Gengo is not a government or law enforcement official, he could not take the exact training that police officers do. However, he did say that the training was administered by a former police officer and the curriculum and manuals were the same.

A debate between the prosecution and the defense arose when Burns questioned Gengo about his knowledge of a variance in the results of the DataMaster test, which gauges blood-alcohol level or BAC.

Gengo said he had no designated training specifically in the DataMaster, but based on his reasearch and scientific knowledge, he maintained that scientists generally accept a variance in the DataMaster, and that the mechanism is not 100-percent accurate.

Finnell argued that this testimony should not be used because Gengo has not had any training in that specific device. But Judge Robert Noonan allowed the testimony, saying  the witness was more than capable of having that knowledge based on his scientific background and general understanding of science.

NOTE: Juror #1 was excused due to illness and it was determined that he/she would not be available within the next few days. Substitute Juror #1 replaced Juror #1.

Doll enters not guilty plea

By Brian Hillabush

 Scott Doll was arraigned in Genesee County Court Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty.

Doll is the Corfu man that is charged with the murder of his friend and business parter, Joseph Benequist, on Feb. 16. 

Doll's attorneys asked judge Robert Noonan to allow him to post bail because he is a custodial parent to his 17-year old daughter, has a clean record and can afford the bail. 

"He's going to make every court appearance," Attorney Paul Cambria says in Daily News reporter Paul Mrozek's story. Doll, if released pending trial, will wear an ankle bracelet that can track his whereabouts with a global positioning system, his attorney said.

Doll is facing life in prison if convicted of the killing and Noonan has scheduled a bail application hearing for Wednesday, March 18.

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