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October 3, 2019 - 3:56pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, town of batavia, 2020 budget.

Pointing to the Town of Batavia’s robust economy, Supervisor Gregory Post on Wednesday released the municipality’s tentative budget for 2020 – a $5.1 million spending plan that holds the line on property taxes.

“Our strong and viable economic development policy adds to the assessed value and increases our revenue without raising the (tax) rate,” he said. “We’re seeing PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) coming off, several instances of (company) expansion, and an increase in engineering review fees … and this will enable us to keep the rate flat for the foreseeable future.”

The general fund budget calls for $1.04 million to be raised by property taxes – with the rate of $2.44 per thousand of assessed valuation, the same as the rate in 2019. Last year’s tax rate was 20 cents per thousand less than the 2018 rate.

At $2..44 per thousand, owners of a home assessed at $90,000 would pay $219.60 for the year.

The Town Board has estimated 2020 revenues to be $3.077 million, which means that $992,310 will be used from an unexpended fund balance to reach the $5.1 million in appropriations.

Post said the board is projecting a $543,000 increase in spending over last year, but $500,000 of that is earmarked as a capital project line item pertaining to the Town Hall building.

“We need to establish it (capital project) if we want to explore refurbishing and remodeling of the Town Hall,” he said. “We have no authorization to spend that yet, but this is how the process begins.”

The supervisor indicated that water and sewer rates will go up slightly – about 3 percent – “which equates to a 7- or 8-cent increase per 1,000 gallons.

“We’re seeing significant increases in revenues, especially from the industrial use on the east side of the Town,” he said. “We’re truly blessed to have those businesses there (referring to the Genesee Valley Agribusiness Park on East Main Street).”

Post also said that personnel salary increases range from 2.5 to 3.5 percent, with raises determined on a “case by case evaluation.” He noted that the Town has been able to cap health insurance costs at the same level as 2019.

“We have been advised to anticipate additional work, particularly in the courts … 30 to 35 percent more administrative work and time spent in the courts, and we have to compensate for that.”

The Town Board will convene at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays to continue to review the spending plan, and is expected to adopt the preliminary budget at its Oct. 16 meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 6, with a vote on the final plan set for Nov. 20.

October 3, 2019 - 2:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beth Parlato, NY-27, news.

Press release:

State and national Republicans, who have vowed to recruit and support more women for public office, may have found their strongest contender just outside of Buffalo.

In just two months, conservative Beth Parlato shattered expectations by raising an astounding $270,000 in her bid to replace Chris Collins in New York’s 27th District.

“I’ve been a part of this community my entire life," Parlato said. "I’m humbled by the generosity and support our campaign has received so far."

Parlato’s fundraising haul is especially impressive because, while traditional sources of Republican funding stayed on the sidelines before Congressman Collins announced his resignation, she managed to unearth an entirely new donor base within the district that had never given to a Congressional candidate before. 

With all of these new Republican donors on her first filing, Parlato has established herself as a firebrand with a unique ability to expand and build out the party. According to the first-time political candidate, she has only just scratched the surface.

“We still have big fundraising events ahead of us so I’m very confident we’ll have the resources to run an aggressive campaign,” she said.

Parlato, a former judge and frequent Fox News contributor, gives Republicans their most credible opportunity to elect a conservative woman to Congress.

“We’re organized, we’re funded and we have tremendous support from our community. That sets us up. I’m conservative and I live in the district. That’s what sets us apart,” noting that she is the only announced candidate who actually lives in the 27th District.

The resignation of Congressman Collins will require Governor Cuomo to call a special election to fill the vacancy. Republican leaders from the eight counties in the district must choose their party’s nominee – a process that will certainly test the GOP commitment to recruiting more women to run for office.

“I’m the only female in the race, but what I think matters more to Republican voters is that I’m the only conservative in the race,” Parlato said.

October 3, 2019 - 2:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, antwan odom, batavia.

A jury of nine women and three men are sitting in a private room at the Genesee County Courthouse right now and debating, not just the merits of a legal case against a 19-year-old man, but what kind of future he might have in society.

Of course, jurors are instructed not to consider any potential sentence a defendant might receive, but for Antwan Odom that is what the deliberations come down to because a conviction on assault in the first degree, a Class B violent felony, carries a mandatory minimum of five years in state prison.

The Batavia High School grad and former basketball star passed up a chance, on the advice of his attorney Frank Housh, for a plea deal that could have meant no jail time and adjudication as a youthful offender.

If Odom is convicted, Judge Charles Zambito will have no choice under the law than sending him to prison for anything less than five years.

Housh expressed in court in May, when the plea deal was offered, that he thought Zambito and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman were somehow colluding against his client. It's a theory Housh reiterated today in a conversation with Odom while a reporter was sitting nearby -- which Housh knew -- and that reporter could easily hear him tell Odom, "The judge isn't going to do it because he's going to do what the DA tells him to do."

Housh made the statement while discussing with Odom that he would ask Zambito to include in jury instructions on what constituted a serious physical injury. He also said he would object to the jury being instructed on the options for conviction on lesser-included offense. That's because Housh believes that if the evidence doesn't support the indicted charge, it doesn't support either potential lesser-included offenses.

In fact, Housh made that motion and also said the lesser-included offense should not be part of the jury form because Friedman, in his closing argument, told jurors they shouldn't even consider the lesser-included offense because Odom should be found guilty on the original count of the indictment.

Housh also argued that prior legal precedent meant that Zambito should instruct the jury that Leach didn't receive a serious injury because protracted pain that is only subjectively reported is not a serious injury.

Friedman's response to the assertion that he asked the jury not to consider a lesser-included offense was that he was on the record, and the record was clear, that he did call for the lesser-included offense to be part of the jury's charge. That was done before summations so that the attorneys would know what instructions the jury would receive so they could fashion their arguments accordingly.

"Just because I asked the jury not to consider the lesser-included offenses means nothing," Friedman said. "It's common practice and there is nothing inappropriate about it. Our summations are based on rulings made prior to the summations."

Zambito agreed that Friedman was on the record seeking to include the lesser offenses.

Housh also made a motion for a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct because, he said, Friedman knowingly introduced into evidence a fact that was not relevant to the alleged serious physical injuries of Ray Leach. Housh said Dr. Lori Ferris testified that hand numbness reported to her by Leach was not the result of the Aug. 4, 2018 incident that led to Odom's arrest.

"He had to have known (before she took the stand)," Housh said "For a prosecutor of Mr. Friedman's high level of skill and experience not to know which injury is related to my client's prosecution is not believable. He asked Ray Leach (on the witness stand) about his hand, knowing it was unrelated (to the incident) and asked the jury to consider it as evidence."

Friedman responded, "as for the claim of prosecutorial misconduct, it's absurd. As a representative of the office of the court, I did not know that the doctor would testify that the hand injury was potentially unrelated to these crimes."

Housh reiterated his contention that for a prosecutor of Friedman's skill, expertise and experience not to know isn't believable.

"While I always appreciate compliments coming my way from Mr. Housh, I'm telling you, I did not know," Friedman said.

Zambito denied Housh's application for mistrial.

The judge and two attorneys then continued going over jury instructions.

Once they were done, the jury was brought in and Zambito read to them several pages of jury instructions about the law, the charges and how to apply the law and the evidence to the charges.

When Zambito finished, Friedman asked to approach the bench. The jurors were asked to leave the room but admonished to not start talking about the case yet.

The attorneys and Zambito conferred for a few minutes and then the attorneys returned to their tables, at which point Housh complained that Friedman did not follow proper procedure by raising an objection in front of the jury.

Friedman's concern was that Zambito neglected to include instructions on how to consider an agreement to mutual combat in a justification defense.

After much back and forth discussion, the attorneys all agreed that the jury would be brought back, Friedman would make his objection on the record, and then Zambito would read again the entire section on the justification defense, this time including information on mutual combat.

The jury started deliberations at about 11:30 and have reportedly sent out at least one note asking for a copy of the charging document and the evidence.

October 3, 2019 - 2:15pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in Village of Bergen, news, Hickory Park.

BERGEN – Thirty cyclists who are members of HeartCycle’s Touring Club stopped to visit with Bergen Mayor Anna Marie Barclay and village administrator Cortney Gale on Sept. 25 during a nearly two-week ride from Grand Rapids, Mich. to Rochester.

Barclay and Gale welcomed the cyclists in Hickory Park.

This is year four of the HeartCycle’s Coast to Coast, which was originally formed as a cardiac research project, but has long since become simply a nonprofit bicycling club.

The riders departed Sept. 8 from Michigan on their 660-mile ride. They proceded south through rural Indiana, spending the first night in Battle Creek. In Bowling Green, Ohio, they stopped for a day of rest, before continuing on to Lake Erie and Downtown Cleveland.

From there, they rode the next three days near the Lake Erie shoreland, then into Pennsylvania and New York. From Dunkirk, they headed toward Buffalo, mostly on bike paths, arriving at Niagara Falls, where they spent two nights.

The 57-mile ride to Batavia took them a day, where they spent the night before heading to Bergen and the Erie Canal, where they planned to finish their ride to Rochester along the canal.

(Photo: Bergen Mayor Anna Marie Barclay, center, and village administrator Cortney Gale welcomed the Heart Cycle Touring Club to the village's Hickory Park during their ride from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Rochester. Photo courtesy of Anna Marie Barclay.)

October 3, 2019 - 2:03pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, batavia.

Nikkia Marie Blackshear, 22, of Thorpe Street, Batavia, is charged with making unnecessary noise. On Oct. 1, Batavia police responded to Thorpe Street for the report of loud noise which occurred at 11:50 p.m. on Sept. 30. Blackshear was subsequently issued an appearance ticket for allegedly playing loud music. She is due in Batavia City Court on Oct. 15. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins.

Rae C. Cook, of Tracy Avenue, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and resisting arrest. Cook is accused of petit larceny at 2:59 p.m. on Sept. 26 on Ellicott Street in Batavia. On Oct. 1 she was located and allegedly fought with a police officer, resisting her arrest. She was arraigned in Batavia City Court on Oct. 1 and was due back in court this morning (Oct. 3). The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Wendy L. Root, 50, of Quaker Hill Road, Albion, is charged with petit larceny. Root was arrested after she was allegedly caught shoplifting from a business on East Main Street in Batavia at 4:33 p.m. on Oct. 1. Root was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Oct. 15. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Wesley Rissinger, assisted by Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Kody Anne Wenzel, 27, of Lewis Place, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Wenzel was arrested following an investigation. It is alleged that she stole merchandise at 11:25 a.m. on Sept. 25 from a business on East Main Street in the City of Batavia. Wenzel was issued a computer-generated appearance ticket and released. She was instructed to be processed at Genesee County Jail prior to her Oct. 1  appearance in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Joshua Girvin, assisted by Officer Kevin DeFelice.

October 2, 2019 - 11:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in antwan odom, crime, batavia, news.

In defending Antwan Odom before a jury of nine women and three men, including one person of color, Buffalo attorney Frank Housh laid out a seemingly convincing case during closing arguments this afternoon in Odom's first-degree assault case.

If body language and facial expressions are any indication, many jurors appeared sympathetic to the defense.

Housh said the alleged victim in the case, Ray Leach, was the aggressor, that he threw the first punch, suggesting he caught his client by surprise as he put down his phone; that Leach was not seriously injured, and that the prosecution's case was built on misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the evidence.

In response, point-by-point, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman methodically tore apart Housh's theory of the case, as he typically does to defense attorneys when he makes his closing arguments.

Odom's future will soon be placed in the hands of a Genesee County jury that seemed engrossed in the case as it was presented to them during this week's testimony and arguments.

And arguments abounded.

Housh and Friedman clearly do not like each other.

At one point this afternoon, after a break for lunch, Friedman entered the courtroom from the back hallway -- a hallway that leads both to back door of the DA's suite of offices and the judge's chambers -- while Judge Charles Zambito was not in the courtroom (and neither was the jury), Housh asked, "Is there something going on back there I don't know about?"

Friedman responded, "I thought we weren't talking to each other?" before sitting down at his table.

"I'm asking if there were ex-parte communications."

Friedman sat stone-faced looking straight ahead, with two young aides sitting to his left, until Zambito entered the courtroom, at which point Housh said he wasn't suggesting, respectfully, anything inappropriate but he wanted to inquire whether there was an ex-parte communication. Zambito told him he was alone in his chamber with his clerk.

At another point, again, with the jury out of the room, just before Odom took the stand, Housh was at the lectern ready to examine his witness, Odom, when Friedman silently walked by.

"I'm sorry," Housh remarked crossly, "did you say something to me?"

"I did not," Friedman said.

And so it went, continuing a course of antagonism in the case going back to at least May. That's when Housh, in open court, suggested that Friedman and Zambito might somehow collude against his client. His thoughts in this regard steered Housh to conclude that if he accepted a plea deal -- that could have meant no jail time for Odom -- he couldn't trust that Zambito would follow through and grant Odom youthful offender status.

It was after that hearing that Housh made statements about Ray Leach that led Friedman to seek a gag order on the attorneys in the case, prohibiting them from speaking to reporters. The Batavian objected to the gag order and Zambito lifted it but from that time on, Housh has repeatedly accused Friedman of filing an ethics complaint against him with the State Bar. Housh maintains that Friedman's actions have placed him in the position of defending both himself and his client at the same time, while constantly worrying that anything he does in court will lead to a further ethics complaint to the bar by Friedman.

On Tuesday, Friedman denied Housh's accusation, calling it "ludicrous."

The relationship between the two attorneys has been rocky at every court appearance since May. The trial, even at times with the jury in the room, with Housh often acting exasperated and petulant, has been no different.

The morning started in conflict seven minutes after Dr. Lori Ferris took the stand.

Friedman attempted to enter into evidence medical records from the University of Rochester Medical Center and Housh objected, claiming he hadn't seen the exhibit. Friedman said he had provided the defense the documents. Housh said he couldn't trust Friedman to have provided him with the same documents Friedman was now entering into evidence.

After some bickering over the documents, Housh said Friedman hasn't provided the proper foundation in his questioning to get the documents entered into evidence. Friedman asked Ferris some questions about the documents and then Housh again objected and there was a debate about whether the documents were self-authenticating. Zambito ruled they were.

At one point, Housh turned on his heels, away from the bench, with his thick-rimmed, tortoise-shell glasses slipping down his nose, and said, "Let's proceed judge. I'm tired of fighting about every little thing."

That caused Friedman to raise his eyebrows and glance at him askance.

Dr. Ferris treated Leach for his wounds a few days after the Aug. 4, 2018 incident on Ross Street in Batavia and has continued to see him every few months since.

She testified that the most severe of Leach's 12 wounds were on his right thigh. She said Leach's wounds were consistent with those that would be produced by a knife.

A week later the wound was less swollen and she cleared him for football practice.

When she saw him on Sept. 7, the wound was nearly healed although Leach reported numbness near the wound.

For the first time, he also reported numbness in his fingertips. Ferris concluded this was from nerve irritation in Leach's elbow that probably had nothing to do with the Aug. 4 incident and she told him to not rest on his elbows. She also prescribed medication for mitigating pain and numbness due to nerve damage.

She saw Leach again in April for his college physical exam and in July for a follow-up. In both cases, Leach reported to her continuing nerve numbness and pain.

During cross-examination by Housh, Ferris said that Leach's nerve damage was due to sensory nerves and not motor nerves (nerves that control muscles). She said Leach suffered no loss of muscle control or strength.

Housh also had Ferris review a medical record from Leach's Aug. 4 admission into an emergency room and tell the jury that a Dr. Patel examined Leach and found no serious injury.

Ferris testified that the typical maximum dosage of the medication she prescribed to Leach is 1,200 milligrams three times a day. She started Leach at 100 milligrams three times a day, then at a later visit bumped him up to 200 milligrams three times a day, and then 300 milligrams three times a day.

She told Housh that she never saw any reason to refer Leach to a specialist for his nerve damage.

Housh asked if there was any objective evidence that Leach had any continuing pain and Ferris agreed that she only had Leach's subjective word on the type and level of pain he said he suffered and that there was no objective test to confirm the pain or discomfort.

Ferris was the final prosecution witness.

After the prosecution rested, Housh made a motion to dismiss both charges against Odom, assault in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Housh argued that the prosecution had failed to present evidence that Leach suffered serious physical wounds or that Odom had possessed a knife.

Friedman argued that Leach's 14-months-and-counting of physical pain constitutes, under the legal definition, a serious physical injury.

After a recess, Zambito ruled against the motion, but said the jury could be instructed on considering a lesser-included offense, such as attempted assault or assault in the second degree. Housh put on the record that he objected to this ruling.

Odom, dressed in a slim-fitting, charcoal-gray suit with a bow tie, white shirt, and dress loafers, took the stand (For the record, Housh wore to court today his apparently favorite blue blazer while Friedman was dressed in a navy blue suit).

Unlike Leach, who mumbled through some of his testimony on Tuesday, Odom, who had about a dozen supporters in the gallery, including friends and family, spoke clearly and directly to both attorneys as he answered questions.

Odom testified that he and Leach are no longer friends. At first, he said the friendship ended when Leach tried going after his girlfriend. Then he said the friendship ended on Aug. 4, 2018.

He said the trouble last summer with Leach started when Leach was on vacation and apparently heard that somebody had broken into his room and stole $50 and perhaps marijuana.

He said he received Facebook messages from Leach. At one point, he said a message said, "If I find out whoever ran into my room, I'm going to end him."

Later, under questioning from Housh, Odom said that Leach said, "I'm going to end you."

Odom said he took the message from Leach as a threat against him and he also testified that he believed Leach kept a gun under his bed.

When Leach arrived home on Aug. 4, according to Odom, Leach drove past his house and called him a well-known race-based slur. He then parked and walked up to his house while Odom was playing outside with his niece and nephew, and asked him if he wanted to "do it here or do it somewhere else."

Odom said, under questioning, that he believed Leach could possibly have a gun and didn't want a confrontation with him in front of his niece and nephew.

He testified that his father, grandmother and sister were also present.

The two teenagers walked across the street toward Leach's house in a driveway next to Leach's home; Odom put down his phone, at which point, he said, Leach punched him.

He testified that he doesn't remember anything that happened after that and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the mental health ward of a hospital with his parents by his side.

Housh asked him if he fought back.

He said he didn't remember.

Housh asked him if he thought he would have fought back.

He said yes.

Under questioning by Housh, he said he never carried a knife and doesn't know where he would have gotten a knife, even a small pocket knife, to use against Leach.

Despite a police search of the area, no knife was located and no knife has been produced.

In cross-examination, Friedman zeroed in on Odom's contradiction about when he ceased to be friends with Leach. He questioned why Odom would follow Leach to his house when he believed Leach wanted to kill him. He questioned why, with all the people around him, nobody called the police.

"All these people standing there and you say somebody is going to kill you and nobody called the police?" Friedman asked incredulously.

Leach testified that Odom said, when they arrived in the driveway, "After this fight, it's over."

Odom said he didn't say that.

"Oh, you don't remember that?" Friedman said.

"I don't remember saying that because I didn't say it," Odom said.

While Friedman was questioning when one or both of them dropped their phones, his voice rose and Housh objected to Friedman's tone and said he should modulate his voice. He accused Friedman of "badgering" the witness.

Zambito overruled the objection, saying he gave both attorneys leeway to engage in the examination as they deemed appropriate.

Odom testified that he didn't steal anything from Ray Leach, that he doesn't remember stabbing Ray Leach, either aggressively or in self-defense, and that he doesn't know what happened after the first punch.

In both examination and cross-examination, Odom discussed an arrest in the Town of Sweden for what was referred to as a "DWI arrest." Odom testified that he had smoked marijuana the day before he was stopped for speeding with four other people in the car. Police believed one of the occupants was underage. Odom was charged with driving under the influence with a person under age 16 in the car.

That charge was either dismissed because it wasn't true (as it came out in Housh's questioning) or because it was part of a plea deal (under Friedman's questioning). Odom said the person who was supposedly under 16 lied about his identity, using his younger brother's name. The person in question was actually 17.

Friedman tried to make an issue of the fact that Odom never told police that there was anybody under 16 in his car when he was arrested. Odom said he didn't understand the charge until he was in Sweden Town Court.

Odom testified that he smoked marijuana on the morning of Aug. 4. Friedman asked if was true that Odom smoked marijuana on a daily basis. Before he could answer, Housh objected and Zambito sustained the objection.

After Odom's testimony, the jury was dismissed for lunch. There was discussion in open court about what language, and what portions of the law, Zambito would cite when instructing jurors on the law and the evidence of the case. Typically, this discussion takes place in the judge's chambers.

Much of it centered around how to instruct the jury on a justification defense.

The attorneys sparred over the meaning of "mutual combat." Housh maintained that in New York, "mutual combat" refers to sporting events, such as boxing or mixed martial arts. Friedman maintained that mutual combat referred to any circumstance where both opponents agree to fight.

During this exchange, one of Friedman's staff approached him and whispered something.

Right after Zambito asked Housh a question, then Friedman spoke up and said he wished to address an issue with the court. In a petulant tone, Housh said, "(Zambito) asked me a question and you're going to answer?"

Friedman said that it had come to his attention that there were jurors in the hallway eating their lunch while there were also members of Odom's family in the hallway.

Zambito clarified that jurors had been dismissed for lunch and they were free for that hour to go where they wished and they had already been instructed not to discuss the case with anybody. Friedman shrugged and accepted the explanation.

When the jury returned after lunch, Housh started his closing statement by complimenting the jury on their attentiveness during the trial.

"For you to find my client guilty of anything you have to believe Ray Leach," he said. "You have to believe Ray Leach is a credible and honest witness upon whose good word you can rely to convict my client of a very, very serious crime and you can't do that. And you don't have to take my word for it. You just can't. I'm going to talk about how he denied his previous testimony, his previous sworn statement."

He said, "What do we know about Ray Leach? 'He had a great season.' We know that because that was the first words out of the DA's mouth."

He said that Leach admitted he would lie if it served his own purpose and that he didn't call police about his money being stolen because he "wasn't that kind of guy."

"The DA had no problem," Housh said, "with Leach taking the law into his own hands."

Leach, he said, wasn't a credible witness because he was confrontational on the witness stand.

Housh said that if there was a lot of blood because of the stabbing, where was the evidence? He pointed to a crime scene photo and questioned why it didn't show a lot of blood. If there was a lot of blood, why didn't the prosecution produce Ray Leach's clothing covered in blood?

"Why do you think the DA didn't bring it out for you to see?" Housh asked. "Because there is no blood on them and he wanted you to see all the blood he could, but he couldn't be bothered to show the clothing the victim was wearing that night because it doesn't fit his theory of the case."

He said Dr. Ferris testified that Leach didn't receive serious injuries, that Dr. Patel said he didn't receive a serious injury.

Leach, the star running back for the Batavia Blue Devils, gained 3,000 yards on the season, Housh noted, which is further proof he wasn't seriously injured.

The prosecution, he said, is claiming Leach suffered nerve damage but there is no evidence that Leach suffered nerve damage other than his say-so that he suffered nerve damage.

He called the cuts Leach received "superficial."

As for the knife, he said Leach testified it was a small pocket knife, which is not something capable of causing death or serious physical injury. And clearly the knife didn't do that, Housh said because Leach was cut 12 times and still able to play football and gain 3,000 yards on the season.

"It all comes down to the word of Raymond Leach, who lies under oath about things that will help him and who doesn't call police when he thinks he has been burglarized and who says he will take care of it himself," Housh said. "That is their credible witness, their case, their gold standard."

As Friedman stood before the jury to give his closing statement, he said Ray Leach was credible.

"You saw how Ray Leach testified," Friedman said. "You saw the manner he testified. I firmly believe every one of you paid attention and listened to him and you listened to what he said and saw how he said it and you evaluated whether he told the truth and I submit to you that in light of all the evidence that I'm confident that you believe him."

Friedman said Leach's testimony did not contradict his prior statements.

"There is no evidence that he previously testified falsely," Friedman said. "He certainly didn't admit that he lied under oath."

At multiple points in his open and closing statements, Friedman said, Housh said his client was beaten unconscious but at no point during the trial was evidence presented that Odom was ever unconscious.

As for the lack of a knife, Odom, he said, had ample opportunity before police arrived, to dispose of the knife.

As Friedman discussed the "convenient" assertion that Odom couldn't remember anything after getting punched, and that only Odom has anything to gain or lose by the verdict, Housh jumped up and said, "Objection. Motion for a mistrial."

At which point, Zambito asked the jury to leave the courtroom and then the attorneys argued about Friedman's line of summation. Housh claimed that Friedman was trying to shift the burden of proof to the defense. Friedman noted, correctly, that he had said explicitly that he wasn't shifting the burden of proof.

Zambito agreed with Friedman and the jury returned.

Resuming his closing statement, Friedman noted that the only suggestion that Leach owned a gun was from Odom's testimony.

He said, "According to the defendant, Ray Leach came to his house and calls him out and the defendant is afraid that he is going to be killed by Ray Leach, he says he knows he has a gun and he thinks Ray Leach is going to kill him, and what does he do to avoid being killed by Ray Leach, he leaves with him. He doesn't yell out, 'Ray Leach has a gun and he's going to kill me. Call the police.' He goes with him right next door to the victim's house."

Friedman said the initial confrontation was combat-by-arrangement, which negates the contention that Odom cut Leach in self-defense.

"He says he didn't have a knife but he was justified in stabbing Ray Leach 12 times," Friedman said. "He got punched and that's it. He doesn't remember anything else. How convincing is that?"

As for the issue of serious physical injury, the standard isn't whether Leach could continue to play football, that he could gain 3,000 yards. The standard is that Leach continued to suffer from pain from his wounds.

The standard for serious physical injury is longer-term of protracted impairment of health.

"As of Jan. 3 of this year, five months after this happened, he was still having nerve symptoms," Friedman said.

Yes, Leach didn't have further tests by a specialist because the doctor treating him knew she could treat him effectively herself. That doesn't mean, Friedman said, that the injuries don't meet the legal standard for serious injury.

And while one doctor said Leach didn't suffer a serious injury, there is no consistent definition in the medical community for serious injury. In a court of law, there is and in this case, the definition is met by the evidence presented by Dr. Ferris.

As for Housh's contention that these were superficial cuts, Friedman said the jury had seen the photos of the cuts.

"They are not anything you would call superficial," Friedman said.

As for Leach's great season as a running back for the Batavia Blue Devils, that doesn't mean he wasn't seriously injured.

"Impairment of health doesn't mean totally disabled," Friedman said. "It doesn't mean that you are unable to play football and it doesn't mean you are not able to play football well. He had nerve damage to his leg and he suffered through that nerve damage. He played through it. He had medication to deal with it and when that wasn't working he got something else. When that wasn't working, the doctor upped the dose, and when that didn't work she upped the dose again. That is impairment.

"His mother testified that football is his life," Friedman added. "He was determined to be at practice. He was determined to get back and play. He was determined to get back on the field. Yes, he had a great season but that doesn't mean his physical condition wasn't substantially impaired.

As for the knife, Friedman said it doesn't need to be a big knife to be a weapon capable of causing serious physical injury. Echoing that a former corrections officer who had been on the jury panel, but not selected for the jury, said during jury selection, many items can be turned into a weapon capable of causing serious physical injury.

The proof that the knife, in this case, was capable of causing serious physical injury is the fact that it did cause serious physical injury, Friedman said.

To the self-defense claim, the fact that Odom apparently lost the fight doesn't mean he can then attack Leach with a knife, Friedman suggested, and further undercutting the self defense claim is that Odom had an opportunity to retreat (one of the legal standards in a self-defense claim) and that the first wound Leach received was a stab in the back.

Zambito was supposed to give jury instructions this afternoon but apparently there is still wrangling between the attorneys over what the instruction will be so those instructions are delayed until Thursday morning. After the instructions, the jury will begin deliberations.

October 2, 2019 - 5:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, batavia.

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A motor-vehicle accident is reported at 3699 W. Main Road, Batavia.

Extrication of at least one patient is required.

Traffic is being shut down on West Main Street at Lewiston Road and at Route 5 and Kelsey Road.

Town of Batavia fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 7:06 p.m.: According to Sgt. Andrew Hale, Sheriff's Office, the preliminary investigation indicates the red Chevy was eastbound on Route 5 and was stopped to make a left-hand turn into the Perry Vet Clinic. The silver Kia was apparently unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the Chevy. The collision drove the Chevy into the westbound lane of traffic where it was struck by the white vehicle. The occupants of the first two vehicles suffered minor injuries. The driver of the white vehicle was taken to ECMC by Mercy EMS for treatment of a possible leg fracture. 

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October 2, 2019 - 1:30pm

Press release:

Last weekend Genesee Community College welcomed more than 300 alumni, students, friends and community members from all around the GLOW region and the world to celebrate Homecoming Weekend in Batavia.

From the annual Cougar Crawl to the Car Cruise, plus the Alumni Soccer Game and the 5K Race for the Future -- the perfect weather gave way to a perfect weekend at GCC. 

This year, the occasion also kick-started something new -- the Cougar Pride Campaign -- which officially began on Saturday evening at the "Tap Off" -- a term with a double meaning that is used in basketball but also in beer brewing. Therefore, event planners borrowed the term for Cougar Pride kick-off, inviting the Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew of LeRoy to provide appropriate refreshments of locally brewed Roger's Beer and a few wings. 

The program is chaired by Mickey J. Hyde, GCC Class of 1987, a 2010 inductee of GCC's Athletic Hall of Fame, and vice president at the Bank of Castile's Le Roy Branch.

The goal of the Cougar Pride Campaign is to raise the necessary funds to create a new Athletic Hall of Fame inside the Richard C. Call Arena to recognize the accomplishments of past and future student-athletes, coaches and GCC sport teams.

Guests at the "Tap Off" were the first to see the proposed design of a new Athletic Hall of Fame destined for the second floor of the Arena, and also a short video about the campaign.

The major components of the new design will include: a 10-foot-long header to welcome visitors; a timeline of athletic achievements dating back to 1967; many photographs; a dynamic display in the trophy case; and an interactive, digital kiosk full of information and photographs about GCC's athletic program. 

"Our student-athletes have always been a source of great pride at GCC and now, through the generosity of the Call family, the College has an amazing sports complex with high-tech PE classrooms, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a regulation turf field with a press box, the field house and so much more," Kristen Schuth, GCC's athletic director said.

"An Athletic Hall of Fame worthy not only of this facility, but of our students' accomplishments is truly needed to round-out this incredible space."

Donations to support the Cougar Pride Campaign can be made online here, by mail with checks payable to Genesee Community College Foundation and mailed to GCC Foundation, C212, One College Road, Batavia, NY 14020.

To discuss specific arrangements, contact Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs, Jennifer Wakefield at (585) 343-0055, ext. 6265, or via email: [email protected].

"The 'Tap Off' was the perfect kickoff. Stepping out of the heat on Saturday for a cold beverage from The Smokin' Eagle and to hear about this campaign was exciting," Wakefield said. "Our student- athletes work so hard and deserve to be recognized appropriately.

"The GCC coaches do so much to support them and help them succeed not only on the fields and courts, but in life overall. I'm excited that this new Hall of Fame will be able to tell these stories in a relevant and interactive way."

(Photo above from GCC of an artist's rendering of the college's proposed Athletic Hall of Fame inside the Richard C. Call Arena.)

October 2, 2019 - 1:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, Le Roy, batavia, byron, Oakfield.

Heather M. Spiegel, 45, of Le Roy, is charged with: felony driving while intoxicated -- third offense, a Class D felony; aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree; operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device; consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle; and having an unregistered motor vehicle. Spiegel was arrested at 11:38 a.m. on Sept. 28 after a traffic stop on Route 19 in the Town of Covington by Wyoming County Sheriff's Sgt. Colin Reagan. She was stopped for having an expired vehicle registration and then allegedly found to have a revoked NYS driver's license from multiple DWI-related revocations. Spiegel was also allegedly found in possession of an open bottle of vodka. Following field sobriety testing, she was arrested for DWI. She then refused to submit to a chemical test. She has three prior convictions for DWI in the past 10 years (two felonies; one misdemeanor). Spiegel was arraigned in Town of Covington Court. Due to having two prior felony convictions, Spiegel was held without bail in Wyoming County Jail until her scheduled court appearance Oct. 21 in Town of Covington Court.

Terry Michael Martino, 64, of Gibson Street, Oakfield, is charged with second-degree harassment. It is alleged that at 6:39 p.m. on Oct. 1 on Gibson Street in Oakfield that Martino shoved another person during a domestic incident. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Oakfield Court on Oct. 14. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth, assisted by Deputy Brock Cummins.

Kyle Gilbert Harling, 25, of Bromley Road, Churchville, is charged with: driving while intoxicated -- first offense; DWI with a BAC of .18 percent of higher; and failure to keep right. On Oct.1 at 3:34 p.m. on Warboys Road in Byron, Harling was the subject of a traffic stop for alleged vehicle and traffic violations. He was the suspect of an erratic operator complaint received by the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center. Harling was processed at the Genesee County Jail and issued appearance tickets to be in Byron Town Court on Oct. 21. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy Travis DeMuth.

Benjamin D. Seekins, 30, of Batavia, was arrested by Livingston County Sheriff's deputies on Sept. 21 and charged with: driving while intoxicated; aggravated driving while intoxicated -- with a BAC of .18 percent or more; and failure to keep right. Seekins will reply to charges in Avon Town Court on a later date.

Brian D. McInnis, 26, of Le Roy, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree. He was arrested on Sept. 25 after a traffic stop on Route 19 in the Town of Warsaw. He was stopped by Wyoming County Sheriff's deputies for a headlight violation and having an expired NYS vehicle inspection sticker. During a roadside investigation, it was found that McInnis had a suspended license due to failure to answer a prior summons. He was released to a third party and will answer the charges on Oct. 21 in the Town of Warsaw Court. Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Chase handled the case.

October 2, 2019 - 8:00am

Photo and information submitted by Diane Cox:

To celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of living creatures, St. James Episcopal Church will hosting a special pet service at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13.

There will be an opportunity for humans to promise to care for their pets, all pets will be blessed, and there will be treats and conversation for all.

The service will be held outside on the church grounds, weather permitting; inside if necessary.

The church is located at 405 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

Humans and their pets are asked to begin to gather around 12:15 p.m. to give the animals a chance to get used to each other.

Dogs must be on a leash and cats should be crated. Little critters should be held in a safe container or cage.

If it is not possible to bring a pet, a picture or cremains are appropriate for prayers of healing, peace, protection, and blessings.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,

or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

or let the fish in the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know

that the hand of the Lord has done this?

In his hand is the life of every creature

and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:7-10 (NIV)

This year, the service will be dedicated to the late Rev. Carole Grant-White (inset photo above, with her pet, Kibbe), an Episcopal priest who had a tremendous love for animals. She served at St. James as a supply priest for many years.

People remember, "Where Carol was, there was her beloved Kibbe." He was one her many canine companions that she loved throughout her life.

She believed that God created all creatures, declared them good, and then made humans to be entrusted with their care. She clearly demonstrated the bond between Creator and created.

There will be a hand-painted, graffiti backdrop of angel wings for taking selfies with pets.

A donation of pet food for the Genesee County Animal Shelter is welcome, but not necessary.

October 2, 2019 - 6:48am

Town of Batavia officials, in conjunction with the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District, are looking at adopting guidelines for solar farm developers to follow when it comes to pollinator habitat plantings on ground-mounted mudrzynski.jpgsystems.

Appearing at the Batavia Town Planning Board meeting on Tuesday night at the Town Hall, Bradley Mudrzynski, district manager for GCSWCD (photo at right), presented a draft of a plan that covers topics such as the need and importance of pollination, planting process, maintenance and performance standards.

“The main thing is for flexibility (in the plan) – having the ability to plant in the fall or spring with either stock mix or through a seed contractor,” Mudrzynski said. “In the end, (you’re saying) the seed mix should look like this, with these characteristics.”

Mudrzynski’s plan supports the Town’s concern over losing prime farmland to solar development – even if temporarily – and the Town’s view that “pollinator habitat plantings can mitigate farmland losses and increase ecosystem services provided to farms in the form of pollination.”

Discussion with the planning board ultimately came down to the percentage of the solar farm that should be seeded, where to locate grass mix in the solar array and enforcement of the guidelines as they pertain to special use permits issued by the Town.

“When you spec out a 10-acre site (for example), what percentage of the solar array do you want planted down?” Mudrzynski asked. “Between the rows? Around the outside? Thirty percent? (The point being) finding a good and reasonable acreage or percentage.”

Working off a solar site pollinator habitat scorecard from the state of Vermont, planners initially said they were in favor of a 46 to 60 percent vegetative cover for each solar project. After more discussion, they agreed on 80 percent of the lot, including putting grass mix under the solar panels.

“And this (level) would cover those solar farms already approved since none have more than 20 percent (of the total space) for access roads,” said Steve Tanner, a planning board member.

As far as enforcement once the guidelines are formally approved, planners decided to include the pollinator piece in the special use permit and to require developers to work with GCSWCD or an “agreed-upon equally qualified consultant” such as a landscaper or architect to perform periodic inspections.

Planners also talked about the importance of developers contracting with licensed herbicide applicators to ensure that performance standards are achieved.

Following the 20-minute discussion, Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski said she will share the draft of the plan with other Town leaders and asked Mudrzynski to return to the next planning board meeting on Oct. 15 with an updated version.

In other developments, the planning board:

-- Voted to extend the State Environmental Quality Review process and tabled the developers’ application in connection with a proposal to build two 20-acre, 7.2-megawatt ground solar systems at 8050 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98).

The request by Borrego Solar Systems LLC has been in the works for quite some time, hampered by the fact that it seeks to site the solar farm on land that is in the Town’s Planned Business Development District.

Requirements of the PBD District center on a development of at least 100 acres – a measure put in by Town officials to ensure large-scale commercial projects that would benefit the Town and preserve the agricultural viability of the land.

Jasinski said that the board will take no action “until we get more information” from Borrego. She said she expects the developer to come in with a new application, which could result in having to redo the SEQR application as well.

Extension of the SEQR was mutually agreed upon by both the planning board and Borrego, as required, she noted.

-- Received an update from project officials Dan Yanosh and Tom Healy on the revisions made to their proposal for a 19.8-acre, 4-megawatt ground-mounted solar system at 3565 Galloway Road.

Last month, the plan by Bright Oak Solar LLC to place solar panels on property owned by Wayne Dunham was met with solid opposition from neighbors on Galloway and Lewiston roads, with comments focusing on lack of screening, decreased property values, and potential negative effects on the environment and aesthetics.

Yanosh and Healy presented another visual of the layout, this time noting that they added screening (trees) along the front on the southeast side – in response to an objection from the adjacent property owner – and increased the size of the culvert in front and reduced the number of poles from five to four.

Jasinski advised them that no action will be taken until they meet with town engineers and zoning officers to review the changes.

She did say the matter would be put on the board’s Oct. 15th meeting agenda as long as she receives a report from the aforementioned town officials before that date.

October 2, 2019 - 12:47am
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, batavia.

The violent altercation on Ross Street in the city between Antwan L. Odom and Raymond Leach III on Aug. 4, 2018 was a case of "combat by mutual agreement," District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said in his opening statement just before noon Tuesday in Genesee County Court.

Odom's attorney Frank Housh has a different theory.

Both Friedman and Housh offered their take on the confrontation between the two former buddies and teammates during opening their opening statements, which preceeded sworn testimony by Leach, his mother, and the first officer on the scene.

The defendant, Odom, is accused of first-degree assault, a Class B violent felony, and also criminal possession of a weapon (a knife) in the fourth degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

The beef was prompted by the purported theft of about $50 stashed in a Gatorade bottle next to Leach's dresser in his bedroom at 153 Ross St. The plastic bottle turned up missing when Leach was on vacation last summer in South Carolina.

On July 29, Leach contacted Odom on social media, accusing him of taking his money.

Police were never contacted. Instead, when Leach returned home Aug. 4, he spotted Odom outside his house at 157 Ross St. and decided to confront him about the problem and handle it "man to man," Leach said on the witness stand.

Leach said he parked his car after his long drive from the South, and, instead of going home, went to confront Odom.

"We could take this elsewhere," Leach told Odom, in deference to small children playing outside.

This wasn't a case of self-defense for Odom, Friedman maintained.

Both teens walked to an area removed from the kids (149 Ross St., near a basketball hoop) and a fight ensued.

Leach acknowleged he struck the first blow and landed several others before Odom fell, rose, then got punched a few more times by Leach, before falling down again.

Odom's punches never landed, Leach said.

Leach said Odom declared "we're done" and Leach turned to go home.

Odom wound up on the losing end that afternoon -- getting pummeled into unconsciousness, according to his attorney.

Odom managed to revive quickly and pursued Leach "to seek retribution," in Friedman's theory of the case, following him to his house.

Leach testified he heard shuffling behind him, turned and saw Odom with a knife, and so Leach ran, stumbled on some wood and fell down on rocks on the ground.

Odom chased him down and took the opportunity to stab him in the back and elsewhere with a small pocket knife half the size of an ink pen, jurors were told, leaving Leach to lurch into his house and collapse on his kitchen floor.

Bloody and weakened, he yelled loudly for his mother's help.

Friedman said on Tuesday that Odom ran from the scene and disposed of the knife, which has never been recovered.

Police and medics were called, though not straightaway, and Leach was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester where his 12 stab wounds and cuts were sutured; he was released that evening.

A large gash above the knee of Leach's right thigh was his most serious wound and he suffered nerve damage, according to statements on file by his doctor, who testifies later this morning (Wednesday).

Leach healed, returned to Batavia High School in the fall, and played "great" varsity football last year. Some pain and tingling in his nerves persist, the standout athlete said.

Friedman told jurors the evidence would show that Odom intended to cause serious physical injury and did so by means of a dangerous instrument -- a knife, which the DA said Odom carried on him because he intended to use it.

In defense attorney Housh's opening statement, he pounced on Friedman's opening statement reference to Leach's football glory-- twice, quoting the DA as saying "Ray Leach had a great season."

Housh asked "Why? What difference does it make if Ray Leach is a football player? That Batavia made it to state (Class B varsity football championship)?"

Then Odom's attorney posited that most people who believe they've been the victim of theft call police. But instead, in this case, "the victim -- a great athlete who took the football team to state -- called (Antwan) out."

"My client lost the fight -- he got beat up bad because 'Ray Leach is a great athlete,' " Housh said. "Ray Leach confronted my client and my client got the hell beat out of him."

The police, once contacted, had to arrest somebody, Housh told the jury.

But it was not going to be the guy who "rushed for 3,012 yards, had 49 touchdowns, scored 310 points (on the season) and went 410 yards in the final game and had three touchdowns...Remarkable physical achievements...It had never happened in Batavia -- the football team went to state."

Housh then surmised that the entire criminal justice system in the City of Batavia got on board with keeping their wunderkind -- "the 2018 New York State Class B Player of the Year" -- unsullied by the actions that took place Aug. 4, 2018.

By the way, the slightly harried Housh went on, Friedman neglected to mention that Leach testified under oath (before the grand jury) that he communicated to Odom his intent for street justice, posting: "I'm going to end you."

"My client is not allowed to defend himself?" he asked. "There's no evidence of serious physical injury, but they want to put my client away."

What it boils down to is that the rules mere mortals have to abide by, like calling the police when a crime is believed to have been committed, do not apply to a "super human with athletic prowess on the field. They don't apply to Ray Leach. ... I don't want to live in that world," Housh said.

The particulars in the case don't add up; they don't make sense. The evidence doesn't support (the charges) and the charges should never have been brought, Housh concluded.

The first witness called in the afternoon was Leach's mother, Michelle Thornton, who testified that Leach was 17 at the time of the incident. She said she went into his room while he was on vacation and found his mattress off the bed and on the floor; his TV had been moved; furniture drawers were open and the room was in "disarray."

Thornton said she called her son in the Palmetto State to ask him if he had left his room like that. Leach asked about his Xbox, PS4 Console (PlayStation 4 Console) and other items, including the Gatorade bottle with money in it, and she told him everything was there except the Gatorade bottle.

Asked when she first became aware that her son had returned from vacation, she replied it was when he screamed for her.

"I knew something was wrong," she told the district attorney.

It was after 3 p.m. that Saturday and she was in the living room at the other end of the first-floor dwelling. She ran to the kitchen and found Leach, bloody on the floor. She said she saw three severe wounds in his back and wounds to his chest and arms and he was screaming for help.

"He stabbed me!" he told his mother.

"Who?" she asked.

"Antwan!" he said.

Thornton said she looked outside and saw Odom's grandmother with a phone in her hand and she told her to call the police. Odom's grandmother mentioned seeing blood on Antwan's hands, Thornton said.

Her son told his mother: "I don't need police; not for $50 in change. I need help."

Someone notified the emergency dispatch center and police and medics responded.

Meanwhile "(Ray) was weak and his eyes were rolling back in his head and he was starting to lose consciousness," Thornton testified, adding that her son told her he saw Odom with a knife with a yellow handle.

She covered her son with her body, using the pressure from it to staunch the bleeding from his back, his chest, his thighs, his hand.

She told her son "stay with me."

Medics arrived and she held gauze on her son as they prepared him for ambulance transport to the hospital.

She went along and her son was rushed into the trauma unit at Strong; doctors told her a couple of the stab wounds had nicked internal organs. After lots of novocaine and stitches, he was transferred to a room and released later than night.

"My son was in a lot of pain; he fought through it," Thornton said.

Asked about how her son fared afterward, the mother said he'd cry in pain after football practice and the over-the-counter medicine Motrin he was told to take wasn't working. Leach did not want to see a doctor or take narcotics because he feared it would interfere with his football playing, which is "his life."

At some point, nerve-blocking patches were employed and although they weren't a total answer for pain, they "got him through." He still complains of the sensation of "bugs crawling in there" or "liquid coming out," his mother said.

The defense attorney then cross-examined Thornton.

"Did your son say he was going over to Antwan's to beat him up?" Housh asked.

"No," Thornton said.

"But that's what he did, didn't he?" the attorney asked.

"Yes," Thornton said.

Leach, it was said, wanted Odom to know that it was not OK for him to disrespect his home.

When Thornton discovered her son's room in a condition "beyond messy" she admitted it occurred to her that burglary was the possible explanation, yet police were not summoned.

At this point, the jury was asked to take a recess.

Housh was honing in on the fact that more valuable items remained in the bedroom, but 50 bucks in coinage from a Gatorade jug was the purported provocation for a bloody fight.

The district attorney and Housh sparred over legalese and the judge wanted to know what Housh was getting at. Housh said he would argue, based on evidence he said exists, that the stolen money was from marijuana sales. And that maybe something more valuable than coins was in the jug, too...

"What difference does it make if it's money or marijuana?" Judge Charles Zambito asked.

"Because marijuana is illegal," was Housh's exasperated reply.

Then Housh complained that Thornton had made a statement about Odom's grandmother saying her grandson had blood on his hands and he wanted the jury to be instructed to disregard the statement.

Zambito refused, saying Housh had time and opportunity to object to the statement forthwith in front of the jury and failed to do so. He also said he did not think letting the statement stand would have any substantive impact on jurors.

Housh returned to a motif he is wont to use: that he must be circumspect about his questioning to the point of second-guessing himself because "everything he does gets reported (by Friedman)" (he claims) to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"I am being prosecuted as well," lamented the esquire.

"I don't care," Zambito said flat out. "You can't let it interfere with the defense of your client," otherwise you should remove yourself from the case.

Friedman responded to the allegation for the record: "It's ludicrous; I have not been reporting anything to the (commission)."

When the jury was ushered back in, Ray Leach took the stand.

He told the district attorney that after the fight, when he was walking back to his home, he heard feet shuffling behind him, he turned around and saw Odom with a knife approaching him. He ran and tripped on some wood and the next thing he knew Odom was on top of him stabbing him.

They tussled, then he was on top; the stabbing continued and he tried to wrest the knife away.

Leach was able to run up the stairs and into the kitchen before collapsing.

Friedman showed the jury photos of the injuries 14 months ago, the bloody striped shirt with cuts in it, and the scars as they appeared Monday (Sept. 30).

"It's hard to squeeze stuff sometimes," Leach testified about his hand injury when asked about his condition these days.

Leach was repeatedly told by the judge and the court reporter to speak up and speak clearly when he was on the witness stand.

He told the prosecutor that he couldn't practice until about a week before the start of the 2018 season. In the first game, he had to stop because the deep cut in his thigh opened up and began bleeding. It wasn't until the eighth and ninth week of the season that he got up to speed, even then he took himself out of games before they ended because of his injuries, he said.

"How else did the stab wounds affect you -- mentally?" Friedman asked.

That set Housh off, who objected to the question on the grounds that nothing in the case regarding Leach's mental health had heretofore been raised and thus it's not relevant now. His objection was sustained.

Housh on cross-examination repeated his litany of Leach's athletic achievements and asked, given all the testimony about his injuries and suffering, how he managed such feats in the months afterward.

"I wish I could have done better," said Leach.

"You were spoiling for a fight weren't you?" Housh asked of the Aug. 4th encounter.

"I wasn't spoiling," Leach replied.

Housh then had him read portions of his sworn statements, where he directly contradicted that, saying "yea" that he intended to fight because he thought Odom had stolen from him.

"Let me find out who ran through my room -- it's over for you."

However, Tuesday afternoon, he refused to answer in the affirmative to the question of intent posed by the defense attorney.

Leach noted that Odom used a "shush emoji" in their correspondence (a smiley face with an index finger over a closed mouth, meaning "keep quiet.")

"Why would he use a shush emoji if he didn't do it?" Leach asked.

Why didn't you call the cops? the attorney asked.

"Not really a cop caller like them. Not my thing," he mumbled and was told to repeat and clarify what he said.

"Is it possible you didn't want police to come because you didn't want them to know what was really stolen?" Housh asked.

"No," Leach replied.

After reiterating his recollection of the aftermath of the fight, Housh asked Leach if it was possible that some of his injuries were sustained by his fall on the rocks and wood outside his house.

"No they wouldn't have slashed me," Leach responded.

Then the defense attorney asked how it was possible for someone with his stats for rushing on the football field could be chased down by and overtaken by Odom, who is slightly built.

The trip and fall for starters, Leach explained, then he tried to get control of the knife but after 12 punctures, he "got tired from getting stabbed."

Asked if he thought Odom intended to kill him Leach said: "Little bit. Twelve times -- a little much."

Again, a direct contradiction of what the sworn statement Leach signed said.

The final line was read by Leach in court at Housh's behest: "As this was going on, I was scared. I never thought he was going to kill me."

Asked about the discrepancy then and now, Leach said: "He assured me I wasn't going to die right there."

Standing next to the witness stand, Housh leafed through all the pages of Leach's sworn statement, pointing out to the witness his signature and initials on each page in acknowledgment of the veracity of the statements and that each page had been read.

But Leach told jurors he had read none of them and signed and initialed them just to be done with the proceedings because he was in pain.

After a short recess, the jurors heard testimony from the day's final witness, Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen.

He testified that on the day in question, he was just starting his 3-to-11-o'clock shift when he was dispatched to 153 Ross St. He was the first officer to arrive.

"When I entered the residence, Leach was on the floor and his mother was with him," Cowen said.

He found Leach to have mutliple lacerations, and blood was soaking through his clothes and it was on the kitchen floor.

"I rolled him on his back," Cowen recalled. "He was bleeding from multiple lacerations. I radioed for an ambulance."

After Leach was transported to Strong, Cowen went there to take photos of the injuries. He returned to Batavia Police headquarters with Leach's bloody clothes to put into evidence.

"Did you look for a knife?" Housh asked him.

"No," replied Cowen.

Did the Batavia Police Department look in the immediate area of the crime scene (for the knife)?"

"Yes," said the officer.

Cowen said he was not the evidence officer; he wrote the incident report and the narrative contained in it.

The jury was asked to leave again and Housh held forth on an "extremely improper" move by the district attorney -- something about his request for the marking of a document, hearsay, and the admissibility of a document as evidence. He went so far as to say the DA's goal in this legal manuever was to embarrass him.

Zambito allowed the document to be marked as part of the court record.

The last question for the police officer, "Did you find blood on the driveway?"

"Yes."

"Did you test it for Odom or Leach?"

"No."

Court resumes at 9:30 a.m. today (Oct. 2) with Leach's physician's testimony.

Also taking the stand will be Odom, who wore a charcoal suit, gray shirt, dark vest, bow tie, dressy black fringe-top loafers, shiny studs in both ears, and a de rigueur hairstyle with small dreadlocks on top and partially shorn sides.

October 2, 2019 - 12:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in hemp, agriculture, news, Basom, video.
Video Sponsor

Hemp could be big business in Western New York, the way Sen. Chuck Schumer sees it, but right now bank regulators are standing in the way.

As part of the most recent Farm Bill, Schumer teamed up with Sen. Mitch McConnell to take hemp off the list of Schedule I drugs and make growing it for cultivation legal. Farmers can even qualify for crop insurance when they grow it.

But banks have been unwilling to extend credit to farmers who want to start or expand hemp operations.

Today, Schumer was at Mills Family Farm on Ham Road in Basom to announce a new push by his office to get bank regulators to hurry up and write guidelines for banks seeking to do business with hemp growers.

"Hemp is harmless and in fact it's useful," Schumer said. "It's a very versatile and vital crop and it has much, much less THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, than marijuana."

He said besides producing CDB oil, it's used in cosmetics, construction materials, side doors of cars, and several other uses, he said.

"You know, everyone thought hemp was just for ropes but it is for much more," Schumer said.

Banks want to lend to hemp farmers, he said, but they're worried about getting in trouble with banking regulators, because of the association with marijuana, without specific, written guidelines.

"They know it's profitable loaning lending for them but they need this clearance from the regulators and today I am starting a major push to get the regulators to put out their guidelines about lending to hemp farms," Schumer said.

Brad Mills started growing hemp this year but he said without access to credit, it will be hard to expand hemp acreage next year, and hemp, in the current market, has attractive profit margins.

"On a small family farm, we had the equipment, we obviously had the land -- some of the best land in the state, and I would argue the nation for growing hemp at our disposal  -- but as we began to move along we saw obstacles," Mills said. "We really do need financing for things and that includes sophisticated equipment for the growing of hemp that a corn or dairy farmer just doesn't have along with that, the costs of buying clones, buying seeds, buying sprouting equipment to get those seeds going.

"None of that your average small dairy farmer or crop farmer would have. And that's very necessary equipment for moving forward in this industry. Our profits from this year's crop likely won't be enough to both establish that equipment and then move forward with a larger planting from next year. So we really need financing in place for that.

"And beyond that, you know moving forward, there's a real shortage of drying and processing facilities in the state as well. As we advance this farm ideally in the future, we would like to get into our own drying and processing. But you know these are all obstacles to overcome. We need financing."

October 1, 2019 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, crime, news.
lyingchriscollinsaug2018.jpg
    Chris Collins in Buffalo, Aug. 2018

As part of his guilty plea in Federal Court in New York City this afternoon, former Congressman Chris Collins, who resigned his NY-27 seat yesterday, admitted that his actions, in tipping his son to a failed drug trial, were "anything but what a model citizen would take.”

He told the judge, “I regret my actions beyond anything that I could explain today.”

Collins reportedly pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements.

The case against Collins began with reporting by Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News, who was curious about the congressman's involvement with Innate Immunotherapeutics and so he began digging into public documents that raised questions about Collins behavior.

At the time, Collins dismissed Zremski's reporting as "fake news" but the stories eventually led to an FBI investigation as well as a House Ethics Committee investigation. 

In August 2018, Collins was indicted on numerous charges stemming from his insider trading activities, most notably, a phone call he made to his son Cameron Christopher Collins from the White House lawn in June 2018 where Collins shared insider information about a failed drug trial.

This led to Cameron Collins allegedly dumping some $800,000 worth of stock as well as suspicious stock trades by people associated with the Collins family.   

Chris Collins, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, denied the charges and repeatedly lied to constituents about his innocence, claiming he would be "fully exonerated." He narrowly won reelection in November 2018 while maintaining the fiction that he was innocent. 

Today in Federal Court he admitted to the White House phone call and said that he was "shocked and devastated" by the news of a failed drug trial and informed his son while in an "emotional state."

Outside the courtroom, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Geoffery Berman, a Trump appointee, said:

"Moments ago former New York Congressman Christopher Collins pled guilty to insider trading; and the lying to the FBI in order to cover up his insider trading scheme. Collins admitted to among other things illegally tipping his son while standing on the White House lawn. By virtue of his position, Collins helped write the laws of this country and acted as if the law didn't apply to him.

"This courthouse is a representation personifies to incorporate the ideal of equal justice under law. No one is above the law. That is because of our office's commitment to the pursuit of that ideal that Collins is now a convicted felon and no longer a member of Congress."

Now that Collins is out of office, it will be up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide whether to call for a special election or let the sit vacant through 2020.

New York City reporting for this story courtesy WXXI in Rochester.

October 1, 2019 - 5:09pm

Press release from the City of Batavia Republican Committee:

With election season here, Batavia’s Republicans are gearing up for five City Council races this fall. Stressing their ability to work together in promoting the City’s interests while keeping local taxes in check, Batavia’s Republican City Council members are all seeking reelection.

They aim to provide much needed continuity in City Government, especially as new City Manager Martin Moore has settled into his position and is working with Council to set priorities and programs in place to continue to improve the City’s finances and development for the benefit of local residents.

Kathy Briggs -- Fifth Ward

Educator and Fifth Ward Councilperson Kathy Briggs has had a valuable long-term presence on City Council during her five terms as councilperson.  Her knowledge about the City’s ongoing needs and her commitment to Fifth Ward residents have helped accomplish many positive developments throughout the Fifth Ward and the City.

“I’ve fought hard for the people living in the Fifth Ward," Briggs said. "My recent success in getting additional cameras placed in this Ward and my work along with Councilperson Al McGinnis to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth Wards together with our City leaders to listen to their concerns at our regular “town hall” meetings at the Holland Land Office are recent examples of my commitment to the residents.

"I also plan to continue my efforts to improve the sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines throughout the Fifth Ward. I look forward to sharing concerns with the residents of my ward this election season and seek their support in my effort to continue to work for them as their elected representative.” 

John Canale -- Third Ward

Businessman, local music instructor and Third Ward Councilperson John Canale is seeking a third term on Council.

“Being on City Council for the past eight years, I have had the opportunity to be part of a group of city leaders that have accomplished monumental achievements," Canale said. "We have worked to increase our bond rating to A1, secured more than $20 million in grants to improve existing industrial areas, upgrade infrastructure, improve our downtown area, including settling the Mall issue and moving forward with redevelopment, and studying ways to improve our longtime stagnant community.

"Most importantly, we’ve turned a multimillion dollar deficit into a balanced budget with capital reserves for future city improvements. All this and more has been accomplished, while keeping the city property tax rate level, over the past seven years. My plans are to continue moving the city forward in redevelopment and revitalization, in order to create a ‘Better Batavia.' "

Paul Viele -- First Ward

First Ward Councilperson, local developer and businessman, Paul Viele said his focus in his upcoming term, if reelected, will be to: work with City Administration and his fellow Council members to continue their efforts to reduce crime in the City; revamp infrastructure throughout the City; focus on our local youth; and continue to keep taxes down.

“I encourage all the residents of the First Ward to continue to reach out to me with their concerns," Viele said. "I’m firmly committed to make the First Ward and the entire City of Batavia a better place for all of us to live, work and raise our families."

Viele is seeking a second four-year term this November.

Patti Pacino -- Second Ward

Second Ward Councilperson Patti Pacino, who is retired and an active volunteer with local organizations, including being a past president and current director of the local Zonta Club, stresses several ongoing issues that she will be focusing on if elected to a third full term on Council. She has been on the Council since 2010.

“Safety is my first concern for City residents," Pacino said. "We have had some real trouble (stabbing, etc.), which needs to continue to be addressed. Happily, the Police Department and the City are working together to get a handle on how to best deal with this. I am aware of two neighborhoods that are in the process of organizing groups similar to the Summit Street Neighbors who work together to keep police and each other in the know about trouble on their streets and what they can do about it. I will continue to support these efforts.

"Second, we need to continue to work on the ‘Zombie House' problem in the City, (caused by absentee landlords), to ensure our neighborhoods are not on a downfall. We have proportionately too many rentals compared to homeowner-held houses, often by landlords not willing to take responsibility for their properties.

"Third, I will continue to work with the BID organization to upgrade the business district, organizing community activities and work with business owners to upgrade our downtown area, hopefully bringing in more businesses to fill those empty buildings and make Downtown a more welcoming and prosperous area.

"Fourth I will continue to promote fiscal responsibility throughout City government. All these ideas that we’ll continue working on require financial support; my hope is to improve our area without burdening the area taxpayers.” 

Al McGinnis -- Fourth Ward

Retired military veteran and Fourth Ward Councilperson Al McGinnis is seeking a second four-year term. If reelected, Councilman McGinnis has expressed his commitment to continued efforts to enhance the quality of life for Batavia’s residents.

“We need to continue our efforts to make Batavia’s streets safe for our residents, to do all we can to increase and encourage home ownership, to renew our efforts to enforce our local codes and to continue our sidewalk and street replacement programs," McGinnis said.

"I will also continue to work with Councilperson Kathy Briggs to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth wards together with City Administration on a regular basis at the Holland Land Office to give our local residents an enhanced opportunity to be heard and to air their concerns to local officials.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5th. All eligible residents are encouraged to vote.

October 1, 2019 - 2:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, news, schools, education.

img_0259.jpg

Press release:

Le Roy Central School is proud to announce that Jr.-Sr. High Science teacher Michael Chiulli was one of the 228 educators from across the state selected to join the New York State Master Teacher Program. He is in his 12th year teaching at Le Roy and has taught AP Biology, Living Environment, and Infectious Diseases over his years with the Oatkan Knights.

From Chiulli:

"When I learned about the NYS Master Teacher Program, I spoke with those who were involved and discovered it was the type of educational initiative that would not only enhance my pedagogy and content knowledge, but also allow me to collaborate and network with outstanding teachers.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with and learn from the master teachers in the program and share my own experiences and skills with them. The kinds of professional development offered in the program will expand upon and strengthen my teaching skills and increase my content knowledge and allow me to offer more opportunities for success for my students."

**********

Congratulations to Chiulli on being selected to join an elite group of educators in the New York State Master Teacher Program! His dedication to teaching, especially in the area of Science, has been a great resource for the Le Roy Central School District as he continues to encourage more students to pursue STEM studies and careers.

To join a list of 228 new members and more than 1,200 total Master Teachers across New York State is a great individual honor for Chiulli and for Le Roy Central School District students.

Merritt Holly, Le Roy Central School District Superintendent:

"This is such a deserving honor for Mike to be selected for the NYS Master Teacher Program. Mike is the ultimate dedicated professional who reaches all of his students and has created so many opportunities in and out of the classroom and, for some, has propelled them into a career in science!

"He is a very reflective teacher who has continued to evolve his practice to best prepare his students all while wearing his daily famous lab coat! Mike represents the teaching profession at its best and we congratulate him and his family for this prestigious honor!"

Tim McArdle, Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School Principal:

This is a four-year program that Mr. Chiulli will be participating in. He is the second Le Roy Jr.-Sr. High School teacher selected, following Mrs. Taryn Nole's acceptance last year. He will be engaging in peer mentoring and intensive content-oriented professional development opportunities.

"He will work closely with pre-service and early career teachers to foster a supportive environment for the next generation of STEM teachers, attend required regional cohort meetings, and participate in and lead several professional development sessions each year.

October 1, 2019 - 2:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, the Democrat running for Congress in NY-27, reiterated his commitment to bring honest and effective leadership to NY-27 today at a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
 
“Today is a good day for Western New York – Chris Collins, the most corrupt politician we’ve seen in this region, is gone. Following his indictment last summer, the rest of the nation saw what we already knew, and had known for a long time -- that the people of Western New York have been without real representative for the better half of a decade. Now, this district can finally move forward, and it’s time to bring responsible and honest leadership to NY-27 once and for all,” McMurray said.
 
“When I challenged Collins 18 months ago, his enablers, some of whom are now running for this seat, belittled our efforts, spread lies about me and my family, and betrayed voters by defending and lying for a guilty man. They are complicit in his crimes, and they know it. But we refused to back down, and we will not allow these enablers to rewrite history.

"The everyday people of Western New York – the nurses, the teachers, the police officers, and the working families – continue to stand with us and know that I will fight for them on the issues that impact our everyday lives. Issues like protecting healthcare, creating good jobs and fighting the corruption that has plagues our region."
 
McMurray also came out strongly supporting the announcement from Governor Cuomo that he plans to call the special election “sooner rather than later.”
 
“Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree that this district has lacked effective representation for too long, and we need to elect someone who’s willing to speak truth to power as quickly as possible to give the people the voice they deserve in Washington.
 
“We came close in 2018 in a district that was designed for even an indicted Republican to win, but whenever this race occurs, we will be ready. Just watch, because we are just getting started."

October 1, 2019 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in family court, crime, Le Roy, news.

A student at Le Roy Junior-Senior High School is being charged as a juvenile in connection with an alleged threat posted on Snapchat that led to classes and activities being canceled at Le Roy schools on Friday.

Le Roy PD announced today that the unnamed juvenile is being charged with falsely reporting an incident, 3rd, and that the matter is being referred to Genesee County Family Court.

Police say the youth posted a message on Snapchat threatening to harm students. A parent of one of the students who received the message contacted the Safe School Helpline to advise officials of the threat.

Superintendent Merritt Holley said he was informed of the threat early Friday morning and made the decision -- based on what was known at the time, leading him to believe it was a credible threat -- to cancel classes and activities at both Wolcott and the Jr.-Sr. high.

Previously: More than single Snapchat post apparently used to determine need for school closure today in Le Roy

September 30, 2019 - 8:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia.

A jury has been selected in the trial of Antwan Odom, charged with first-degree assault, a Class B violent felony, following an altercation with Ray Leach on Aug. 4, 2018, and attorneys will present their opening arguments to the jury late tomorrow morning (Tuesday).

Frank Housh, representing Odom, indicated during a brief conversation this afternoon, that he intends to make at least some of his defense of Odom about the character of Leach.

Odom and Leach were teammates at Batavia High School in football and basketball, and the alleged assault took place just before football practices were set to begin for the 2018 season. That was Leach's senior season in which he set state records as a running back and helped lead the Blue Devils to a state championship game.

In May, Housh first indicated he intended to try and impune Leach's character, telling reporters outside of court that Leach was the aggressor and had a reputation, known to his client, for being an aggressive person.

At a hearing that day, Housh had said he intended to file a motion to bring up evidence that questioned Leach's character. Throughout pretrial motions, he held open the possibility of filing such a motion. He never filed the motion. Today he said he didn't file the motion because it isn't necessary. He can raise that defense, he said, without a specific motion and ruling from Judge Charles Zambito.

"It goes to the reasonableness of my client's defense," Housh said.

The justification defense was apparently on District Attorney Lawrence Friedman's mind during jury selection today.

During one panel interview, he asked prospective jurors if they could set aside any personal beliefs about what might constitute justification and follow the legal explanation as proscribed by New York law that Zambito will provide them during jury instructions. All of the potential jurors on that panel said they could follow the law.

Race was on the minds of both attorneys, as well. Both Friedman and Housh asked jurors if they could come to an impartial decision involving a case where the defendant is black. When Friedman asked the question one woman said she was raised in a racist household and she didn't believe she could be impartial.  

Housh emphasized the point again and told the jurors that the women did the right thing, and showed courage by speaking up.

"It's OK to say if you feel that way," Housh said. "I need to know so my client gets a fair trial."

At that point, an older man in the back row raised his hand and said he had also been raised in a racist household and perhaps that would influence his thinking.

None of the potential jurors at that point were black.

Housh also wanted to know if any potential jurors had any strong feelings about marijuana use and none did.

Court documents that became public in August 2018 indicate that Odom accused Leach of stealing marijuana.

That apparently led to an argument. Leach allegedly received at least 10 cuts from a small knife, some of which required surgery. He missed some practice time but was ready to play by the season opener.

The trial is expected to begin tomorrow sometime between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

September 30, 2019 - 5:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, Nate McMurray.

Press release:

Nate McMurray has issued a statement following reports that Rep. Chris Collins will be resigning.

“The real victims of Collins' crimes are the people of his district that he repeatedly lied to about his guilt. Collins and Republican party insiders robbed his constituents of the representation they need on important issues like the rising cost of healthcare, the opioid epidemic, and the fight for good-paying jobs.

"They all failed us, so I’m going to keep talking about the critical issues Western New Yorkers face every day, because that’s what public service should be about, working to make other people’s lives just a little bit better."

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