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July 1, 2019 - 4:02pm

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman and defense attorney Frank LoTempio faced off during oral arguments this morning over the admission of rebuttal witness testimony during the trial of alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano. 

Friedman intends to call accident reconstructionists James Orr and Jon Northrup to testify to their perspectives of the location of a deadly impact between Serrano’s vehicle and 18-year-old pedestrian Connor Lynskey. Serrano and Lynskey were both traveling along Sumner Road after a concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center last August at the time of the collision.

Friedman argued that evidence introduced earlier in the trial will yield different interpretations from those offered by witnesses such as Sgt. Jason Saile and Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstruction expert.

The three main topics of debate are the speed of Serrano’s vehicle, the visibility on Sumner Road, and the location of vehicle-pedestrian impact. The rebuttal witnesses are also expected to weigh in on a photograph of what is purported to be Lynksey’s footprint in the gravel shoulder of the road.

LoTempio said that the district attorney failed to present Orr and Northrup as witnesses in a timely manner when he filed a motion for demand of discovery months ago. The discovery demand allows the People and the defendant to get an idea of the evidence that will be used against them during the trial.

LoTempio also claimed that the People’s rebuttal witnesses would be prejudicial to Serrano because defense expert Onions may not have the opportunity to respond to the alternate interpretations since he is currently out of the area.

During banter between Friedman and LoTempio, LoTempio let out an incredulous laugh when Friedman countered his arguments about mistrial, discovery demand and rebuttal witnesses. 

LoTempio said that the location of the impact is an element of causation that jurors should consider in their deliberations since Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Judge Charles Zambito said that knowing the exact location of Lynskey at the time he was struck is not necessary for the jury to reach its verdict. After a recess, Zambito rendered the decision that the defense’s motion for a mistrial is denied and that it will be appropriate for the People to rebut with expert testimony from Orr and Northrup. 

The fifth day of the Serrano trial continues this afternoon in Genesee County Court.

July 1, 2019 - 2:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Stafford, notify.

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A truck driver with 40,000 pounds in beets in his trailer thought he could make it under a railroad overpass on Griswold Road at 8:30 this morning.

According to Deputy Chris Erion, the driver was following GPS but the address he was going to was the billing address on the manifest, not the shipping address, which is on Transit Road.

Griswold was closed for several hours as a result of the accident.

UPDATE 6:06 p.m.: Griswold Road has reopened.

(Initial Report)

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July 1, 2019 - 2:29pm

George T. Sarkis, 58, of Chili Avenue, Rochester, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment. He was arrested on June 26. It is alleged that at 6:16 p.m. on June 20 at Batavia Middle School on Ross Street that Sarkis grabbed a juvenile by the neck and pushed him and threatened physical harm to another juvenile. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court at 1 p.m. on July 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Victoria Anne Smith, 43, of Main Road, Stafford, is charged with petit larceny. Following a larceny investigation, Smith was arrested on June 23 for allegedly stealing money from the mother's purse at 8 p.m. June 20 while on Main Road in Stafford. Following her arrest, she was released on an appearance ticket and she is due in Stafford Town Court at 9 a.m. on July 15 to answer the charge. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy James Stack.

Clint Jeffery Towne, 38, of Alleghany Road, Alabama, is charged with: third-degree reckless assault; fourth-degree criminal mischief; and second-degree harassment. He was arrested on Phelps Road in Pembroke following a domestic incident at 7:46 p.m. on June 28. Towne allegedly broke a glass door, causing the glass to shatter and injure the victim. He also allegedly choked the victim. He was arraigned in Pembroke Town Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice. He is to return to the court on July 9. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

Johnathan Nathaniel Taylor, 34, of Edgewood Drive, Medina, is charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of second-degree harassment. At 7:47 p.m. on June 26, Taylor was arrested on Pratt Road in Batavia after allegedly striking an adult female in the face, causing her to fall to the ground, while in the presence of six children under age 17. He was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and released on his own recognizance. He is due in the court again on July 22. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy David Moore, assisted by Deputy Mathew Clor.

Brandi Lynn Reuben, 23, of Sand Hill Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, is charged with second-degree harassment. Reuben was arrested following a domestic incident at 5:45 p.m. June 26 on Ledge Road in the reservation. She allegedly punched a person in the face multiple time. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Alabama Town Court on July 10. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Clor.

Bobby L. Mobley Jr., 34, no permanent address, Batavia, is charged with: disorderly conduct -- violent behavior; disorderly conduct -- obscene language; and disorderly conduct -- obstructing pedestrian traffic. Mobley was arrested following a domestic incident at 12:45 p.m. on June 19 on Maple Street in Batavia. He allegedly repeatedly used obscene language, blocked the freedom of movement of a pedestrian on the sidewalk and continued his threatening behavior after being repeatedly warned to stop his actions by police. He was due in Batavia City Court June 25 to answer the charges. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Davis, assisted by Officer Felicia DeGroot.

Maria I. Santiago, 34, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. She was arrested after a physical altercation with another woman at 3:49 p.m. June 18 in a parking lot on North Spruce Street. She is due in Batavia City Court on July 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Felicia DeGroot, assisted by Officer Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Kathryn A. Phillips, 41, of North Street, Batavia, is charged with two Batavia Municipal Code violations -- having a dog running at large and having an unlicensed dog. It is alleged that at 5:15 p.m. on May 6 on North Street that Phillips' unlicensed, unleashed dog left her property and attacked another dog. She was issued at appearance ticket for June 18 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Josephine G. Erhardt, 80, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with a Batavia Municipal Code violation -- having a dog running at large. She was arrested at 4:30 p.m. on June 17 after an incident in which her dog allegedly ran loose after a person and around the grounds of an apartment complex. She was issued at appearance ticket for June 25 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Michael J. Mead Sr., 32, of State Route 19A, Portageville, is charged with falsely reporting an incident. Following an investigation, Mead was arrested for allegedly calling Child Protective Services and filing two false reports at 9 a.m. on June 12. He was arrested at the Genesee County Jail and released on an appearance ticket. He is due in Batavia Town Court on July 15. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

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Christopher Ridgeway

Christine M. Jones, 32, of Hutchins Place, Batavia, is charged with a Batavia Municipal Code violation -- having a dog running at large. At 4 p.m. on June 19 on Hutchins Place, Jones's dog allegedly ran into the street and at the complainant. Jones was arrested and issued an appearance ticket. She is due in Batavia City Court on July 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Felicia DeGroot.

Steven M. Lindner, 46, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with: unlawful possession of marijuana; criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree; criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument; and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree. Lindner was arrested following an investigation into a noise complaint at 10:25 p.m. June 18 on West Main Street, Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket for July 9 in Batavia City Court, then released. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller, assisted by Officer Peter Post.

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    Shonje Jefferson

Christopher A. Ridgeway Jr., 27, of Bridgewood Road, Midlothian, Va., is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree; criminal possession of a narcotic with intent to sell; unlawful possession of marijuana; aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree; and having an obstructed view. Ridgeway was arrested after a traffic stop at 3:41 p.m. on June 27 on Hyde Park in Batavia. He was the driver. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed without bail. He is due back in city court at a later date. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Sgt. Christopher Camp.

Shonje K. Jefferson, 20, of Empire Boulevard, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to sell, and unlawful possession of marijuana. Jefferson was arrested at 3:41 p.m. on June 27 after a quantity of drugs was allegedly located in a vehicle involved in a traffic stop where Jefferson was a passenger. He was jailed without bail and was due in Batavia City Court on June 27. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Sgt. Christopher Camp.

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     Joseph Ruiz

Joseph Lee Ruiz, 35, of North Clinton Street, Rochester, is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree; criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree; and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree. He was arrested during an investigation at a residence on Bank Street in Batavia at 10:48 p.m. on June 21. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed without bail. He was due back in city court June 24. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Jose Fuentes, 39, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. On June 7, Fuentes was arrested following an investigation into a complaint alleging that at 10:01 that night he rammed his wheelchair into another resident on Bank Street in Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket for June 11 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins.

Ricardo Sampel, Sr., 50, of Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, is charged with first-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested for allegedly having contact with a protected party at 1 p.m. on June 25 at UMMC. He was jailed without bail and was due in Genesee County Court on June 26. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Davis, assisted by Officer Peter Post.

Laura J. Reed, 27, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with violating an order of protection. She was arrested following an investigation into a disturbance at 11:55 p.m. on June 21 on Bank Street, Batavia. It was determined that Reed was in violation of a court order barring her from the residence. She was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released under supervision. She was due to return to court June 24. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Flanagan, assisted by Sgt. Matthew Lutey.

Thomas M. Rossiter, 34, of South Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; aggravated DWI -- a BAC of .18 percent or more; aggravated unlicensed operator in the third degree; and failure to keep right. He was arrested at 3:20 p.m. June 15 on Otis Street in Batavia after he was involved in a motor vehicle accident. He was issued several appearance tickets and is due in Batavia City Court on July 10. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Kay E. Dilcher, 28, of Sunset Drive, Holley, is charged with two counts of false personation. It is alleged that at 10 a.m. on June 25 on Lewiston Road in Batavia that Dilcher claimed to be another person while she was in town for methadone treatment. She was identified not to be the person she claimed to be and she had several warrants for her arrest in two other counties. She was released on appearance tickets and was transferred to Orleans County Sheriff's Office to answer charges there. The case has handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Davis,, assisted by Officer Miah Stevens. At 9:14 a.m. on June 27 Dilcher was arrested and charged with false personation after being detained by Batavia PD for an unrelated incident and providing a false name to officers. She is due in Batavia City Court on July 9 for both cases. The second case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Miah Stevens, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Michelle L. Misiak, 53, of South Main Street, Batavia, was arrested after an investigation. It is alleged that she contacted the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center at 9:07 a.m. on June 20 and reported a disturbance involving weapons on South Main Street resulting in a police response to the address. It was subsequently determined that Misiak's report was unfounded. He was issued a computer-generated appearance ticket and released. She was due in Batavia City Court on June 25. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Jessica M. Horton, 28, of Telephone Road, Pavilion, is charged with theft of services. She was arraigned in Batavia City Court on June 7 on an arrest warrant and put in jail on $500 bail. It is alleged that on May 17 on Oak Street in Batavia that Horton failed to pay for a local hotel room that she stayed in. The case was handled by Batavia Police Sgt. Dan Coffey.

Malik I. Ayala, 27, Holland Avenue, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. He was arrested at 8:52 p.m. on June 7 for allegedly stealing property from a store on East Main Street in Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket and was due in Batavia City Court June 18. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider.

Jesse D. Bowman, 26, of Vine Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. It is alleged at at 9:20 p.m. on June 20 on East Main Street in Batavia that Bowman stole items from a local business. He was processed, issued an appearance ticket and was due in Batavia City Court on June 25. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay, assisted by Sgt. Matthew Lutey.

Daniel S. Kuczka, 75, of Walden Creek Drive, Batavia, is charged with failure to appear. He was due in court after being issued an appearance ticket for trespass at 11:09 a.m. on June 25 on Walden Creek Drive. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice. He is due in city court again on July 9. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Davis, assisted by Officer Jason Ivison.

A 16-year-old resident of Pearl Street, Batavia, is charged with failure to appear in court May 14 after being issued an appearance ticket. The youth was arrested on June 8 on a warrant out of Batavia City Court. He was released on his own recognizance and was due back in city court June 12. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Jacob John Sponaugle, 20, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. At 3:55 p.m. on June 24, Sponaugle allegedly brought a bag of marijuana into the Genesee County Probation Office. He was released on an appearance ticket in is due in Batavia City Court on July 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

June 29, 2019 - 7:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, jennifer serrano, darien fatal hit-and-run.

The sole witness to testify Friday morning in Genesee County Court in the fatal hit-and-run case of Jennifer L. Serrano was Thomas C. Onions, an accident reconstruction expert hired by the defense.

Connor Lynskey, 18, was walking to the Darien Lakes State Campground following the Jason Aldean concert last summer; Serrano, who also attended the concert, was en route to a friend's house at the time of the accident on Sumner Road.

The witness said he: reviewed all of the materials -- reports, cell phone records, videos and photos -- gathered by investigators; visited the Darien site where Lynskey's body was found late in the morning Aug. 11; and took measurements to gauge the accuracy of those contained in Sgt. Jason Saile's investigation report.

In addition, Onions said in order to completely understand the case, he studied: the case file of Serrano's co-counsel Jack M. Sanchez; the Monroe County Medical Examiner's abstract; the deposition of Deputy Robert C. Henning (who arrested Serrano on a drunk-driving charge after she nearly struck his patrol car on Route 77 in the early morning Aug. 11); and the Darien Town Court's subsequent notice of temporary suspension of Serrano's NYS driver's license; search warrants; the Genesee County Grand Jury indictment; deposition of witness and passenger Candace Gilden; and vehicle specs for the defendant's Jeep Wrangler.

Attorney Frank LoTempio asked what he had determined about the accident and Onions said that Sumner Road at the time was unlit and dark, and had virtually no shoulders -- they measured from 1.2 inches to 5 inches in width, and were comprised of mixed gravel. Some grass is found beyond that, and cornfields. The two paved lanes total 22 feet across -- one lane is 10.8 feet, the other 11.2 feet wide.

Onions said Serrano was driving eastbound and that Lynskey was walking westbound in the eastbound lane, which would be in accordance with NYS traffic law that requires pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, when there are no sidewalks, facing oncoming traffic.

This contradicts an allegation made on Thursday by LoTempio that Lynskey was possibly in violation of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 1156b, since the landing spot of Lynskey’s body indicated he may have walked or jogged in the same direction as Serrano’s Jeep.

The point of impact is unclear.

Sgt. Saile's report, while noting an 87-foot debris field along the road, shoulder and adajcent land, found no evidence of tire marks in gravel to indicate the actual point of impact; nor were sneaker scuff marks found to indicate the direction of impact.

"They documented everything," Onions said of the Crash Management Team." (Saile) knew enough to look for sneaker scuffs that could indicate the point of impact. He didn't find any. ... There is no evidence to indicate the vehicle ever left the road."

Because of this, Onions said it is his contention that the impact occurred on the roadway -- that Lynskey was walking in the roadway.

On a display of the area shown to the jury on a large monitor, Onions pointed to a streak of flattened terrain marking where Lynskey's body slid south in a parallel line from the roadway after being struck, and bits of debris were strewn eastward.

The "total station measurements" taken by Sgt. Saile were pronounced accurate by Onions.

Serrano, who stood politely without prompting each time the jury entered and exited the courtroom, put on her distance eyeglasses to better see Onion's presentation, although she could not see the monitor herself.

Next a photograph purported to be a footprint or disturbed gravel was put on view.

Onions testified that it "could be typical of anything you could see in a mile stretch of gravel" along Sumner Road. He further maintained that if it were indeed a footprint, it had nothing to do with the accident. If it did there would be a tire track over it, he said, and there wasn't.

"If that's debris by it, the accident would have had to occur elsewhere. If it's a footprint, it could be anybody's," Onions said.

Next they considered the formula for how far the "throw" is for a human body depending on the speed a vehicle is traveling, which, when calculable, is made using the "Searle formula." It is determined by the degree of friction on a pedestrian and the total "flight distance" traveled/slid/thrown to the final resting place, in this case, a ditch.

Onions said he projected the distance that Lynskey's body traveled to be 60 feet from the roadway and he calculated that there is no scientific evidence to support that Serrano was traveling greater than 37.5 mph.

When Lynskey was struck on his right side, his body rotated after hitting the right side front fender, which caused the cover over the tire to become dislodged. His head is believed to have struck and cracked the windshield, damaging its supporting side post. Then he slammed against the right front side mirror, smashing it against the vehicle, before the trajectory away from the vehicle.

And yet Onions testified it was "iffy" and "on the line" as to whether or not this was a "full impact" crash.

In order to react to avoid a collision, the driver or pedestrian needs to be able to see -- something in the roadway, the oncoming traffic. In darkness, clothing that is light and/or reflective helps. If the road is unlit and the pedestrian is wearing dark clothes, as Lynskey was, he becomes invisible.

"You disappear," Onions told the jury.

He said the average person can see a pedestrian walking at a distance of 80 feet away. Traveling the speed limit on Sumner Road of 55 mph, that's roughly 80 feet per second. If Serrano was traveling at 37.5 mph and no more as Onions contends, that's still 55 feet per second -- or less than 2 seconds to react, on average.

"If you look at your speedometer for 1 second it may make all the difference in the world," Onions said.

Intoxication is another consideration.

Lynskey's BAC was determined by a Monroe County coroner to be .16, twice the legal limit. Serrano's BAC at the time is undocumented.

Deputy Henning reported that Serrano failed multiple parts of a field sobriety test after he stopped her vehicle on Route 77. The officer attempted a roadside Alco-sensor test but after Serrano blew once and it didn't register a reading, she wouldn't blow again. She also refused a Datamaster test at the Batavia Police Station and she refused three separate requests to submit to the test at Darien Town Court.

"It's very possible," Onions testified Friday, "that intoxication had nothing to do with it."

On this road with this shoulder, could (a pedestrian) tripping be a factor?" LoTempio asked his witness, who replied "yes."

Serrano, wearing dark pants, a black knit top and vivid blue sweater with a ruffled front, seemed to pay close attention to the proceedings as did all of the jurors, a panel of five men, seven women, and four alternates, who all appear to be caucasian but range widely in age.

Friedman then cross-examined Onions, eliciting from him that his payday for his efforts on behalf of the defense so far stands at about $8,000.

"Is it fair to say that if your conclusions didn't help the defendant you would have earned less?" Friedman asked.

"That's a true statement," Onions said.

In deconstructing the expert's curriculum vitae, Friedman pointed out that several of the state and national organizations that Onions claims he belongs to either do not list Onions as being a member, or his membership or certification expired years ago, or the organization is no longer viable, and in one case it was found to have granted membership for a fee to a person's cat.

The DA also noted that some crash test dummy testing that Onions boasts of performing was conducted in 1999 and involved an adult dummy in a wheelchair with a dummy child, and now-outmoded test equipment, vehicle materials and safety features.

From there, the district attorney tackled night visibility, asking whether pale, caucasian legs in shorts could increase visibility of the wearer. The response was no, but Friedman clarified it, saying visibility "assumes the driver is paying attention."

"Yes," Onions allowed.

But "you don't know if (Serrano) was paying attention," Friedman said, asking if the witness had ever spoken to his boss, the person he's working for, and Onions admitted he never has.

The fact cited earlier in the morning about the average driver being able to see a pedestrian 80 feet away, based on visibility studies by Dr. Paul Olson, was also not allowed to go unchallenged.

The DA said the study is dated -- from the early '80s -- and subsequent findings indicate that 50 percent of drivers can see a pedestrian at night 150 feet away. More recent studies put a visibility figure of 175 feet for pedestrians in dark clothes, 700 feet for those with light-reflective clothing on.

Modern halogen headlamps provide 151 to 178 feet of visibility, and on an unlit darkened road, Serrano should have been driving with high beams on (if there's no oncoming traffic). When asked, Onions said he did not know if Serrano had her high beams on that night.

Friedman also took Onions to task on his "body throw" measurement using the Searle formula, which cannot be used to calculate speed when there is an "iffy" partial or "noncomforming impact" in terms of body vs. vehicle.

"There is NO EVIDENCE to support ANY speed," Friedman said, and in fact, Serrano could have been going faster than the 37.5 mph Onions said is the limit supported by science.

From there, the DA quizzed the expert on his scientific basis for doubling the body throw trajectory -- from 30 to 60 feet.

Friedman said there's a cornucopia of factors from visibility and distance and rain and geography to type of headlamp and snowfall, in other words "there is no one size fits all," despite what Onions would like the jury to believe.

Moving along, the DA questioned why there is no mention of any alcohol consumption by Serrano in Onions' report.

Onions said it was not an issue.

With clear incredulousness in his voice, Friedman said her intoxication and driver's reaction were already testified to in this case.

Passenger Gilden's statements about their consumption of alcohol was also left out of Onions' report, the DA noticed.

Onions took pains to note that there was nothing to indicate swerving, loss of control or speeding, no tire marks, disturbed gravel or skids marks.

"No one said she swerved," Friedman said, as if puzzled by the point of those assertions.

In fact, there was no vehicle testing done on the roadway and therefore no scientific evidence to say Serrano didn't drive the entire length of Sumner Road along the shoulder.

"There is no evidence that she was in or out of her lane," Friedman said, and Onions conceded the point.

Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

The case resumes at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 1.

June 27, 2019 - 9:33pm

Defense counsel called its first witness, Sgt. Jason Saile from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, to testify about the motor-vehicle accident reconstruction that he conducted Aug. 11 after a hit-and-run accident in Darien that killed 18-year-old Connor Lynskey. 

Saile said his assignment was to document the evidence found at the accident scene on Sumner Road and draw conclusions about the vehicle-pedestrian collision based on his certification in accident reconstruction.

In Saile’s accident reconstruction report, he noted that the only environmental factor that may have influenced alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano was decreased visibility due to the darkness of the unlit road. Otherwise, Sumner Road was clear, dry and its pavement relatively even.

When defense attorney Frank LoTempio asked whether intoxication played a role in the accident, Saile responded with, “Absolutely.” The sargeant maintains that alcohol consumption around the time of the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center affected the perception of both pedestrian Lynskey and driver Serrano as they departed the performance. 

Saile also attested to the fact that the crash data reporter in Serrano’s Jeep did not detect any signs of heavy braking, swerving or a change in velocity as she traveled along Sumner Road. Her vehicle, according to Saile, never slowed down or maneuvered at any point before or during the impact with Lynskey. 

Earlier testimony from Nathan Balduf, deputy and motor-vehicle inspector with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, offered that there were no vehicle mechanical failures in relation to the accident. Saile testified that no skid marks from Serrano’s vehicle were observed on the pavement or gravel shoulder.

Lynskey’s behavior on the night of his death was brought into question before jurors. LoTempio alleged that Lynskey was in violation of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 1156b, which states pedestrians must walk against the direction of traffic where sidewalks are not provided. The landing spot of Lynskey’s body indicated he may have walked or jogged in the same direction as Serrano’s Jeep.

A diagram of the accident scene on Sumner Road was also produced by Saile during his investigation. Although Saile reported an 87-foot debris field along both the road and the shoulder, the sergeant said it was difficult to determine the exact location of impact due to the unknown velocities of both Lynskey and Serrano. 

Saile also testified he is uncertain of his initial finding that the collision occurred on the pavement rather than on the shoulder. This discrepancy evoked emotion in Frank LoTempio, who remarked in his opening statement that Lynskey may have been hit because he was intoxicated and tripped on the pavement in front of Serrano’s vehicle. 

Tensions peaked when District Attorney Lawrence Friedman objected to questioning about a footprint found in the gravel and the possibility of Lynskey falling. Friedman argued LoTempio did not establish evidence or expertise for Saile to testify that Lynskey tripped. 

LoTempio insisted the sergeant could speak to the evidence he used when preparing his motor-vehicle accident reconstruction. The attorneys grew so animated that Judge Charles Zambito excused the jury for a 10-minute adjournment and called a bench conference. 

Serrano is charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Jurors will attempt to reconstruct the accident scene for themselves as the trial continues at 9 a.m. tomorrow in Genesee County Court.

June 27, 2019 - 9:00pm

The executive director of GO ART! spoke plainly to Batavia Development Corporation board members this morning -- it needs funding ASAP in order to make badly needed improvements to its headquarters -- the historic Seymour Building at 201 E. Main St.

GO ARTS!'s Gregory Hallock asked board members to provide financial backing for a $50,000 loan, which would make the nonprofit eligible for funding from the NY Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Arts and Cultural Facilities Improvement Program Mid-Size Capital Project.

The NYSCA grant is available through the Empire State Development Regional Council Capital Fund (REDC) initiative. GO ART! must prove its ability to finance restoration projects in order to qualify for $150,000 in state funding. 

Hallock’s request comes after the New York Preservation League conducted an assessment of the GO ART! property and identified areas for improvement totaling $500,000. Hallock determined that at least $176,000 is required for immediate changes to the building. 

High-priority needs include the installation of both an air-conditioning unit and elevator. Hallock said he wants second-floor offices and meeting spaces to be available for rent within the next few months in order for the building to remain accessible and easy to use.

Hallock said time is of the essence. The REDC grant application is due July 27, but GO ART! will not know if it received that state funding until December. He's also waiting to hear back about grant applications to organizations in Buffalo and Rochester, but those responses will not arrive until August. 

“$500,000 is what [the improvement cost] is marked at now,” Hallock said. “They said this number is going to grow substantially. So, that’s why there is a priority on my list of things to get done to get this grant money. Also, the REDC doesn’t guarantee this money is going to be there from year to year.”

In response, Rachael Tabelski, BDC director of economic development, proposed that the BDC could back the $50,000 loan, so NYSCA could see GO ART! has access to funds for this capital project.

“We would be issuing a long-term, conditional offer to match these state funds,” Tabelski said.

Tabelski offered that BDC could set aside $50,000 of its Revolving Loan Fund for GO ART! and issue a conditional loan approval with an expiration date. Then, Hallock could return periodically with updates on the project scope and costs. 

According to this proposed plan, the board could keep extending its conditional loan approval until the grant is potentially awarded to GO ART! Hallock noted that GO ART! may never have to tap into the loan if it qualifies for the grant. 

“We get repaid with the funds down the road. One way or another, this will go through. So, this is a fairly safe loan,” said Pierluigi "Pier" Cipollone, BDC board president.

The board did not vote on the conditional loan today, but Hallock is slated to update board members on GO ART!’s progress toward grants and renovations. He will return at the board’s meeting at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 22 in Batavia City Centre.

June 26, 2019 - 9:17pm

Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Robert C. Henning took the stand today and recalled details about his arrest of alleged drunk driver Jennifer Serrano the night of a hit-and-run accident in Darien that killed 18-year-old Connor Lynskey of Hinckley last August. 

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman conducted a direct examination of the deputy in Genesee County Court today. Henning said that at approximately 1 a.m. on Aug. 11, he was traveling northbound on Route 77 to the county jail with an inmate who had just been arraigned in Darien Town Court.

Henning said that if Serrano's Jeep Wrangler had stayed on the shoulder of the road after she backed out of a driveway, he would have driven past her. However, the Jeep suddenly pulled onto Route 77 in front of the deputy's vehicle, which caused him to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision and swerve into the southbound lane of 77.

The deputy said he turned on his emergency lights and pulled over the Jeep moments after the near-collision. Serrano would have been charged with a minor traffic violation until Henning suspected she was impaired. Henning said he observed Serrano’s glassy eyes, slurred speech and a strong odor of alcohol on her breath.

Both Friedman and defense attorney Frank LoTempio entered Henning’s body camera footage into evidence so jurors could evaluate Henning and Serrano’s behaviors for themselves. Videos showed Serrano’s difficulty exiting her vehicle and maintaining her balance as she met Henning behind her vehicle.

Henning’s testimony revealed that Serrano’s statement to him about her whereabouts on Aug. 10 was not accurate. She said she traveled from Silver Creek, near Angola, to pick up her friend Candace Gilden from the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. In reality, Serrano drove from Derby to the Town of Darien to also attend the concert. 

Henning said he could understand almost everything he was told by Serrano during the investigation. Friedman raised the question of whether Serrano’s alleged intoxication decreased her understanding of Henning’s directions. Serrano repeatedly asked about contacting family members, going to her friend’s home, and what was going to happen to herself and her vehicle. 

The deputy consistently answered her questions with the same answers, yet Serrano continued to ask them. In the body camera footage, Serrano also appeared to struggle with the instructions and sobriety test demonstrations given to her several times by Henning.

Henning testified that Serrano failed her "horizontal gaze nystagmus test" in which he moved a writing pen in front of Serrano as she attempted to follow its tip at different angles with her eyes.

During the walk-and-turn test, Serrano started the test too soon, raised her arms for balance and needed assistance to stay upright. Serrano did not walk heel to toe in a straight line, nor did she pivot correctly while turning nor take enough steps. Serrano therefore failed the test -- both when she wore flip-flops and while walking barefoot.

Serrano also failed a test where she was asked to raise her foot off the ground for half a minute, because she swayed, raised her arms for balance, and set her foot down before reaching 30 seconds. 

Henning said that when he asked Serrano to perform the alphabet from letter E to R, she failed to follow his instructions because she recited E through S before remembering she only needed to recite through R. LoTempio argued that his client performed the test correctly regardless of the small mistake.

Serrano lastly needed to blow into an Alco-Sensor breath-alcohol tester for a duration of time in order for an accurate blood-alcohol content reading to register. Since Serrano’s first test was insufficient and she avoided several attempts to submit to the test afterward, Henning placed her under arrest. 

During testimony today, Henning said Serrano also signed three refusal warning forms at the Batavia Police Department for refusing to submit to a DataMaster alcohol detection test in Batavia. She was later taken to Darien Town Court where her driver's license was suspended and then released from custody with tickets for allegedly drinking while intoxicated.

Serrano was charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

Serrano never reported hitting anything during the four-and-a-half hours she was in the presence of Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and a judge. LoTempio countered that no law enforcement officials noticed her vehicle's damaged windshield and right-side rear-view exterior mirror until it was discovered on Aug. 12. 

LoTempio challenged Henning’s execution of the tests during cross examination by claiming that sobriety tests only indicate intoxication, if they are all performed correctly. Henning maintained that traffic, darkness and the slight slope of Route 77 were factors that should not have a significant impact on Serrano’s sobriety-test performance.

A pregnant pause filled the courtroom after LoTempio asked Henning a final question. If Serrano performed so poorly on tests while supposedly intoxicated with a BAC of 0.8, how could Lynskey have conducted himself normally while he was traveling on foot along Sumner Road with a 0.16 BAC at the time he was struck by Serrano’s vehicle? 

Her trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning at Genesee County Court.

June 26, 2019 - 10:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Le Roy, Pavilion, notify.

A 49-year-old Le Roy woman died Tuesday after suffering serious injuries in a motor-vehicle accident on Route 20 in Pavilion on Monday.

Holly C. Neuffer was driving a 2010 Nissan Murano westbound on Route 20, according to the Sheriff's Office, when she failed to negotiate a curve in the road and went off the north shoulder. The Nissan struck a tree head on in the vicinity of 7550 Route 20 at 3:35 p.m.

Neuffer was transported by Le Roy Ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital.

A medical examination will be required to determine whether Neuffer died as a result of her injuries or from another medical condition.

The crash remains under investigation. Conducting the investigation are Chief Deputy Brian Frieday, Sgt. Andrew Hale, Investigator James Diehl, Deputy Ryan DeLong, and Deputy Robert Henning.

Assisting at the scene where the Le Roy Fire Department, Pavilion Fire Department, Mercy EMS, and State troopers.

June 26, 2019 - 12:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, news, notify.

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Story by Dylan Smith, editor and publisher of the Tucson Sentinel.
Photos by Howard Owens.

David Bellavia, a Batavia resident, on Tuesday, became the first living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the Medal of Honor, as President Donald Trump presented the award in a ceremony at the White House.

Trump said it was his "privilege to award the highest military honor to an American soldier who demonstrated exceptional courage to protect his men and defend our nation."

Bellavia was recognized for his valor in the Second Battle of Fallujah, a nearly two-month urban combat offensive in late 2004, in which more than 10,000 U.S. troops struggled to gain control of a dense city that had held some 350,000 people, but was then populated mostly by 3-4,000 heavily fortified insurgent forces.

Bellavia, now 43 years old, was a U.S. Army staff sergeant during that battle. On his 29th birthday, Nov. 10, 2004, his platoon was clearing a block of a dozen buildings that were occupied by Iraqi insurgents who were firing at U.S. troops.

"For three days straight, David and his men kicked down doors, searched houses, and destroyed enemy weapons, never knowing where they would find a terrorist lurking next. And there were plenty of them," Trump told a packed White House ceremony.

In presenting the nation's top military honor, Trump noted Bellavia's "extraordinary courage... selfless service... and carrying on the legacy of American valor."

During a house-to-house search, the soldiers of Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, encountered fierce resistance — a not unfamiliar situation for his unit; 37 people from his brigade died that year.

"A very dangerous operation," Trump said Tuesday. "They entered house after house, and secured nine of the buildings. Then came the 10th. That was a tough one. It was a three-story building surrounded by a nine-foot wall. As they entered the house and moved into the living room, two men were behind concrete barricades. They opened fire on David and everybody."

"In the dark of night, shards of glass, brick, and plaster flew into the air, wounding multiple soldiers. The rounds of fire ripped holes into the wall separating the Americans from the terrorists. The wall was ripped to shreds. David knew they had to get out. David thought that they had had it. He leaped into the torrent of bullets and fired back at the enemy without even thinking," the president said.

"He provided suppressive fire while his men evacuated, rescuing his entire squad at the risk of his own life. Only when his men were all out did David exit the building."

From the citation for Bellavia's Silver Star:

At this point, Sergeant Bellavia, armed with an M249 SAW gun, entered the room where the insurgents were located and sprayed the room with gunfire, forcing the jihadists to take cover and allowing the squad to move out into the street. Jihadists on the roof began firing at the squad, forcing them to take cover in a nearby building. Sergeant Bellavia then went back to the street and called in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to shell the houses.

After this was done, he decided to reenter the building to determine whether the enemy fighters were still active. Seeing a jihadist loading an RPG launcher, Sergeant Bellavia gunned him down.

A second jihadist began firing as the soldier ran toward the kitchen and Bellavia fired back, wounding him in the shoulder. A third jihadist began yelling from the second floor. Sergeant Bellavia then entered the uncleared master bedroom and emptied gunfire into all the corners, at which point the wounded insurgent entered the room, yelling and firing his weapon.

Sergeant Bellavia fired back, killing the man. Sergeant Bellavia then came under fire from the insurgent upstairs and the staff sergeant returned the fire, killing the man.

At that point, a jihadist hiding in a wardrobe in a bedroom jumped out, firing wildly around the room and knocking over the wardrobe. As the man leaped over the bed he tripped and Sergeant Bellavia shot him several times, wounding but not killing him.

Another insurgent was yelling from upstairs, and the wounded jihadist escaped the bedroom and ran upstairs. Sergeant Bellavia pursued but slipped on the blood-soaked stairs. The wounded insurgent fired at him but missed. He followed the bloody tracks up the stairs to a room to the left. Hearing the wounded insurgent inside, he threw a fragmentary grenade into the room, sending the wounded jihadist onto the roof.

The insurgent fired his weapon in all directions until he ran out of ammunition. He then started back into the bedroom, which was rapidly filling with smoke. Hearing two other insurgents screaming from the third story of the building, Sergeant Bellavia put a choke hold on the wounded insurgent to keep him from giving away their position. The wounded jihadist then bit Sergeant Bellavia on the arm and smacked him in the face with the butt of his AK-47.

In the wild scuffle that followed, Sergeant Bellavia took out his knife and slit the jihadist's throat. Two other insurgents who were trying to come to their comrade's rescue fired at Bellavia, but he had slipped out of the room, which was now full of smoke and fire. Without warning, another insurgent dropped from the third story to the second-story roof.

Sergeant Bellavia fired at him, hitting him in the back and the legs and causing him to fall off the roof, dead. At this point, five members of 3rd Platoon entered the house and took control of the first floor. Before they would finish off the remaining jihadists, however, they were ordered to move out of the area because close air support had been called in by a nearby unit.

"Alone, in the dark, David killed four insurgents and seriously wounded the fifth, saving his soldiers and facing down the enemies of civilization," President Trump said at Tuesday's ceremony.

"Here with us today are 32 American service members who fought with David in Iraq, including 12 who were with David on that very, very horrible and dangerous November night."

Also present were eight previous recipients of the Medal of Honor, and five Gold Star families — relatives of Bellavia's brothers in arms who were killed in combat.

Bellavia was born in Albion and lives in Batavia. His father William died last year. His grandfather, Joseph Brunacini, age 99, was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions during the Normandy campaign in World War II, and was watching Tuesday's ceremony via video at his home in Jamestown, N.Y.

"America is blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sergeant Bellavia whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms, and defends our great American flag," Trump said. "David, today we honor your extraordinary courage, we salute your selfless service, and we thank you for carrying on the legacy of American valor that has always made our blessed nation the strongest and mightiest anywhere in the world."

Medal of Honor citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq.

While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon became trapped within a room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents.

With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break contact and exit the house.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was brought forward to suppress the enemy; however, due to high walls surrounding the house, it could not fire directly at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then reentered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger the grenade posed to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house.

Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an uncleared, darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from a closet in the darkened room.

Exchanging gunfire, Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leaped from the third-floor roof onto the second-floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding him in the back and legs, and caused him to fall off the roof.

Acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Bellavia, who has hosted a local radio talk show and run for office as a Republican, is the author of "House to House," which recounts his experiences in the Fallujah battle.

He left the Army in 2005, after six years of service. During his yearlong deployment in Iraq, his unit took part in the battles of Najaf, Mosul, Baqubah and Muqdadiyah, as well as the fight for Fallujah.

"Listen, you know I'm not going to pretend to write -- the narrative of the Iraq war is well established -- but the Iraq veteran has nothing to apologize for. The Iraq veteran has served with the same, in the finest traditions of any other generation at war," Bellavia said in an interview with The Batavian earlier this month.

"I can't tell you that looking back and seeing how a lot of people tend to look at the valor of a generation and say well are these good wars or bad wars. Iraq veterans are walking around with chips on their shoulder because they're regarded as part of the bad war, the war of choice, the war that was based on bad intelligence, and you know we're free to think and decide whatever you want," said Bellavia, who co-founded the advocacy group Vets for Freedom after he left the military.

"I think the narrative is written on that. But I would just caution us to not make the veteran feel the weight of that. I don't think it's their responsibility. Ninety-nine percent of these men and women served with honor and distinction and we really shouldn't have to apologize for where our nation sends us to fight."

"You know, I never saw the enemy as people. I think, now, when I have, when you have children, you think you know, obviously, you want your guys, America, the good guys, to be OK. But I also think back to, I don't want the enemy's children to take the road that their dads took. I don't want my kids to be fighting in conflicts with another generation," he said.

"What are the things that we can do, especially when it comes to acknowledging that a lot of people think that war guys, veteran guys are pro-war, that we love this. You know, we're pretty anti-war. I mean, I don't know of any veteran that you've talked to that is like, 'this is the greatest thing in the world,' " he said.

"We're violently anti-war but with the goal, the end state is that we won't do this anymore. I mean, if you would've told me that I would join the Army because my sons and daughter would also get to have this experience, I never would have done it. It's not worth it. You fight so that it stops here and it doesn't continue. And it would be heartbreaking to know that this is going to go on for another 25 years."

Bellavia's awards and decorations include: the Medal of Honor; Silver Star; Bronze Star; Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops; the National Defense Service Medal; Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star; New York State’s Conspicuous Service Cross; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral "2"; the Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral "2"; the Presidential Unit Citation; Combat Infantryman Badge; Driver and Mechanics Badge; and the NATO Medal.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Dylan Smith is one of my local online news publishing colleagues. He knew how busy I have been in Washington, D.C., that he volunteered -- without being asked -- and wrote this story for The Batavian.

Top photo: David Bellavia's son, Aiden, examines the Medal of Honor around his father's neck during a reception at the White House following the awards ceremony.

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Bellavia and Michael Ware.

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David Bellavia and longtime friend Michael Caputo.

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Congressman Chris Collins chatting with Michael Caputo.

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Michelle McCulloch, in the white dress, who is from Wyoming County, and her daughters and son-in-law.

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Sgt. John Badger takes a selfie with David Bellavia.

 

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Kelly Ann Conway chats with Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan.

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David Bellavia and Gen. Ken Chrosniak (retired).

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Col. Douglas Walter, Bellavia's second commander in Fallujah, takes a photo in the White House for some fellow guests.

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At the end of the reception, the buffet room was cleared of all guests and David finally had a chance to grab a bite to eat.

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Maj. Joaquin Meno, who was a lieutenant in Iraq, and commander of Bellavia's platoon.

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Military photographer Sgt. Kevin Roy with Bellavia. Roy has arguably been the hardest working man tasked to Medal of Honor support over these four days of ceremonies, events, and tours. His job has been to be at Bellavia's side constantly, taking hundreds of photos all day and then returning to his computer to process the photos before going bed every night.

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Sgt. John Bandy examines Bellavia's Medal of Honor after Bellavia and his guest returned to the hotel.

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Sgt. Jonathan Gibson salutes David Bellavia.

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Lincoln's bust in the White House.

June 25, 2019 - 8:51pm

Attorneys spent more than an hour hashing out details this afternoon with Candace Gilden about the moments before, during and after she rode with an alleged drunk driver the night of a hit-and-run accident in Darien that killed 18-year-old Connor Lynskey last August.

Passenger Gilden, driver Jennifer Serrano and pedestrian Lynskey had all departed a Jason Aldean concert on Aug. 10 at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center intending to safely to go to their destinations. 

Gilden, a 41-year-old former Derby resident, was a passenger in her friend Serrano’s Jeep Wrangler when Serrano unknowingly struck Lynskey on Sumner Road.

New evidence came to light in Genesee County Court today as Gilden was called upon by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to recount her perception of that fateful night during direct examination.

She said that earlier in the afternoon of Aug. 10, she and Serrano, a 48-year-old resident of Irving, met up and consumed one alcoholic beverage each prior to purchasing more alcohol at Tops Friendly Market in Derby.

Serrano and Gilden packed coolers containing the beverages and traveled to a friend’s house on Route 77 near Darien Lake. There, they continued to drink as they set up a tent outside to sleep in after the concert.

The women drank in the Darien Lake parking lot, throughout the Aldean performance, and at an on-site after-party. Gilden testified that Serrano was behaving normally as they consumed alcohol. 

As the women walked to Serrano’s vehicle, Serrano insisted that she was OK to drive back to the friend’s house on Route 77. In the midst of traffic after the concert, and having a lack of familiarity with the area, the women became lost while driving down Sumner Road.

Gilden said she attempted to find their location on Google Maps and, therefore, was focused on her phone screen as Serrano drove on the dark road. 

Serrano reportedly turned around on Sumner Road in order to drive in the direction of Route 77. Gilden noticed that a crack in the windshield had formed and the right exterior rear-view mirror had been pushed toward the passenger door. Gilden maintained she did not see, hear or feel anything that could have caused the damage throughout her testimony.

Gilden then asked Serrano what had happened and, after getting no answer, turned down the loud music that was playing and asked again. Serrano responded that they needed to drive to her friend’s house.

The women continued driving without stopping to check the damage to the vehicle.

About 30 minutes later, Deputy Robert Henning pulled over Serrano after a near collision with his patrol vehicle and charged her with drunk driving when she reportedly failed field sobriety tests. Gilden later posted Serrano’s $1,000 bail at Genesee County Jail. 

After refueling her Jeep at a gas station on Route 77, Serrano allegedly drove her vehicle without a driver's license, which had just been revoked by the police due to her performance on the sobriety tests.   

The women returned to the area surrounding Sumner Road on Aug. 11 in an attempt to find where the vehicle sustained damage with little success.

Gilden testified that she felt physically ill that evening when she received news that Lynskey, of Hinckley, had been killed on Sumner Road in the early hours of Aug. 11. Gilden described the surprised expression on Serrano’s face upon relaying the information to her.

On Aug. 12, Gilden gave a statement to Genesee County Sheriff's deputies about her understanding of the situation. Serrano was charged with vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

On cross examination, defense attorney Frank LoTempio debated whether jurors should trust Gilden’s interpretation of Serrano's behavior and actions as well as the accident, since Gilden admitted she was impaired by alcohol on Aug. 10 and 11.

Gilden also maintained that her attention was diverted to her phone at the time of the collision, so LoTempio argued it is difficult for her to know if Serrano drove in an erratic manner.

LoTempio fired a crucial line of questioning at Gilden about whether the vehicle struck something or if something hit the vehicle on Sumner Road. This argument — that Lynskey may have tripped into Serrano’s vehicle due to the poorly lit road and his 0.16 blood alcohol content — is the question that defense counsel also begs of jurors.

The trial will draw nearer to that answer at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Genesee County Court.

June 25, 2019 - 5:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in joe marm, Medal of Honor, David Bellavia, news, notify.

Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, right, shakes hands with another Medal of Honor recipient, Ret. Col. Walter Joseph Marm Jr. They are at a post-ceremony reception at the White House.

"Joe" Marm served in the Army from 1965 to 1995. On Dec. 19, 1966, he was given the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of la Drang on Nov. 14, 1965 during the Vietnam War.

At the time, he was a second lieutenant and platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division (Airmobile). He is credited with single-handedly destroying an enemy machine gun position and several of its defenders, suffering severe wounds in the process.

For more information about Joe Marm, click here and here.

June 25, 2019 - 4:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, white house, news, notify.

Here's a video of the just-concluded Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House for Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia.

June 25, 2019 - 2:22pm
posted by Lauren Leone in news, darien lake, fatal accident, jennifer serrano, notify.

Details about the events surrounding the fatal Darien hit-and-run last August are emerging as opening statements and first witnesses are heard in the case of 48-year-old Jennifer L. Serrano.

Today is the first trial day for Irving, Chautauqua County, resident.

During his opening remarks, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman informed jurors of: the basic overview of the accident; some of the individuals they can expect to hear from throughout court proceedings; and a brief account of the actions taken by both the victim, 18-year-old Connor Lynskey, and the defendant in connection to the accident.

Friedman explained to jurors the four counts Serrano is charged with: second-degree vehicular manslaughter, which, as a result of alleged intoxication, caused Serrano to drive her Jeep in a manner that killed Lynskey; leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it; driving while intoxicated; and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio delivered his opening statement next. He said that defense counsel does not intend to argue that Serrano did not drink and drive, nor that her vehicle did not strike Lynskey and cause his death.

However, LoTempio maintained that the tragedy may not have resulted from Serrano’s reported intoxication, and that Lynskey’s 0.16 BAC at the time of his death may have led him to walk into Serrano’s traffic lane. 

LoTempio encouraged jurors to pay close attention to evidence of Serrano’s conduct as she was questioned by officers at the time of her arrest, the darkness of the accident scene, and the accident reconstruction information that is expected to arise later in the trial.

The prosecution called its first witness, Dr. Nadia Granger, who performed Lynskey’s autopsy at the Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner. She told the court that Lynskey endured injuries to his right shoulder, facial bones, skull and brain. These injuries are consistent with his cause of death, which is multiple blunt force injuries, and the damage sustained by the right side of Serrano’s vehicle.

The prosecution also brought forward Hunter Richard, a longtime friend of Lynskey’s who also attended the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Aug. 10 with Lynskey.

Richard recounted the events that occurred on Aug. 10 and 11 and his rationale for walking along Sumner Road in Darien as he and his friends returned to Darien Lakes State Park campground. 

Richard testified that Lynskey was behaving normally as they walked to the campsite, so impairment by alcohol was not a factor in Lynskey's death in his opinion.

LoTempio challenged Richard’s account of his proximity to the roadway, the collision sound heard by the teens, and the safety measures taken the night of the accident.

Both counsels will call more witnesses and introduce new evidence to the jurors as the trial proceeds this afternoon and throughout the week.

June 24, 2019 - 9:05pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Darien, crime, news, notify.

Prospective jurors expressed how difficult it may be to remain fair and impartial during jury selection today in Genesee County Court for the trial of 48-year-old Jennifer L. Serrano (booking photo above).

The Irving, Chautauqua County, resident is accused of driving while intoxicated and killing 18-year-old Connor Arthur Lynskey, of Hinckley, in a fatal hit-and-run accident Aug. 11 on Sumner Road in Darien.

After a tense selection process today, 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen to be impaneled.

Defense attorney Frank LoTempio was overpowered by the voices of multiple juror candidates when he asked a group of 18 prospective jurors whether their personal emotions would interfere with their deliberations.

A few potential jurors admitted they did not feel comfortable swearing under oath to remain objective due to the highly sensitive nature of the case. Particularly, candidates were unsettled by the expert testimony that defense counsel is anticipated to bring forward. It may allege Lynskey was intoxicated, and either walking or running in the lane of traffic when he was struck.

Lynskey had attended a Jason Aldean country music concert with friends and family at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center before he was killed. After the concert, the group started on foot back to its campsite at Darien Lakes State Park campground.

The Genesee County Sheriff's Office report of the accident indicated Lynskey had decided to run ahead to catch up with a friend. 

When family members and friends returned to the campsite, they realized Lynskey was missing.

Law enforcement searched the area that night, but did not find him. His body was discovered the next morning in a ditch by the side of the road.

That same night he went missing, Serrano had been stopped by a deputy and charged with driving while under the influence.

The alleged hit-and-run may have occurred approximately 30 minutes before her DWI arrest. By following leads, investigators identified her as a suspect in the fatal accident.

Some juror candidates said they could not justify drinking and driving under any circumstances, if that is in fact the cause of the fatal accident. Others said they would struggle to fulfill their roles as fact-finders due to parenthood or connections with loved ones who have been affected by drunk driving before.

Judge Charles Zambito intervened in the tense discussion by reminding prospective jurors that to prove Serrano guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they must rely on evidence that indicates she drove while intoxicated and, as a result, operated her vehicle in a manner that caused Lynskey’s death. 

Serrano is also charged with leaving the scene of personal injury accident without reporting it and aggravated unlicensed operation of her vehicle.

Reportedly, Serrano may have driven on Aug. 12 while aware that her New York driver's license was revoked by authorities, based on her refusal to submit to a chemical test.

She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Above all, Zambito urged jurors to set aside feelings while reaching a verdict, in his words, “based on laws and facts.”

Opening arguments will begin at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in Genesee County Court.

June 24, 2019 - 8:40pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Le Roy, crime, news, notify.

Le Roy resident Robert Pragle (inset photo right), a man facing allegations of larceny and drug charges, is scheduled to be heard at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 21, in Genesee County Court.

During oral arguments in court today, Judge Charles Zambito continued Pragle under supervision of Genesee Justice until his hearing in August. 

Community tips and information from two suspects who allegedly participated in larcenies in the Town of Le Roy aided police in piecing together a case against four Le Roy residents who reportedly stole personal property with the intention of selling the items for drug money.

It is alleged that between Jan. 2-3 in Le Roy, Robert Pragle and three other suspected individuals knowingly possessed stolen property, which is a Class D felony.

Pragle is also accused of one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, a Class A misdemeanor; and one count of criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd, a Class A misdemeanor.

June 24, 2019 - 5:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Medal of Honor, batavia, news, notify.

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Colin Fitts, a retired sergeant first class, says he is alive because of David Bellavia, the Batavia resident who will receive the Medal of Honor tomorrow in a ceremony at the White House.

On Nov. 10, 2004, Fitts and Bellavia and their men walked into an ambush in a house in Fallujah. Five insurgents had barricaded themselves in the house and didn't reveal their positions until after the platoon had entered. The platoon couldn't exit the house without exposing themselves to hostile fire. Bellavia commenced suppression fire allowing the men to escape.

Later, Bellavia reentered the house to try and finish the job because his men were still exposed to hostile fire from the insurgents in the house while they were on the street and single-handedly killed all of the insurgents in the house.

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David Bellavia

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Col. Douglas R. Walter, who was a company commander in Iraq and nominated Bellavia for the Medal of Honor in 2005, along with Maj. Joaquin Meno, who was a lieutenant in Bellavia's unit in Iraq, and Bellavia.

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Michael Ware, a journalist embedded Bellavia's unit, discusses what he witnessed Nov. 10, 2004. Ware entered the house with Bellavia and attempted to film the ensuing battle. Because he didn't have night vision goggles, he lost contact with David and when the house fell silent, Ware exited and said he had lost contact with "Sgt. Bell." Men from Bellavia's unit entered the house and by the time they located Bellavia he had already killed all of the insurgents in the house.

We'll have video from the press conference, along with interviews wiht Walter, Meno, and Fitts later.

June 24, 2019 - 2:17pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, crime, news, notify.

Derek E. Wilcox, of Congress Avenue, Rochester, (inset photo right) pled not guilty in Genesee County Court today of drug charges against him.

At his arraignment, his attorney Marshall Kelly said his client pleads not to: criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony; and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, a Class B misdemeanor.

On March 27, law enforcement allegedly found 56 bags of crack cocaine at a house on Liberty Street, Batavia. Wilcox was one of five individuals arrested as a result a joint investigation a result of a joint investigation by the Probation Department, Child Protective Services, and the Local Drug Task Force.

Wilcox’s $20,000 bail bond was also continued by Judge Charles Zambito.

Oral arguments for Wilcox's case will begin at 9 a.m. Aug. 26 at the Genesee County Courthouse.

June 23, 2019 - 12:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Stafford, Bethany.

Crystal Lynn Kiebzak, 37, of Main Street, Wyoming, is charged with second-degree reckless endangerment. On June 22 at a campground on Francis Road in Bethany, Kiebzak was arrested at 7:35 p.m. following the investigation of a child who was resuscitated after drowning in a pool. She was arraigned in Bethany Town Court and issued an appearance ticket for 7 p.m. July 16 in Bethany Town Court. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon, assisted by Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

David George Morgan, 65, of Roanoke Road, Stafford, is charged with second-degree menacing. He was arrested at 6:56  p.m. on June 20 on Roanoke Road in Stafford. It is alleged that he intentionally placed an individual in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death by displaying a dangerous instrument -- a screwdriver. He was arraigned in Stafford Town Court and released under supervision. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth, assisted by Sgt. Andrew Hale.

Duane Kenneth Miller, 54, of Linwood Avenue, Warsaw, is charged with illegal use of toxic vapors. Following an investigation into a subject allegedly huffing in the Walmart parking lot in Batavia, Miller was arrested at 12:45 p.m. on June 21. He was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia Town Court on July 8. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Forsyth, assisted by Deputy Ryan Young.

June 21, 2019 - 4:52pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, news, notify, motorcycle safety.

The sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly cut grass are signs of summertime in Genesee County.

However, those familiar noises and scents can far too often mean motorcycle accidents if homeowners do not properly remove road hazards like grass clippings, leaves and gravel.

“The people most to suffer from these things when it comes to motor vehicles is the motorcyclist, specifically, in a corner,” said Jon DelVecchio, riding coach at Street Skills LLC motorcycling school in Rochester and author of "Cornering Confidence: The Formula for 100% Control in Curves."

“Motorcyclists and car drivers alike, we want nothing between our tire surface and the road surface," DelVecchio said. "That’s how we’re going to get the best traction really in any condition.”

Grass clippings in summer months are reportedly as slippery as winter ice on road surfaces. Yard waste that blows onto road pavement presents safety hazards to motorcyclists whose two-wheeled vehicles speed over the slick grass clippings.

Clearing grass clippings from roadways is not a choice; it is mandated by state and local law.

NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1219 prohibits any substance that is likely to cause injury from being placed on highways. If grass clippings from a lawn mower are either accidentally blown or intentionally deposited onto the pavement, homeowners are legally obligated to remove them immediately.

Also, City of Batavia Municipal Code 113-2 states “No person shall sweep, throw or deposit or cause to be swept, thrown or deposited any ashes, dirt, stone, brick, leaves, grass, weeds or any other debris … into any public place or upon any private property without the owner's permission within the city.” A violator of this law can be fined $250, face imprisonment up to 15 days or be sued civilly if their grass clippings cause a motorcycle accident.

Jesse Underwood is a motorcyclist from Holley who has been riding motorcycles for 40 years. He was shopping at Stan's Harley-Davidson dealership in Batavia on Thursday when asked about encounters with grass clippings while tooling around.

He said it is important enough to him that, if he sees a problem, he stops his motorcycle and informs homeowners of the dangers of grass clippings during his rides with other motorcyclists.

"Every time we go on a big ride, every time we see people blowing grass in the road, we stop and give them a brochure on the dangers of it," Underwood said.

When homeowners receive the information, they are often surprised.

"A lot of them didn't even realize what they were doing is wrong," Underwood said. "I explain to them that wet grass clippings in the road — it's like ice to a motorcycle.

"If you come up and you're on wet grass ... or you're coming into a blind curve, even if you're doing the speed limit and you hit the wet grass, you're going down."

Underwood said that there are already enough dangers, such as texting and driving, that threaten the safety of motorcyclists, so grass clippings just add to the road hazards.

To effectively dispose of yard waste, homeowners are encouraged to leave their grass clippings on their lawns. This solution benefits the environment because clippings act as a natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer and decrease the amount of store-bought fertilizer homeowners purchase. This option also saves time because grass clippings do not need to be bagged after each mowing.

“I would advise homeowners, as a person who rides a motorcycle, to just simply be aware that their grass clippings could cause real trouble for people who ride motorcycles,” DelVecchio said.

DelVecchio encourages homeowners to take preventative measures to clear the roads near their property. He also advises motorcyclists to receive both basic and advanced riding instruction through videos, books or training courses so they can navigate grass-covered roads.

Lost control of motorcycles can lead to injury and death among motorcyclists who cannot regain their traction on grass-covered streets. It only takes a few moments to clean up grass clippings if they blow into the road in order to keep motorcyclists safe.

June 21, 2019 - 4:30pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, crime, news, notify.

Brandon Fogg agreed to a plea deal this afternoon in Genesee County Court after being charged with placing an individual at risk of serious injury or death -- in this case a Batavia police officer -- by displaying a BB gun on June 5.

The 32-year-old Batavia resident entered a guilty plea to first-degree menacing and faces one-and-a-third to four years in prison.

Batavia police officers first encountered Fogg after he trespassed at a location on Ellicott Street. Due to an illegal tire on Fogg’s vehicle as he drove away from the location, officers initiated a traffic stop.

According to police, Fogg attempted to flee the vehicle, but he was taken to the ground by Officer Darryle Streeter. Fogg then removed from his pocket what appeared to be a handgun during the struggle between himself and Streeter.  

A local citizen then came to the aid of Streeter by stepping on Fogg’s wrist, which caused him to drop the BB gun from his grasp. Streeter took Fogg into custody shortly afterward.

Judge Charles Zambito scheduled sentencing for 3:15 p.m. Aug. 1 at Genesee County Court.

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