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January 23, 2020 - 9:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, VTL Impact Aid, batavia, news, notify.

Another proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shift local revenue to the state coffers has come to light: Cuomo is proposing eliminating the local share of video terminal lottery money from facilities such as Batavia Downs. 

That would mean a $440,000 loss in revenue for the City of Batavia, $200,000 for Genesee County and $160,000 for the Town of Batavia.

Local officials are not pleased.

County Manager Jay Gsell has a laundry list of complaints about new mandated expenses in funding. This is just an extra burden for the county to shoulder.

Gsell said what he called a "bait and switch" on Aid to Municipalities funding where county sales tax proceeds will replace direct state aid, cuts in community college aid, and no reimbursement for early voting expenses.

"NYS counties will be gathering in Albany next Monday through Wednesday to gain more insight and develop resolution and position papers for the upcoming 2020 NYS legislative session," Gsell said. "The sentiment so far coming from the executive branch is disheartening and discouraging and fraught with peril from my perspective only three weeks into the new Genesee County budget year."

City Manager Marty Moore said the news of the VLT cuts comes at a bad time -- just as the city is wrapping up its own budget process.

"The loss of the VLT money is tough considering we balance the general fund to the penny," Moore said.  "Our feeling is obvious -- please put it back."

He called on state officials to enter into some dialogue and communication with local governments and listen to the impact the cuts will have locally.  

Since Batavia Downs doesn't pay any local property tax, the VLT money helps offset the expense of hosting the facility in the county, the town, and the city.  The facility needs support for crowd control at major events, police protection, fire protection, health and safety support, along with the roads that get people to and from the gaming casino.

"I do think it's important that our operations are supported by the money that comes along with it to help pay for some of the expense," Moore said.

In a budget statement, the governor's office justifies the cuts by the suggestion that local municipalities receive more in "VTL Impact Aid" (the formal name of the program) than it costs to host the facility.

This category of State aid was created to support assumed local service needs associated with hosting VLT facilities, but the revenue benefits of hosting a facility outweigh any associated costs. Further, not all municipalities that currently host VLT facilities receive aid through this program and the State does not provide additional "impact-type" aid for other types of facilities which may have similar local public service impacts as VLT facilities, including community colleges, SUNY campuses, and State office buildings. Accordingly, the Executive Budget eliminates VLT Aid outside of Yonkers, which is the only municipality receiving this aid to direct the funds to educational purposes.

It's been a point of pride for Western OTB officials for years that the facility supports the counties that oversee the facility with VTL money. 

Henry Wojtaszek, Western OTB CEO, said he will be closely monitoring the proposal.

"We work well with local governments and understand that these VLT aid monies substantially help them," Wojtaszek said. "We hope that local elected representatives will listen to the concerns of our host municipalities and work towards the best possible outcome."

Both State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer said they will work to protect the local share of VTL funds.

"This cut in aid is unacceptable," Ranzenhofer said. "At a time when the governor is proposing more unfunded mandates on our local governments, these reductions will have devastating impacts on our local taxpayers.  The governor is attempting to fill the budget deficit, that he created by overspending, through cutting crucial funding to Genesee County communities."

Hawley said, "The Governor needs to look toward actually cutting spending (that’s what real families and businesses do). We have a self-inflicted $6.2 Billion deficit (we spent that more than we took in). Why in the world would he look to take money that is shared with our local communities (which helps keep our local taxes lower than they would be without this money)? He’ll be hurting our local communities."

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January 23, 2020 - 4:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, elba, bergen, oak field.

James E. Tripp, 58, of Batavia, is charged with three counts of possession of a sexual performance by a child, a Class E felony. The incident allegedly occurred Oct. 13, 2017 and he was arrested by NYS Police Troop A in Batavia on Jan. 21 and arraigned at 10:08 a.m. in Town of Batavia Court. He was issued an appearance ticket for a later date, unspecified, in Batavia Town Court.

Kyle A. Mancuso, 27, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with: unlawful imprisonment; harassment in the second degree; and criminal mischief in the fourth degree. Mancuso was arrested Jan. 19 following an investigation of a domestic complaint that occurred that morning at 3:29 a.m. on Ellicott Street in Batavia. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and was due there again today (Jan. 23). The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Sean Wilson, assisted by Officer Jordan McGinnis.

Brian J. Miller, 38, of Harvester Avenue, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree harassment; criminal mischief; and criminal obstruction of breathing. Miller was arrested after a Jan. 12 domestic incident on Harvester Avenue. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court, released on his own recognizance, and is due back in court Jan. 30. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Felicia DeGroot, assisted by Officer Alec Roberts.

Johnathan Brice White, 27, of Buffalo Street, Bergen, is charged with falsifying business records in the first degree and criminal contempt in the second degree. On Jan. 23, White was arrested. It is alleged that White made a false entry into the business records at Genesee County Jail by using the personal identification number belonging to another inmate. It is also alleged that White's intention to defraud was to conceal his identity while violating an order of protection. He was issued an appearance ticket for Jan. 28 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth.

Phillip P. Heale, 41, of Woodrow Road, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. Heale was arrested Jan. 15. He is accused of violating an order of protection barring him from contacting the protected party at 11:27 p.m. Jan. 15 on Washington Avenue in Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket for Batavia City Court and is due there Feb. 4. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Flanagan.

Franklin Dean Cook, 37, of Ridge Road, Elba, is charged with first-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested Jan. 22 on an arrest warrant out of Elba Town Court that was issued Jan. 15. It is alleged that on Jan. 8 on Ridge Road in Elba that he violated a stay away order of protection. He was arraigned in Elba Town Court and is due back in court on Feb. 26. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush, assisted by Deputy Andrew Mullen.

Travis James Schultz, 31, of Webber Avenue, Oakfield, is charged with driving while intoxicated -- first offense, and refusal to take breath test. Schultz was arrested following an investigation of a hit and run accident that occurred at 12:59 a.m. Jan. 19 on West Main Street in Batavia. Police located the suspected vehicle involved and arrested Schultz, who was released with appearance tickets. He is due in Batavia City Court on Feb. 5. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Nicole McGinnis, assisted by Officer Sean Wilson.

Christopher M. Sims, 31, of Batavia, address not provided, was arrested by Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy William Asquith on Jan. 21 on Silver Lake Road in the Town of Perry. Sims was allegedly found to be operating his vehicle while the registration was suspended for an insurance lapse. He is charged with operating a vehicle with a suspended registration. Sims was released on an appearance ticket for Town of Perry Court and he is due there at a later date (unspecified).

January 22, 2020 - 8:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
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         Plush Dozier

Plush Kevin Dozier, a 23-year-old Monroe County resident facing a possible lengthy prison term on arson and attempted murder charges, now has a chance to make bail after appearing in Genesee County Court today for the first time in 2020.

New state rules on bail for defendants who have not yet been convicted of a crime took effect Jan. 1, requiring judges to release detainees without bail unless they're accused of a qualifying offense. In those cases, the judge must set the least restrictive amount of bail or bond possible. 

What is "least restrictive" is for the judge to decide.

Dozier is charged with qualifying offenses but is now entitled to some opportunity to make bail.

In this case, Judge Charles Zambito set bail at $100,000 cash, $100,000 bond, or $200,000 partially secured bond.

Previously, Dozier was held without bail, and since his arrest in June, Dozier's confinement has been eventful. He reportedly became more than the Genesee County Jail could handle, so he was transferred to Attica, where he was reportedly held in solitary confinement.

During his confinement, Dozier allegedly damaged jail property and a patrol vehicle, following an outburst in court, and is facing new criminal charges stemming from those alleged incidents.

Dozier is accused of setting a fire at a residence on Maple Street, Batavia, on June 15, and attempting to kill one of the residents there.

The bail review for Dozier followed a hearing where defense attorney Thomas Burns challenged the sufficiency of the grand jury hearing that led to Dozier's indictment on attempted murder and arson. The hearing in July 2018 was during a period of time when a court stenographer was improperly making audio recordings of grand jury proceedings.

The stenographer was using a device on her machine that allowed an audio recording to activate while she typed on her stenography machine. Even though she has 33 years of experience as a court reporter, the technology she was using was fairly new and the issue had never been raised with her before.

The fact that she was recording the proceedings was discovered by happenstance when Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman inquired about a transcript on a particular case and the stenographer mentioned she had an audio recording she could check. Gorman immediately informed District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.

The discovery led Friedman to notify the attorneys for a number of defendants. Some of the attorneys have challenged the grand jury proceedings. In all cases so far, Zambito has denied motions to vacate the grand jury proceedings.

Burns had a novel argument today, however. He elicited testimony from the stenographer, Susan Ryckman, that there is a small mic, about the size of a dime, attached with a wire to her machine. That mic would then be potentially visible to witnesses and grand jurors, which might cause them to wonder if the proceedings were being recorded. There is also apparently a mic on her laptop that may actually be the one activated when she is taking stenography.

Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret and the identities of witnesses protected.

After questioning whether, under the circumstances, the transcript from the Dozier proceeding could be relied on as accurate, Burns argued that witnesses might not testify as truthfully if they thought their statements were being audio recorded, or that grand jurors may ask different questions, or not ask questions, because their voices might be recorded.

There is no way of knowing, Burns said, if witnesses and jurors noticed the potential for recording and, if they did, if that altered their behavior in any way. 

"The very presence of an electronic recording device could have a negative effect and a detrimental effect on the grand jury process," Burns said.

Burns acknowledges he was being speculative but he said Friedman would also be speculating to argue otherwise.

Friedman said there was no speculation on his part.

"Our position is based on the facts," Friedman said. "The court reporter has 33 years experience and even she doesn't know where the microphone is (on her laptop) and she indicated there is no light on the mic when it's on. There is no evidence to support that speculation. Otherwise, we rely on the court's numerous other rulings."

Zambito said he will make his ruling at a later date.

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January 22, 2020 - 8:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
heidischollard.jpg
       Heidi Schollard

A Batavia woman who stole more than $350,000 from elderly people was making progress until recently on paying restitution, according to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.

Heidi L. Schollard, 47, of 161 Bank St., was ordered in 2012 to make restitution payments of $500 a month.

Friedman said records indicate Schollard made more than 100 payments, reducing the amount she owes to her victims from $350,729.40 to $335,290.11.

Then the payments stopped.

So she was ordered to appear in court today.

She didn't show up.

A warrant was issued for her arrest.

In 2017, Schollard was having trouble making restitution payments and asked to have the restitution order amended. Judge Charles Zambito kept her restitution at $500 a month.

Schollard stole the money from two elderly victims between 2006 and 2011. She pled guilty in 2012 to three counts of grand larceny, 3rd, which are Class D felonies, and a single count of grand larceny, 4th, a Class E felony. She was sentenced to the maximum possible prison term by then-County Court Judge Robert C. Noonan.

January 22, 2020 - 7:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, corfu, news, notify.
newell_-_jerrolmug2020.jpg
        Jerrol Newell

A sometimes Corfu resident facing three felonies for alleged strangulation, who has friends and relatives in at least three other states, has a better chance of making bail following a bail review hearing today in Genesee County Court.

Fifty-year-old Jerrol Paul Newell was described in court today by Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman as a man who has moved from state-to-state -- Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, even Hawaii -- with a spotty employment history and a lifelong problem with alcohol.  

She said Newell has had multiple DWI arrests, including a felony arrest in 2004, plus a DWI arrest in April where he had a BAC of .20 in the middle of the afternoon and allegedly left the scene of an accident. He also had a forgery conviction in 1996. He owes, she said, $39,000 in back child support payments, and is facing more than $9,000 in restitution from his recent accident.

Newell also lied, she said, to Genesee Justice about owning a home in Corfu.

His previous bail was $50,000 cash, $50,000 bond or $300,000 partially secured bond, which was set by Justice Donald O'Connor in December, before new bail rules took effect, in the Village of Corfu Court.

Newell's attorney, Thomas Burns, asked for either release on Newell's own recognizance or $5,000 bail, citing his client's ties to the community and Newell's own and his family's limited resources. 

Gorman said considering Newell's history, she didn't find the bail set in village court to be excessive. 

"He has an alcohol problem that leads the defendant to exercise extremely poor judgment that could lead him to leave the jurisdiction, especially when he has connections outside the jurisdiction," Gorman said.

Gorman noted that Newell is facing three Class D felony charges of strangulation and his sentence on each charge could be consecutive. She suggested the physical evidence against Newell, including photographs, is compelling.

Judge Charles Zambito, citing New York's bail reform rules, said he was obligated to set the least restrictive bail so he reduced Newell's bail to $7,500 cash, or $7,500 bond, or $75,000 partially secured bond.

January 22, 2020 - 6:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Quinton Edmonds, crime, news, notify, batavia.
quinton_edmonds_mugshot20191202.jpg
    Quinton Edmonds

In Genesee County Court yesterday, Quinton Edmonds, of Rochester, admitted to killing Michael R. Paladino outside of Paladino's Ross Street residence on June 1 after Paladino tried to come to the aid of a woman he apparently believed Edmonds was assaulting.

With the guilty plea, Edmonds avoids a trial next month and gets a sentence cap of 20-to-life in state prison. The possible maximum sentence for the Class A1 felony is 25-to-life.

According to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, Edmonds made no other statements in a court other than admitting to his crime as Judge Charles Zambito read the facts contained in the grand jury indictment before pleading "guilty."

Edmonds will be sentenced at 9 a.m., Feb. 19.

January 22, 2020 - 12:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Medicaid, Andrew Cuomo, news, notify.

cuomo01file2020.jpg

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to cap increases on Medicaid spending at 3 percent at the county level could cost Genesee County another $2.3 million over the next four years.

That's just a rough guess, said County Manager Jay Gsell.

He called Cuomo's accusation that counties are spending on Medicaid with a "blank check syndrome" since the county share of Medicaid was capped in 2012 a "lie." He said the attempt to shift the burden for increases on Medicaid to counties is "voodoo economics for 2020" and using the maneuver to shift the cost of the state's deficit spending to county taxpayers a "Ponzi scheme."

“The Medicaid system has to be fiscally sustainable,” Cuomo said during his 2021 budget address. “If it is not fiscally sustainable then we accomplish nothing.”

New York State is facing a $6.1 billion budget gap due in large part to rising costs of Medicaid, a health insurance program that serves the poor, elderly and disabled.

Since the state capped county expenses, the state's share has increased $20 billion.

“That’s the blank check syndrome,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “We are signing the check and they’re filling out the amount.”

All Medicaid expenses, Gsell said today, are the result of state mandates. The county has no control over how much Medicaid costs or how much expenses increase.

The increases are a result of NY, as mandated by Albany, offering among the most generous Medicaid benefits package in the Union, and an increase in enrollment of Medicaid-eligible residents under the Affordable Care Act.

There are now 13,300 Genesee County residents enrolled in an ACA medical plan (not all are Medicaid eligible) compared to 8,800 five years ago.

"The State about eight to 10 years ago promised to takeover Medicaid administration from the local DSS districts, which still hasn’t occurred," Gsell said. "It now appears easier to pick a 'fall guy' – NYS counties – for the ongoing quagmire since 1966 that -- unlike in 48 of the other U.S. states -- New York State has bought into lock, stock, and barrel. I have yet to be told that we NYS Counties are making up our own benefit levels for this entitlement, enrolling masses of ineligible recipients, promoting fraud, waste, and abuse and essentially not doing our jobs. That is a figment of someone’s imagination in Albany. It is a lie and convenient dodge for a problem of the State government’s own making."

Photo: File photo of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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January 20, 2020 - 7:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Firing Pin, bergen, news, notify.

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Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, didn't travel to Virginia this weekend to become a bit of a celebrity.

He just wanted to support fellow gun owners in a state facing potential gun laws as restrictive, or perhaps more so, than what has already been imposed on New Yorkers.

"In this day and age, we could never stand up against the government with all of their drones and tanks but this shows where we came from," Lewis said tonight during his drive back from Virginia.  "The government is us. The government is of the people and by the people and for the people and it's good to remind them of that, that there is a Second Amendment, which is a kind of check and balance."

Lewis brought with him his Barrett M82A1 rifle, a .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle, which is nearly five-feet long and weighs 29.7 pounds.

"I guess it's a certain eye-catching firearm and that was kind of the point," Lewis said. "If we're going to go, let's bring something we have and I know every time I bring it out to the shop, everybody drops what they're doing.  

"I didn't think it would be quite as popular as it was," Lewis added. "I thought I'd get some thumbs up and some high-fives but it got crazy at times."

As soon as one person asked to take a picture of Lewis, 10 more would join in, he said.

He's been featured in the Washington Post, New York Post, and the Virginia Mercury

Lewis said he made the trip for two reasons: One is gun owners in Virginia are facing a new restrictive gun law that appears to have support of the Virginia Legislature (Virginia is apparently dealing with the same kind of urban domination of rural counties that has beset New York) and there is also a law that would all but ban indoor ranges.

Lewis, of course, operates an indoor range.  

He said it's his understanding the law would either say indoor ranges need to be government-owned or that 90 percent of the customers would need to work for a government agency, such as police departments or the military, which, Lewis fears, would lead to range owners collecting data on users of their facilities that would then become data accessible by the government.

The rally was attended by an estimated 22,000 gun rights advocates and news reports indicate it was peaceful and without incident.

Lewis said he and his wife Anna-Marie were among the last to leave. As they were heading out of town, they listened to a public radio station that apparently has offices overlooking the public space where the rally was held. He said the announcers noted that the protest area was the cleanest they had ever seen it following a rally.

"We kind of took a Boy Scout attitude of 'leave no trace,' " Lewis said. "I don't know if that came from the organizers, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, or people just took it upon themselves but at the end, it was police-trash time and everybody picked up their garbage."

Photo: By Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury. Used with the permission of the Virginia Mercury.

January 20, 2020 - 12:40pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Jeanette Lynn Higgins, 43, of Ganson Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of  a child. She was arrested at 8:20 p.m. on Jan. 3 on Evans Street in Batavia after she allegedly encouraged a juvenile to engage in a physical altercation. Higgins was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court for arraignment on Jan. 21. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Cristal G. Nesbitt, 39, of Vine Street, Batavia, is charged with: driving while intoxicated with a BAC of .08 percent or more; DWI -- common law; and failure to keep right. Nesbitt was arrested at 12:41 p.m. Nov. 27 on Chase Park in Batavia after being involved in a motor-vehicle accident. She was processed and is due for arraignment in Batavia City Court on Jan. 29. The was was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Connor Borchert.

January 19, 2020 - 10:08am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, news, Le Roy, notify.

Photo courtesy of reader Mary Margaret Ripley.

A fullly involved structure fire is reported in Le Roy at 8707 Lake Street Road. It has gone to a second alarm. Le Roy fire is responding and mutual aid is dispatched from the City of Batavia, Bergen, Stafford, Pavilion and Mumford.

UPDATE 10:14 a.m.: The location is between West Bergen and Randall roads. Town of Batavia Fire Department is asked to fill in at Le Roy's fire hall.

UPDATE 10:28 a.m.: Reader Mary Margaret Ripley says in a text message to The Batavian: "A truck blew up and the back of the building caught (fire), too." The location is Weldon Service & Repair shop.

UPDATE 10:36 a.m.: The fire is out. Overhaul is underway.

UPDATE: Video posted. Chief Tom Wood said the fire appeared to start with the pickup truck parked outside the building. The cause is still under investigation. The fire spread into the building but a quick response by volunteer firefighters helped contain the fire to less than a quarter of the structure. (No interview with Chief Wood in the video due to camera operator error).

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January 17, 2020 - 6:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

For Rep. Chris Collins sobbed in court, the Washington Post reports, while his attorneys argued for leniency, before a Federal judge sentenced Collins to 26 months in prison for engaging in insider trading and lying to the FBI.

“I have no excuse," Collins said sobbing. "I tarnished my reputation."

The prosecution sought a sentence of 46 to 57 months in a Federal penitentiary.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Nicholas argued that Collins deserved prison time because he organized the conspiracy among his family members to help them avoid losing money on the stock, lied to federal agents about it and then announced he would seek re-election to his seat. His attorneys pointed to Collins’ record of public service and said the crime was an isolated decision made in the heat of the moment.

The Post reports: “I cannot face my constituents. What I have done has marked me for life," Collins said.

The NY-27 has been without representation in Washington since Collins resigned in September, after winning re-election while proclaiming his innocence and vowing to "clear my name."

There will likely be a special election to fill the seat April 29, a little more than two months before the scheduled 2020 primary for the office.

January 16, 2020 - 9:50pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in news, crime, batavia, notify.
malikayla2018.jpg
         Malik Ayala

After a closed-door meeting with Public Defender Jerry Ader and District Attorney Larry Friedman, Judge Charles Zambito emerged from Chambers on Thursday announcing that 27-year-old Malik Ayala was accepted into a Judicial Diversion Program that could last seven months or more.

While in the seven-month program, he will also be under the supervision of the Probation Department. Since Ayala entered drug treatment programs in Niagara County and in Genesee County this past fall, he has kept out of trouble and has been clean of drugs and alcohol and has avoided sentencing.

Ayala has already accepted a plea deal and has pled guilty to a felony burglary charge.

He was picked up on Nov. 15, 2018, in connection with a string of burglaries in Genesee County after Investigator Chris Parker with the Sheriff’s Office identified a vehicle that was wanted in connection with the burglaries.

The vehicle was being operated by TeeSean T. Ayala, 20, Malik’s brother.

After the vehicle turned into a driveway at 317 Washington Ave., a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol was thrown from the vehicle. The Sheriff’s Office says TeeSean Ayala was in possession of a stolen handgun that had a defaced serial number in the vehicle during the traffic stop.

TeeSean Ayala, 20, of Batavia, was sentenced in Genesee County Court to five years in prison and five years post-release supervision in the incident. TeeSean pled guilty to one count of criminal possession of a weapon, 2nd, which satisfies seven other residential burglary charges dating back to 2015.

Today, Malik Ayala told Judge Zambito that he was thankful to Horizon and the Court for allowing him to attend the treatment centers.

“I was a knucklehead," he said. "I was on drugs but now I am clean, living out of town and my mind is focused. I want to say I’m sorry to the community for my past.”

Judge Zambito warned Ayala that if he doesn’t toe the line he will go to prison.

“This is just the first step,” Zambito said. “I will be monitoring you in the diversion program and on probation, I can sentence you to seven years if you mess up.”

Malik Ayala was convicted on a burglary charge in 2010 after violating his probation. He served a state prison term after being sentenced to one to four years.

Friedman disagreed with the idea of the diversion program.

“Based on his history, he went to prison for burglary and graduated to residential burglary, I feel state prison is appropriate,” Friedman said.

Ader told the court that his client is eligible for the program and he has kept up with his treatments and there are no new crimes that have been committed.

“Mr. Ayala knows if he messes up he could face seven years in prison and I think that speaks volumes,” Ader said.

Temporary orders of protection were extended until Jan. 16, 2021.

Judge Zambito wished Ayala luck as he left the courtroom.

The sentencing was adjourned to Aug. 11 at 9 a.m., but the sentencing date could get pushed back again depending on what the diversion program advises at the end of seven months.

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January 16, 2020 - 5:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, news, notify.

Richard Siebert, chairman of the Genesee County Republican Party, has straightforward opinions about how he will go about deciding who to back for the GOP nod in the NY-27 special election on April 29.

Finding somebody who can self-fund is not a top priority.

He won't want to back a candidate who might turn around and run in a primary against the GOP-endorsed candidate in June.

He was all in for Steve Hawley until Hawley this afternoon withdrew his name from consideration.

"Steve Hawley is my man," Siebert said last night. "Unless Steve tells me he's no longer interested, I'm backing Steve."

Well, Steve is no longer interested, and that leaves six or seven other potential candidates, including three -- Sen. Rob Ortt, Sen. Chris Jacobs, and Darien resident Beth Parlato -- who have been campaigning the past several months as if they expect a primary rather than a special election. 

It's expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will call for a special election next month and set the date for April 28, the same day there will be a New York primary for the Democratic presidential primary.

The special election is necessary because Chris Collins, who will be sentenced tomorrow on his insider trading conviction, resigned in September.

In special elections, the chairs of the counties for the political parties select a candidate to represent the party.  

Siebert said he expects the process will go much as it did in 2018, after Collins was arrested by the FBI, and initially said he didn't plan to run for re-election. 

When it looked like there would be a special election previously, the eight county chairs in the NY-27 District met at least twice, interviewed candidates and deliberated their choices. Before a decision was reached, Collins changed his mind about not running and vowed that he would clear his name.

The process gives county chairs weighted votes, which in the past has meant that Erie County and Niagara County chairs essentially picked the candidate and everybody else fell in line. 

Erie County has favored candidates who can self-fund their campaigns. Siebert said he's not in favor of taking that same approach again.

"I have to be candid," Siebert said. "I speak the way I feel. Several of the last candidates we've had -- Jane Corwin, Chris Lee, and Chris Collins -- have self-funded. Our track record with that is not very good so I'm not looking for a self-funded candidate. They're out there, but obviously we know some are wealthy and some are not. That's not my criteria. I'm not looking at 'who can afford it.' I'm not looking for somebody who can afford to win. I'm looking for somebody who is qualified to win."

Considering that Ortt, Jacobs, and Parlato have all been raising funds, gathering endorsements, and sending out press releases, it might appear that any of them might still run in a June primary even if they don't get the GOP endorsement for the April special election.

Siebert said he expects an expression of party loyalty before the special election endorsement is issued.

"The first thing I always ask any candidate, and I'm not secret about this, is 'will you support the candidate that we nominate?' " Siebert said. "I need to hear them say, number one, they're not going to primary the nominee regardless. In my count, I have a strong and deep feeling about this, that if you're not part of our system (I'm not going to back you).

"I don't like primaries. That is my personal feeling and I would have a hard time supporting anybody who would primary the nominee."

We've attempted to get a comment from Ortt, Jacobs, and Parlato and have yet to receive a response. (Ortt did respond just before publication but his response was ambiguous. We're holding it for a possible follow-up story.)

"Everybody has the opportunity to run, whoever doesn't get it, can run in the primary," Siebert said. "That's your choice and it's there. That's the way it is. I respect that. But as chairman, I don't like primaries. I like to be unified. Now, that's their right. That's their constitutional right but that's the way I feel, so that is how we've done things in Genesee County."

With the special election being held on the same day as the Democratic presidential primary, some political observers speculate that if there is high Democratic turnout, it might favor the Democratic candidate in the NY-27 -- most likely, Nate McMurray, who narrowly lost in 2018 to Chris Collins. Siebert isn't buying it. He doesn't think the chairs need to find a moderate Republican who will distance him or herself from President Donald Trump.

"This is a Trump county right here," Siebert said. "He got 72 percent of the vote in the last election. Anyone who is going to run for an office in my county who is not a Trump supporter, well, they're not going to do well. It is what it is. He did get 72 percent of the vote. This is a very conservative county. We support the Second Amendment. I can tell you, if you're not a Trump supporter in my county, you're not going to do well."

Siebert, who is also the Republican elections commissioner, and Lorie Longhany, Democratic commissioner, met with the Ways and Means Committee yesterday to get authorization to lease 10 new ballot readers at a cost of $19,000 a year. The new readers are easier to use and faster but the election equipment upgrade needs to be expedited because of the probable special election on the same day as a presidential primary. 

The funds for the machines in the first year will come from grant money already received by the county.  The multi-year lease will also put the county on a replacement schedule for ballot readers that will help the Elections Commission keep technology current and machines reliable.

As for who might represent the GOP in April, Siebert offered no predictions on who the chairs might support but he did say he's not happy the chairs have to make the selection.

"I don't like this whole process, to be honest with you, because we're in a situation now where eight Republican chairmen have to get together and tell our voting public who we want them to vote for, who's going to be on the ballot on April 28," Siebert said. "You get the feeling it is eight men in a room  -- there are women involved, too -- with you always being criticized for smoking cigars or whatever but it is the eight of us telling the public who's going to be the candidate.

"I don't like that at all. But the law is the law. We have no choice because of the election law that we have to do it this way."

January 14, 2020 - 9:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, alexander, notify.
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2018 mugshot of Cleveland Johnson

The driver of a rented Chrysler 300 that slammed sideways into a tree in the Village of Alexander yesterday was apparently a member of a nationwide criminal enterprise known as the "Felony Lane Gang."

The gang members, often recognizable by their gold teeth, are known to smash into parked vehicles and then use stolen debit cards to obtain cash from bank accounts. When going to a bank, they use the lane furthest from the bank building, which makes it harder for security cameras to pick up identifying information. That lane is known as the "Felony Lane," hence the gang's name. 

Cleveland D. Johnson, 22, of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The vehicle he was driving was stopped for a traffic violation in the Village of Warsaw but Johnson hit the gas after the police officer exited the patrol car and headed west on Route 20. At Varysburg, he turned north and an Attica PD patrol spotted the vehicle on Route 98 and attempted to pursue but soon broke off the pursuit because of the high rate of speed of the white Chrysler. Johnson lost control of the sedan as he entered the village and the car wrapped around a large tree in front of a residence on Main Road.

Johnson, according to Chief Deputy Brian Frieday, did have gold teeth.

One of Johnson's passengers, Clyde A. Frazier, 24, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was seriously injured in the crash and remains in guarded condition (meaning he is in the intensive care unit) at Strong Memorial Hospital. A social media profile for a Clyde Frazier in Ft. Lauderdale shows multiple pictures of a young man with gold teeth.

The other passenger in the vehicle, Desarae N. Steriotis, 33, of Philadelphia, was taken by Mercy Flight to ECMC. Frieday said as of today, her injuries are no longer considered life threatening.

Frieday said investigators are still developing information about the suspects and didn't have anything to add about their activities in the area.

Johnson was arrested in Greenburgh, N.Y., in January 2018, along with three other individuals, who were all accused of being part of the "Felony Lane Gang." One of the other suspects, Tyrone Parker, bared his gold teeth for his mugshot.

The four people were suspected of taking part in a crime spree throughout New England and Upstate New York. At the time of their arrest, they were reportedly found in possession stolen checks, dozens of stolen credit and debit cards, and 25 stolen licenses from several different states.

In July, Johnson was arrested in Watervliet, along with two other suspects, charged with criminal possession of a stolen substance, a felony, and criminal impersonation, a misdemeanor.

The Felony Lane Gang is reportedly based in the Ft. Lauderdale area but operates nationally. There have been crimes and arrests reported in nearly every one of the lower 48 states.

Our news partner, 13WHAM reports that Frazier has a criminal record in Florida.

January 14, 2020 - 12:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Alabama, Le Roy, pembroke.

Renee Suzanne Symonds, 51, of Cedar Cove Trail, Rochester, is charged with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment. Symonds was arrested after an investigation at Batavia Downs Casino & Hotel on Park Road in Batavia. She allegedly attacked two security guards at 4:58 p.m. on Jan. 13 after refusing to leave the property. She is due in Batavia Town Court at 1 p.m. on Jan. 30. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien, assisted by Deputy David Moore.

Marissa Nicole Lehto, 30, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with grand larceny. She was arrested and is due to answer the charge today (Jan. 14) in Batavia City Court. She is accused of taking a wallet containing a credit card from a purse that did not belong to her at 6:10 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2019, on Main Street in Batavia. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Peter Flanagan.

David James Leroy, 27, of Gabbey Road, Pembroke, is charged with second-degree harassment. At 6:17 p.m. on Jan. 12 he was arrested on West Main Street Road in Batavia. Leroy allegedly responded to another person's place of employment in the Town of Batavia after being told to cease contact with that person. He was released on an appearance ticket for Jan. 16 in Town of Batavia Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy David Moore.

John Frederick Macintyre, 67, of Linwood Road, Le Roy, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; speed not reasonable and prudent; failure to keep right; and DWI with a BAC of .08 percent or more. He was arrested at 8:13 p.m. on Linwood Road in Le Roy after the investigation of a property damage accident. Macintyre was issued traffic tickets and is due in Le Roy Town Court on Feb. 4. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jared Swimline, assisted by Deputy Andrew Mullen.

Michael Todd Swiatowy, 48, of Hartshorn Road, Batavia, is charged with driving while intoxicated and refusal to take a breath test. Following an investigation at the scene of a domestic incident, Swiatowy was arrested and arraigned in Batavia City Court. He is due to return to court on Feb. 18. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Brock Cummins, assisted by Deputy James Stack.

Michael Andrew Coleman, 44, of Post Avenue, Rochester, is charged with third-degree bail jumping and aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree. At 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 11, Coleman was turned over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office by Monroe County County deputies. He was arrested for having an outstanding arrest and bench warrant out of Town of Alabama Court, where he was arraigned then released on his own recognizance. Coleman is due there again on Jan. 15. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jordan Alejandro.

January 14, 2020 - 11:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, notify, chris collins, NY-27.

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The man who proclaimed his innocence for months, even while running for re-election to Congress, only to eventually plead guilty to insider trading charges, should spend up to five years in prison, according to his prosecutors.

The Washington Post reports that Manhatten U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman is asking a judge to send Chris Collins, now residing in Florida, to federal prison for an extended sentence "to promote respect for the law" and "to provide just punishment."

Collins will be sentenced on Friday.

The former NY-27 representative got into trouble after regulators realized his son Cameron Collins dumped more than $700,000 in stock in an Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, just before news went public of a failed clinical trial.

Cameron's now-former future father-in-law also engaged in a sell-off of the stock at the same time.

An investigation by the FBI revealed that Chris Collins, the first congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president, called Cameron from the White House lawn minutes after receiving news of the failed trial from the company CEO. Chris Collins was one of the company's largest shareholders and served on the board of directors.

Collins later lied to the FBI about his involvement in the insider trading scheme.

After campaigning with a promise that he would be fully exonerated, and refusing public appearances and interview requests throughout much of the 27th District, the multimillionaire pled guilty in Federal Court in September.

Both Cameron and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's one-time fiancée, have also entered guilty pleas.

In a prior court filing, attorneys for Chris Collins pleaded for leniency from the judge, stating Collins “has paid a heavy price for his crimes. He is, and will forever be, tortured with the knowledge that his actions have caused his son, to whom he always aspired to be a role model, to live with the stain of a felony conviction, and perhaps serve time in prison."

Berman doesn't think Collins has had paid a sufficient price for his crimes.

“As a member of Congress at the time that he committed the offenses in this case … Collins was better situated than almost anyone else to understand the societal importance of following the law,” the prosecutor said his filing. "Collins came to embody the cynical idea that those in power who make the laws are not required to follow them.”

Photo: File photo of Chris Collins and his wife, Mary Sue, at an August 2018 press conference in Buffalo where Collins proclaimed his innocence following his arrest in New York City and then refused to take questions from reporters.

January 14, 2020 - 12:41am
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, news, notify, accident, video.
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The driver of a 2019 Chrysler 300 who died after the driver's side of the car slammed into a tree at 10616 Main Road, Alexander, at 4:21 p.m. has been identified as Cleveland D. Johnson, 22, of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.

Johnson fled from police following a traffic stop by Warsaw PD in the Village of Warsaw. The officer lost sight of the vehicle before it reached Varysburg.  At Varysburg, witnesses informed the officer that the car had headed north on Route 98.

An Attica PD officer spotted the car on Route 98 but cut off the pursuit because of the vehicle's high rate of speed. The white sedan proceeded north into the Village of Alexander where the driver lost control of the car and it slid sideways into the tree.

Two occupants in the car suffered serious physical injuries. They are Clyde A. Frazier, 24, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Desarae N. Steriotis, 33, of Philadelphia. Fraizer was transported by Mercy Flight to Strong and Steriotis was transported to ECMC by Mercy Flight.

The accident remains under investigation and investigators have yet to determine why Johnson fled from police.

Assisting at the scene were the Alexander Volunteer Fire Department, Attica Fire Department, Bethany Fire Department, Mercy EMS, Wyoming County Sheriff's Office, Attica PD, and State Police.  

We work hard to bring you the news. You can support that effort by clicking the support button below.

January 13, 2020 - 4:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in alexander, news, accident, notify.

A car has reportedly hit a utility pole in the area of 10612 Main Road, Alexander.

Multiple injuries reported. 

Extrication required.

Crash management requested to the scene.

Alexander fire and ambulance, along with Mercy EMS and a Bethany ambulance requested to the scene.

UPDATE(S) (By Billie) 4:50 p.m.: The vehicle is a white sedan that is wrapped around a tree -- not a utility pole -- on the driver's side. Mercy Flight #8 just landed at the crash site. National Grid is informed about a nearby damaged pole. Town of Batavia fire is on standby.

UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: The vehicle was northbound in Wyoming County when Genesee County law enforcement was notified about a pursuit by officers in Wyoming County for reasons not announced by dispatchers. A few moments later, this crash occurred.

UPDATE 5:18 p.m.: Mercy Flight is airborne en route to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester with one patient.

UPDATE 5:32 p.m.: A source at the scene says three people were in the vehicle that crashed. One of them died. Two others were transported to hospitals with serious physical injuries.

UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: The chase of the vehicle was started by Warsaw Police Department for unknown reasons. According to Village of Attica Police Chief Dean Hendershott, the chase was called off by Warsaw after their officer lost sight of the vehicle. Bystanders in Varysburg flagged down a law enforcement officer to report the vehicle being pursued was heading north on Route 98, Hendershott said. South of the Village of Attica, an Attica police officer spotted the sedan and pulled in behind it, prompting the driver to speed away. A pursuit ensued and the renegade car passed other vehicles and ran red lights. The pursuing Attica officer lost sight of the car; then it was spotted wrapped around the tree in Alexander.

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: Both surviving patients sustained life-threatening injuries and a second Mercy Flight helicopter was dispatched and it took a female patient to Erie County Medical Center. The vehicle was a rental, said Genesee County Sheriff's Sgt. Andrew Hale, and authorities do not yet know who the occupants were or where they came from.

UPDATE 6:15 p.m.: The chase began in the Village of Warsaw after police stopped the car for a traffic violation. Genesee County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Saile said the driver lost control of the vehicle well before striking the tree, based on the very long skid marks on the roadway in Alexander.

Photo submitted by reader Christopher Desautels.

January 13, 2020 - 10:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in District Attorney's Office, kevin finnell, news, notify.

Press release from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman:

"I am very pleased to announce that longtime Assistant District Attorney Kevin T. Finnell is being promoted to the position of First Assistant District Attorney. Mr. Finnell is a highly experienced prosecuting attorney, having served more than 29 years with this office. ADA Finnell is a very knowledgeable, motivated public servant, who consistently exercises appropriate judgment in the prosecution of criminal cases.

"When longtime Bergen Town Justice Donald R. Kunego retired, his notice of retirement made mention of 'the outstanding professionalism of ADA Kevin Finnell.'

"In 2018 ADA Finnell received a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition 'for the highest level of professional assistance he has provided to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.' The Certificate stated that his 'professional skills and consistent high performance has been a major contributor to the overall effectiveness of the Sheriff's Office and the efforts of the Local Drug Task Force...Kevin T. Finnell has brought great credit upon himself and his chosen career as a Prosecutor.'

"Last Spring, based on nominations from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Mr. Finnell received the statewide MADD Law Enforcement Recognition Award and the Kiwanis Club of Batavia Criminal Justice Award. In endorsing the MADD nomination, I referred to ADA Finnell’s enthusiasm for the job, work ethic and advocacy skills.

"I am confident that Kevin Finnell will do a great job in his new role and that he is fully capable of running this office in my absence."

Previously: First District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini resigns suddenly

January 12, 2020 - 10:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news, notify.

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There are more than two dozen power outages reported in Genesee County following a night of strong winds that brought down trees and power lines and kept local fire crews responding to sparking and arcing lines throughout the night.

The largest outage is in the South Byron, Byron, and a bit into the Bergen area of the county with more than 800 National Grid customers without power. A work crew has just been assigned to that outage and power restoration is expected by 6 p.m.

There are six outages in the City of Batavia. The larges stretches along Ellicott Street from Jackson Street to Cedar Street and as far south as Jackson Primary School and north to about Florence Avenue. There are 547 customers without power in that outage. A crew has been assigned and power restoration is expected by 6 p.m.

There's an outage affecting 108 customers in the Naramore Drive area. A crew has not yet been assigned but power restoration expected by 6 p.m.

There are three other outages in the city affecting five customers are less.

There is an outage in the Town of Pembroke, west of Indian Falls, with 59 customers without power. No crew has been assigned. Power restoration is expected before 6 p.m.

There are two outages in Alabama. One affecting 16 customers the other 20. A crew has not been assigned. Power should be restored by 6 p.m.

On either side of Route 20 in Alexander and Bethany, along West Bethany Road and Molasses Hill Road, 58 customers are without power. No crew has been assigned and power restoration is expected by 6 p.m.

Residents in the area of Godfrey's pond, 42 customers, are without power. No crew assigned. Restoration by 6 p.m.

There's an area with 114 customers just west of Route 237 and mostly north of North Byron Road that is without power. No crew assigned. Restoration expected by 6 p.m.

Photos: Top three photos by Philip Casper of a tree down on Ellicott Avenue.

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Below, reader-submitted photos. If you have weather-related photos to submit, email them to [email protected] or text (585) 260-6970.

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