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June 13, 2019 - 5:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
spraguechristophermug2019.jpg
Christopher Sprague

Judge Charles Zambito was in no mood today to give a Batavia man with prior burglary convictions and an admission to a string of burglaries in the City of Batavia late last year much of a break on his sentence in County Court.

Christopher Tyler Sprague, 25, will serve at least three and a half years in state prison and could serve as much as seven, under the terms of his sentence today.

Zambito could have given Sprague up to 15 years in prison but chose not to make his sentences consecutive on his conviction on two counts of third-degree burglary.

Sprague was arrested in January, accused of burglarizing several businesses in Batavia in December.

He also served a stint in state prison on a burglary conviction in 2012 and was arrested on burglary charges in 2016 and served a term in prison on a felony criminal mischief conviction.

Today, Sprague vowed he was ready to turn his life around and asked for a second chance.

"If you can't show me mercy, please do it for my fiancée, my siblings, and my mother," Sprague told Zambito. "Please consider a Willard (rehabilitation) sentence so I can get home as soon as possible and help me get help and get into rehab.

"Your honor," he added, "I'm sincerely ready and willing to change, to change my life around."

Sprague said he had a job on a farm waiting for him once he's out of jail and that he intended to fully compensate his victims.

"I feel horrible for the acts I did and I take full responsibility for what I did," Sprague said.

Zambito said the defendant's criminal record left him unconvinced that he could rely on Sprague to really turn his life around.

"I look at your record and you tell me you've turned a new leaf and you're going to take care of your substance abuse problem but you've already served multiple state sentences for burglary," Zambito said.

Zambito also ordered Sprague to pay restitution, with interest, of $3,897.48, in increments of $100 a month starting 60 days after his release from prison.

June 13, 2019 - 4:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Grand Jury, crime, news, notify, batavia.
malikayla2018.jpg
       Malik Ayala

For the second time this year, the actions of a stenographer in the Grand Jury room is causing difficulties for District Attorney Lawrence Friedman in the Genesee County Courtroom.

Today, Friedman moved to have what had been a sealed indictment on burglary, trespass, and forgery charges dismissed because a stenographer spoke to grand jurors about the case while the prosecutor was out of the room.

Friedman must now have a new grand jury hear the case against Malik Ayala at a later date.

Ayala was in court today to deal with matters related to his pending case -- criminal possession of stolen property -- and he was also arraigned on these new charges from the sealed indictment.

The counts in the indictment were burglary, 2nd, criminal possession of stolen property, 3rd, and forgery.

Immediately after the charges were read, Friedman made a motion to dismiss the indictment because a court stenographer had jeopardized the integrity of the proceeding. 

Freidman said he had previously informed Public Defender Jerry Ader, who is representing Ayala, that he would move to have the indictment dismissed but with the court's permission to resubmit the case to a grand jury.

He gave Ader a choice -- to present it to the current grand jury, which is the one that heard the case the first time, or waits for a new grand jury to be empaneled.

Ader asked that the case be presented to a new grand jury.

In March, Friedman revealed during another court proceeding that a stenographer had been using an audio recording device on her machine to record grand jury proceedings.

Friedman had another appointment after Ayala's case and was not immediately available for questions, so we don't know if this is the same or a different stenographer.

Ayala was arrested in November along with his brother TeeSean Ayala after the two men were stopped in a car that had pulled into the driveway of County Manager Jay Gsell where they reportedly tried to dispose of a handgun.

During today's proceedings, Judge Charles Zambito told Ayala that he had been informed that Ayala had violated the terms of his release-under-supervision contract. He said that Ayala is accused of testing positive for marijuana and alcohol consumption May 7 and May 14, and for marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol May 28, and that he was arrested on a petit larceny charge June 7.

Zambito had the option to terminate his release under supervision but based on updated reports from Horizon the judge decided it was better to allow Ayala to continue treatment. He warned Ayala that if there are further violations, he would put Ayala in jail and impose bail.

Ayala's status could change when and if a new grand jury indictment is returned.

June 13, 2019 - 2:07pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, crime, news, notify.

The cases of three men arrested on drug charges in Batavia were heard in Genesee County Court this morning.

Jarett Locicero, of West Main Street, Batavia, (inset photo right) has been released on bail under supervision.

Locicero is charged with: criminal sale of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony; criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, a Class D violent felony; and two Class A misdemeanors -- criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th.

He was arrested in May by the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force and is accused of selling fentanyl to a task force agent; and he was allegedly found in possession of an illegal knife, a crack cocaine smoking device and suboxone.

Darius AKA "D" L. Jones (inset photo left) was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty to charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony; and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, a Class A misdemeanor.

On Feb. 22, the 27-year-old resident of Dewey Avenue, Rochester, was reportedly found in possession of a quantity of fentanyl, crack cocaine and cash at a residence on Hutchins Street, Batavia.

Jones was arrested by the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force and his bail was set at $50,000 bail, which Judge Charles Zambito continued today.

Marquise Lee, of Hobart Street, Rochester, (bottom right inset photo) is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony; and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, a Class B misdemeanor.

At his arraignment, his attorney Marty Anderson said his client pleads not guilty.

On March 27, probation officers allegedly found 56 bags of crack cocaine at a house on Liberty Street, Batavia. Lee was one of five individuals arrested as a result of the investigation.

Lee’s $40,000 bail bond was also continued by Judge Zambito.

June 12, 2019 - 6:25pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Le Roy, news, notify, education, special education.

When Le Roy Board of Education members were warned that special education students were not making adequate progress, Denise Duthe asked, “When you look at where we are putting our money and where we are focusing our time, what are we doing? What do we need to do?”

Consultant Bonnie Whitney, Ph.D., responded, “Before you start more programs, I think we need teachers to be able to teach kids to think … There needs to be more intervention with just helping the students understand themselves.”

The special education program consultant update was a main focus at the Tuesday board meeting.

Whitney said that she and Le Roy special education faculty members have developed learning models for teachers of underperforming students with special needs.

“One of the observations that was very clear is our students were being helped to complete tasks. That’s not learning,” she said. “If the students cannot walk away and say, ‘I know how I did this,’ they haven’t learned.”

In addition to concerns about the lack of student progress in special education classrooms, Whitney spoke about compliance issues with New York State Department of Education requirements.

Due to poor data maintenance in past years, the district was only able to recover full state funding for special education programs from 2016 to 2019. Whitney said that Chelsea Eaton, the new director of special education and student services, will ensure future data collection is done correctly.

Whitney said, “It’s a mistake that we couldn’t recover completely, but we can move forward. Those are not easy processes to do.”

Whitney recommended new lesson plan templates for special education teachers to remedy student performance issues. The templates explain how instructors can better understand developmental disabilities, identify factors that disrupt learning, and set goals for students with special needs.

Whitney said special education teachers have been very responsive to improvements in compliance and program effectiveness.

“We really looked at whether the teachers are instructing the students to gain information to help them either cope with their disability, overcome their disability, but certainly not succumb to their disability,” Whitney said.

In other action, the Board:

— Recognized the varsity baseball and track and field teams for their athletic and sportsmanship achievements during the spring sports season.

— Discussed the breakfast and snack packages that will be provided for elementary Summer Academy students. A new feature of this summer learning program is that students are allowed more flexibility in attendance as they participate in the academy.

— Developed a new District-wide School Safety Plan, which is open for public comment until June 23.

June 12, 2019 - 12:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

In the case of the People v. Antwan Odom, the District Attorney wants the defense attorney to shut up -- at least when it comes talking to reporters -- and the defense attorney wants the DA disqualified from the case.

In other words, the case of the People v. Antwan Odom has been reduced to two attorneys squabbling about what happens outside the courtroom.

The attorney vs. attorney dispute dates back to May 3 when Odom's attorney Frank Housh told reporters that he would defend his client by trying to show jurors that the fellow student Odom allegedly stabbed on Ross Street on Aug. 4.

In court on May 3, Housh said he intended to file a motion to get evidence introduced, in order to mount a self-defense claim, that impeached the character of Ray Leach, the local football star Odom allegedly cut with a knife multiple times, so outside of court, reporters asked him to clarify his motion.

"The fact that Ray Leach is known in the community to be a violent person, to be a confrontational person, who confronted (Odom) -- by the prosecution's own admission -- he was the first aggressor," Housh said outside of court on May 3. "He went to my client's house and called him out and beat him into unconsciousness.

"So, under those circumstances, to say, when the prosecution is admitting that he was the first aggressor, to say that his history of violence and intimidation is irrelevant is simply absurd. We should be able to bring that up because it goes to the circumstance of his justification."

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman included the quote in a May 8 filing with the court requesting a gag order on both attorneys in the case.

In court today, Housh also revealed that Friedman filed a grievance against Housh with the state courts for "unprofessional conduct."

"Now I feel there is a parallel prosecution by the elected District Attorney of me and my client," Housh said. 

He said that raises a sufficient conflict of interest that Friedman should be disqualified from continuing as the prosecutor on the case.

That motion was continued until Odom's next court appearance on July 2.

Friedman, according to court discussions today, filed a one-sentence objection to the motion for disqualification.

Today, Friedman complained to Judge Charles Zambito that Housh was trying to get him disqualified from the case for following through on his ethical obligation to file a grievance over what he saw as unprofessional conduct.

Friedman said that as far as he knows nobody is prosecuting Housh and that he is not prosecuting Housh by following his "ethical obligation to report ethical misconduct."

"He says I'm seeking his disbarment," Friedman said. "I'm not seeking his disbarment. I followed through on the ethical obligation I have. All I wish to do is make sure he is able to remain professional and does nothing to violate professional conduct."

In his filing with the court, Friedman asserted that Housh's statements about Leach violated the rules of professional conduct, specifically the rule that prohibits attorneys from making statements could prejudice a jury, including statements relating to the character or credibility of a witness.

In the Order to Show Cause, Zambito ordered Housh and Friedman to show why they shouldn't be barred from "making statements to the media regarding anything involving this case."

The Batavian has filed a memo with Zambito objecting to the order. While judges in criminal cases can restrict what attorneys can say to the media, such orders, according to prior case law, can't be overly broad; can't apply to parties other than the attorneys in the case; and should consider how much time before the trial the statements are made.

In addition, both attorneys can use the jury selection process to identify potential jurors who should be disqualified because media exposure has tainted their view of the case. 

Gag orders can act, courts have found, as a form of prior restraint (the government censoring speech before the speech is made), which violates the First Amendment. 

While cases such as Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada have given courts leeway to restrict speech by attorneys because of their special access to information, in order to issue a gag order, courts have ruled that: a judge must make specific findings; consider less drastic alternatives; and narrowly tailor the order to address identified harm.

(For support of statements about gag orders in this story, see this brief filed by attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in another criminal case).

Courts have repeatedly found that a free press is essential to ensure fair trials, as in the 1965 case, Sheppard v. Maxwell.

"A responsible press has always been regarded as the handmaiden of effective judicial administration, especially in the criminal field," the Supreme Court said in its ruling. "The press does not simply publish information about trials, but guards against the miscarriage of justice by subjecting the police, prosecutors, and judicial processes to extensive public scrutiny.’’

In CBS Inc. vs. Young, a case that vacated a gag order, the court found that the newsgathering rights of a free press extend beyond the courtroom to include access to sources and court documents.

Asked to comment on the gag order by Zambito, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, Sarah Matthews, provided the following statement:

Although courts may restrict what attorneys can say about a case outside the courtroom, it raises First Amendment concerns when courts issue broad gag orders on attorneys that go beyond what the ethics rules require and actually bar any discussion of a case.

Meanwhile, Housh has shown he's fearful of even being seen nodding in the direction of a member of the press since Zambito issued the Order to Show Cause.

A few days after the order was delivered, a reporter ran into Housh at a local restaurant and Housh made it clear he didn't want to be seen talking to the reporter, and today when that reporter entered the courtroom and gave Housh a friendly wave, Housh shook his head as if to say, "don't even wave at me."

June 11, 2019 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, Iraq War, news, notify, video, Medal of Honor.
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Below, selected quotes. For the fuller context of each quote, watch the videos.

Thank you to Western and New York for love and support
David Bellavia opened the press conference acknowledging all of the Western New Yorkers who have contacted him over the past 72 hours and then discussed how the men who served in Vietnam didn't benefit from a warm homecoming, and that many veterans do not get the recognition they deserve.

"I just wish that more Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans, everyone guys at V.A. hospitals. can feel half the love that Western York has given to me, and most importantly. the Gold Star families in Western New York and Rochester. These men and women have given up their sons and daughters and there's really, it's not just Memorial Day, it isn't one day a year for these families; it's every single day. And we still live with that and we still think about them. And you know I think about them, too."

The benefits of military enlistment
"If there's anything that can come out of this, hopefully, young people in Western New York will we'll see their country as more worthy than anything else in their life. We are a very special institution, the United States Army, and I encourage as many people to look at that as an opportunity to better themselves but more importantly better their communities and their country."

The call from the president
Bellavia said he was told in August that he would be receiving a call from a top official in the Department of Defense, though he didn't know why. When the call was repeatedly delayed, he admitted to some frustration

"I really didn't know who that could have been. It could've been Secretary of the Army. It could've been Secretary of Defense. But that senior member of the DoD was very difficult to get on the phone. So no offense to Secretary of the Army; I'm sure he's a busy person. But he can't be that busy because there was a very difficult time to get that individual to allocate time. I had no idea that the senior member of the DoD, he was the senior member of the DoD, being the commander in chief.

"It was pretty humbling. It was pretty life altering.

"I lost my dad a year ago and yesterday would've been his 75th birthday. It was pretty crazy that the White House announcement came on his birthday, but my dad was my hero. I loved him. I spent every day talking to him. When I deployed my dad would, he would type up play-by-play of the Buffalo Bills games as if I had no access to get scores in the Army. He would take the time to write me a six-page letter single-spaced (letters) on every play. I would read these no matter where I was, Kosovo, Germany, or Iraq and we just talked about the Bills no matter how bad the day was, it was about the Bills.

"My dad would always tell me something and I always thought he was just uncool because he's my dad but he'd always say, 'way to go.' He'd say, 'way to go, man.' That's what my dad would say. No one else has ever said that to me in my life because it's not something you would expect anyone to say. But as the whole conversation with the president he's going on, I'm not even listening. I'm just kind of...but at the end of it, he said. 'Good job. David. Way to go, man.' That's what the president said and I haven't heard anyone say that to me but my father and it just brought me right back down to Earth."

On being an Iraq War veteran
Bellavia acknowledged that the Iraq War is a controversial war and that many people believe the United States entered the war because of faulty intelligence.

"Listen, you know I'm not going to pretend to write -- the narrative the Iraq war as 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. And, you know, there's a whole lot of men and women who -- Yeah, everything's changed. I have to represent those people because that's what we have to do.

"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. 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."

Thoughts on the battle that led to the Medal of Honor
"When you go through a graveyard and you see someone born and died on the same day, you know, I always see that on a tombstone and think, you know, that's got to be horrible and I just imagined how someone could explain to my son why I chose to do this. I wanted someone to be able to articulate to my kid that it's not that I don't love you, it's that I love these guys, too. We're in this together and that's why it's so important to me to tell as many Gold Star families that if the roles were reversed their sons would be talking to my mom, and their sons would be talking to my kids, and their sons would be saying, 'don't forget what your son did.' "

On veterans and being a veteran
"I happen to believe that veterans make the best neighbors you can have. I think we make great employees. I think we make great teachers. I think we make great friends. 

"I'm forever grateful to the United States Army they gave me purpose and direction they gave my life meaning and value. I'm a better human being because of my service. And I think most of the people that I've served with can all tell you the same thing. And I encourage any man or woman that wants to become an individual in their community to serve the United States military."

On how he's changed since Fallujah; veterans are anti-war (from the interview)
"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. ... 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.'

"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 son and daughters 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."

We also asked about his political future and he suggested he will not be a candidate for Congress in 2020. He said he believes the Army will keep him busy for the next 18 months to two years with Medal of Honor appearances.

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June 11, 2019 - 5:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Cassidy Jane Hackett, 21, of Holland Avenue, Batavia, is charged with fourth-degree attempted grand larceny. It is alleged that at 1:23 p.m. on May 9 that Hackett attempted to withdraw $1,500 from a person's bank account. She was arraigned, released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia Town Court on June 24. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth.

Jessica Nicole Weiss, 28, of West Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and endangering the welfare of a child. Weiss was arrested after allegedly stealing merchandise from Walmart at 2:29 p.m. on June 10 while her 8-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter were with her. She was issued an appearance ticket for June 27 in Batavia Town Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Clor.

June 11, 2019 - 4:29pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, GCC, news, education, Excelsior Scholarship, notify.

Genesee Community College President James Sunser made clear the college’s frustration with the New York State Excelsior Scholarship.

Last Wednesday, the Ways & Means Committee was surprised when Sunser told them, “The Excelsior Scholarship did not help us … It’s a very stringent program. If students don’t make the grade, they lose it forever.”

Sunser spoke about the strings attached to the award. Excelsior recipients must meet minimum grade requirements and plan to reside and work in-state for the length of time they received the scholarship. Otherwise, their awards revert to costly loans.

“The way that the Excelsior program works is that when you hit the income threshold, you get that tuition paid,” Sunser explained.

In other words, students with families earning gross incomes of $125,000 or less can receive full tuition to SUNY two- or four-year colleges.

According to Sunser, “When you tell a family that’s making $125,000 that you can go to any of these institutions that’ll accept you, then that becomes a problem” because students tend to choose four-year schools rather than local community colleges.

The declining population and smaller graduating high school classes in Upstate New York have also reduced GCC enrollment, therefore revenue. Between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 alone, the undergraduate enrollment at GCC dropped from 5,900 to 5,530 students.

These numbers beg the question of whether the Excelsior Scholarship actually brings in more students to enjoy county and college investments. GCC leaders say the answer is no.

The lower enrollment factored into the 2019–20 GCC annual budget, which will increase slightly, .01 percent ($4,000) to approximately $40.2 million.

This year, the college is seeking additional local support, which has remained flat since 2015-16:

  • A $50,000 increase in annual county support to GCC;

  • A one-time $100,000 allocation for the college's Criminal Justice and Veterinary Tech surgical labs.

The Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of setting up and conducting the required public hearing on the college's budget request, at a date to be announced later.

At its next meeting at 4:30 p.m. on June 19, the two-part funding request will be discussed by the Ways & Means Committee.

Sunser said GCC will raise its full-time tuition by $100 per semester, totaling $4,350. Students should also be aware that there will be a $10 increase per credit hour for part-time student tuition, which totals $180 per credit hour.

He said he hopes the fact that GCC is one of the most affordable options among area community colleges is enough to counter the downfalls of the Excelsior Scholarship and draw students back to higher education in Genesee County.

June 11, 2019 - 4:13pm
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, crime, news, notify.

Daryl Leach agreed to a plea deal this afternoon in Genesee County Court after being charged with the Feb. 26 robbery of the Speedway at Oak and Main streets, Batavia.

The 38-year-old Batavia resident entered a guilty plea to robbery, 3rd, and faces two to four years in prison.

Leach was found by investigators at a location on Swamp Road after the alleged robbery and was taken into custody.

Leach will be sentenced as a second-felony offender due to previous conviction and incarceration.

Judge Charles Zambito scheduled sentencing for 9:15 a.m., July 16, in Genesee County Court.

June 10, 2019 - 4:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

John J. Saddler, 31, no address provided, is charged with disorderly conduct with obscene sexual language and gestures. It is alleged that at 10:51 a.m. on June 7 on Jerome Place in Batavia that Saddler was observed outside screaming sexual obscenities and making sexual gestures toward the public. He was arrested and released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on June 11. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Ivison, assisted by Peter Post. While officers were attempting to speak with Saddler about the disturbance he allegedly caused moments earlier, he became belligerent and allegedly said he was going to shoot Batavia city police officers. He was then charged with second-degree harassment and is also due to answer that charge on June 11 in city court. Batavia Police Officer Peter Post handled the incident, assisted by Officer Miah Stevens.

Sean M. Madigan, 33, of Collegeview Drive, Batavia, is charged with forcible touching and unlawfully dealing with a child. Madigan was arrested after an investigation of an incident which occurred at a restaurant in the Home Valu Plaza on West Main Street Road in Batavia at 6 p.m. on Dec. 27. It is alleged that while he was working at the restaurant, he subjected an employee to unwanted physical contact and provided alcohol to subjects under age 21. After his arraignment in Batavia City Court, he was issued an appearance ticket and is due back in court on June 18. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Carlton L. Beardsley, 24, of West Main Street Road, Batavia, and Brittany M. Smith, no age or address provided, are charged with obstruction of governmental administration. It is alleged that at 4:08 p.m. on June 3 on West Main Street in Batavia, that they fought with police while police were investigating a reported assault that had occurred on West Main Street. They are due in Batavia City Court at a later date. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Shaneeka R. Wroten, 26, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Wroten was arrested on East Main Street in Batavia at 6:53 p.m. on June 6 after allegedly proceeding beyond the point of sale at a local store without paying for merchandise. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on June 18. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider.

Jessica M. Pfenninger, 36, is charged with petit larceny. She was arrested at 12:41 p.m. on June 6 after police investigated a shoplifting complaint at Dollar General on East Main Street in Batavia. Pfenninger was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on June 18. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post.

Crystal M. Bouter, 30, of Church Street, Medina, is charged with failure to appear in court on April 3. She was arrested on a warrant and issued an appearance ticket for June 11 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

June 10, 2019 - 10:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, notify, batavia.

Official announcement:

On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor to David G. Bellavia for conspicuous gallantry while serving as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army.

Then-Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was clearing a block of houses when his platoon became pinned down. He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle arrived to help suppress the enemy, but it could not fire directly into the house. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia reentered the house, armed with an M16, and assaulted insurgents who were firing rocket-propelled grenades. He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well. Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia returned fire, killing both attackers. He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him. Soon thereafter, he moved to the roof where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building. That remarkable day, then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia rescued an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strongpoint, and saved many members of his platoon from imminent threat.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND:

David Bellavia enlisted in the United States Army in 1999. After previously serving in Kosovo, he deployed to Iraq in 2004 with Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division. He was released from duty on August 16, 2005. David now has his own daily radio talk show for WBEN in Buffalo, New York. He continues to serve the military and veteran communities through a number of philanthropic organizations.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
THE MEDAL OF HONOR:

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while:

  • engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

June 9, 2019 - 9:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, news, notify.

19-2142lrpd22.jpeg

UPDATE 10:41 a.m.: The person has been identified and has been in contact with police. The investigation and interviews are continuing.  No further update from Le Roy PD pending further investigation.

A man is suspected of approaching young girls in the area of Wolcott Street School and asking them if they had any piercings followed by a request to photograph the piercings claiming he was going to post them on his web site.

Police are asking the public's assistance in identifying the man.

He is described a white male, late 20s to early 30s, with short/buzzed hair, wearing a gray t-shirt with an unknown logo and "size matters" on it, along with gray shorts, and gray shower shoes/slip-on sandals.

He was carrying a DSLR camera.

Police believe the man was picked up by another individual driving a red/burgundy four-door sedan.

The incident occurred around 3 p.m., Saturday.

Anyone with information on the identity of the male subject or anyone that has been approached or has had a child approached by the subject is asked to contact the Le Roy Police Department at (585) 345 6350.   

19-21422lrpd.jpeg

June 8, 2019 - 2:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Kevin Waleski, 31, an inmate in the Genesee County Jail, is charged with second-degree criminal mischief, a Class D felony. He is accused of damaging the jail inmate phone system on April 23. It is alleged that on that date he plugged the toilet in this holding cell, causing a flood. The water ended up in the basement of the jail and shorted out the phone system electronics, according to Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. He was arraigned on the charge June 3 and jailed without bail.

Jessica Nicole Weiss, 28, of Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Following a child endangerment complaint at a local motel at 4:20 p.m. on June 5, Weiss was arrested on the charges. She allegedly left her young children alone in their residence for a period of time. Weiss was issued an appearance ticket and taken to jail for prints and photos. She is due in Town of Batavia Court on July 1. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

June 7, 2019 - 6:54pm

Elizabeth Mundell was not pleased to find out her daughter will ride the school bus four times each day next year. And she let a reporter from The Batavian know it in no uncertain terms at the Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School on Thursday night.

Her sixth-grader will take the bus to Byron-Bergen Elementary, then go to the high school, back to the elementary school again, and head home after that.

Mundell worries her daughter and other sixth-grade students will be missing valuable learning due to extra transportation time.

The reason for all the busing back-and-forth? To accommodate the ongoing $20.5 million Capital Improvement Project, which began last summer and concludes next year.

The project is largely state-funded, and it aims to increase long-term school safety, energy efficiency and educational opportunities for students.

Yet in the short-term, until it is completed, sixth-graders will apparently bear the brunt of the transitions prompted by it.

Mundell, along with other parents, only recently received information about changes to sixth-graders' schedules for the upcoming academic year.

The central focus of the project is the elementary school classrooms.

For the past half century, since the summer NASA astronauts landed on the moon, they have not been updated to meet the NYS Education Department’s codes and regulations.

The sheer scope of the long-overdue renovations means they'll still be at it once school resumes in the fall.

As a result, it is the sixth-grade classrooms that will be relocated to the Jr./Sr. High School for the 2019–20 academic year.

Sixth-graders will be shuttled about between the elementary and high schools for different classes and activities at the beginning and end of each day.

Parents are learning more details about the poor conditions that necessitated the project as it moves along.

Classrooms were significantly smaller than the recommended size. According to an informational handout produced by the district, students have been receiving instruction in cramped spaces as narrow as closets and hallways.

Other district-wide improvements will include fire alarm and kitchen equipment replacements, removal of deadly asbestos, roof repair and ADA-compliant toilet facilities that will be wide enough for children's wheelchairs to access them for the first time. (The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.)

The Capital Building Project was voted down on March 31, 2017, and did not receive enough support until the next vote on Sept. 21, 2017.

But many parents now say they were poorly informed about how the capital improvements, though badly needed, would impact their children's schedule when they cast their votes.

“We’ve been given so little information about what else was explored,” Mundell said. “Personally, I never would have voted for this capital project if I had known it would mean kids spending a year being bused back and forth.”

Parents also wonder if all the time spent on the road will interfere with daily instruction in classrooms.

Mundell said sixth-grade students may not be emotionally prepared for the turbulent schedule, and changes in learning environments may be particularly difficult for students with special needs.

“I recognize this is an easy solution, it’s convenient,” Mundell said. “I just don’t feel it’s in the best interest of these kids.”

In the midst of the changes, Jr./Sr. High School Principal Pat McGee and Assistant Principal Scott Bradley said sixth-grade supervision and administrative responsibilities will remain the same. Sixth-graders will be accompanied by teacher aides throughout each transition period, and students and teachers will still follow the elementary schedule.

In reference to the temporary, separate sixth-grade wing at the high school, McGee said, “What’s nice about that is it does keep them out of the way, they’re not caught up in the middle of the junior high area. They’re away from most of the high school activities.”

Mundell said parents seek more communication and transparency from the school board, administration and families.

School administrators intend to discuss the project with parents, answer questions and receive feedback before the next Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 20.

June 7, 2019 - 6:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, notify, batavia, veterans, Medal of Honor.

davidbellavia_presser.jpg

When President Donald Trump drapes the Medal of Honor -- our nation's highest honor -- around David Bellavia on June 25, the Batavia resident will become the lone living veteran of the Iraq War to receive the honor.

Bellavia, who co-hosts a news talk show on WBEN, wasn't available for comment today. 

Bellavia is already a Silver Star recipient for his single-handed battle against a nest of insurgents during the Second Battle of Fallujah. 

He's also received the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross.

The Batavian will cover the press conference in Buffalo next week and the award ceremony at the White House on June 25 at the invitation of Bellavia.

Photo: File photo from 2011 when Bellavia announced his first congressional campaign.

June 6, 2019 - 5:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

Press release:

In response to the senseless criminal actions over the past weekend, the City offers its condolences to victims, thanks those who responded, and commits to decisive action.

“The City shares in the grief felt by the families and friends of the victims, acknowledges the selfless acts by our citizens, appreciates the tireless work of Batavia’s finest, and thanks those who aided in the quick identity and arrest of criminal suspects this past weekend. Out of respect for those who gave their lives, and work so tirelessly, we commit to decisive action that will aid community crime prevention,” said Martin Moore, City of Batavia manager.

“The City will implement effective ideas, expand on successful neighborhood actions, and continue ongoing efforts to promote and ensure the safety of our community. We will continue to work cooperatively with community leaders, law enforcement, criminal justice officials, media representatives, neighborhood groups and business leaders to target criminals,” said Moore.

“Criminal violence and the loss of life is never acceptable and my sincere condolences go out to all those in the community that were impacted. It was encouraging to see people come forward and help the police quickly apprehend those believed to be responsible. To prevent violent acts in the future we must stay involved. If you see suspicious activity please report it to the police so that they can intervene and possibly prevent a serious crime from occurring. Over the next few weeks, City Council will be reviewing ways to assist our first responders and strengthen our public safety. Together we can make a difference,” said Eugene Jankowski Jr. City of Batavia of council president.

“The City of Batavia Police Department would like to thank the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Genesee County Dispatch Center, New York State Police, Genesee County Local Drug Task Force, City of Rochester Police Department, City of Batavia Fire Department, Mercy EMS, the Staff in the ER at UMMC and Police Chaplain Don Shirk for the assistance over this past weekend with the major crimes that took place in the City of Batavia. Because of the support received, the Police Department as able to quickly identify and arrest both parties responsible for these senseless crimes,” said Shawn Heubusch, City of Batavia police chief.

“The City extends its gratitude to witnesses that helped us to locate, identify and subsequently arrest both individuals involved in last weekend crime. With witness accounts, our job is much easier and we are heartened to see the public’s cooperation and willingness to get involved when a crime like this occurs in their neighborhood,” said Chief Heubusch.

“The Fire Department appreciates the opportunity to partner with City Police and assist in a support capacity. We were pleased to share specialized equipment and department personnel to aid in the investigative process, and acknowledge the outstanding work of the City of Batavia Police Department during these (last weekend’s) unfortunate events,” said Stefano Napolitano, City of Batavia Fire Chief.

Ongoing community safety is the first priority of the City of Batavia. All of the City’s departments are committed to keeping our City a healthy, violence-free place where our families can live, work and enjoy our City.

June 6, 2019 - 1:49pm

The Ways & Means Committee was briefed on plans for the Healthy Living Campus and determined the next steps for financing the project at its meeting Wednesday.

The proposed Healthy Living wellness collaborative project will house the United Memorial Medical Center, YMCA fitness areas, Office for the Aging Senior Center and communal gathering spaces.

UMMC provides affordable primary care, local medical specialists and illness prevention. The Batavia YMCA offers family recreation, fitness coaching and adult aging services. The Office for the Aging assists with health care insurance programs, caregiver services and nutrition.

Dan Ireland, president of Rochester Regional Health/United Memorial, believes these organizations form a strong, unified effort.

Ireland, addressing the committee, said, “What you heard from us really paints a nice picture that there isn’t a better synergy than the three areas working together to provide for our community.”

YMCA CEO Rob Walker spoke of the positives of the proposed campus. The collaborative project hopes to promote investment from health care providers. In turn, Healthy Living membership holders can reap the benefits of affordable care and year-round access to wellness facilities.

Walker said, “The whole idea here is that we’re not just under one roof, but we’re going to be actually working on programs together. Groups from the Senior Center, groups from the hospital, groups from the Y will have to get a committee together on what programs we want to run jointly.”

Ireland and Walker posed various building configuration options to the committee. In response to concerns about accessible parking due to traffic flows, they presented different designs that could offer 400–500 parking spaces on the campus. They said that the finished project could attract more families and members of the aging population to this community.

Committee members are seeking more information about development financing, accessibility and potential joint programming. The wellness collaborative will finalize its financial model prior to asking for funding approval from the county legislature in 2020.

Office for the Aging Director Ruth Spink suggested it would be beneficial to present the Healthy Living Campus to the community in order to gather more feedback. The presentation is tentatively scheduled to occur during a public hearing in October.

Later, County Clerk Mike Cianfrini brought forward a resolution to the committee opposing the state's proposed “driver’s license access and privacy act.” The county Clerk's Office opposes it because it obligates the county clerk to accept all identification from undocumented individuals when they apply for driver’s licenses.

If the assembly bill is enacted, the clerk must approve identification documents written in any language as long as they have been authenticated by a foreign government. Therefore, the clerk may grant standard driver’s licenses to undocumented individuals even if the documentation cannot be translated.

Cianfrini added, “In the event that we hypothetically do recognize a fraudulent document or if we witness somebody … illegally register to vote, the [privacy portion] of the law prohibits us from contacting the state, local or federal law enforcement.”

Committee members discussed how these licenses could be used to access other government services. However, Cianfrini said a standard driver’s license does not guarantee Federal REAL ID to undocumented individuals. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the government will require REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses to board flights and enter federal facilities.

The resolution was unanimously carried by the Ways & Means Committee. According to the New York State Senate website, the bill is currently in assembly committee. It will travel to the state assembly and senate floors for passage thereafter.

The next Ways & Means Committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19 at the Old Courthouse.

June 6, 2019 - 8:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Stafford, news, notify.

A house fire is reported at 6000 Horseshoe Lake Road, Stafford.

All occupants are out of the house. There are animals in the house. 

The fire is at the rear of the residence and into the roofline.

Stafford fire and Town of Batavia fire dispatched.

Bergen, Byron, South Byron, and City of Batavia Fast Team also dispatched.

UPDATE(S) (By Billie) 9:03 a.m.: Flames seen in rear of structure according to callers to dispatch. Stafford's second alarm called. 

UPDATE 9:05 a.m.: Command on scene reports smoke showing from eaves, but no flames, of a single-story ranch house that's close to the road. Le Roy is called to Stafford's fire hall.

UPDATE 9:06 a.m.: Mercy medics are called to respond because of "slight smoke inhalation" by the homeowner.

UPDATE 9:08 a.m.: Elba is asked to fill in at Byron's fire hall.

UPDATE 9:09 a.m.: National Grid is called to the scene.

UPDATE 9:14 a.m.: Stafford command reports fire knocked down; checking for extensions. Stafford Fire Police are called in for traffic control.

UPDATE 9:17 a.m.: Le Roy, standing by in Stafford's quarters, is called to the scene. Oakfield is asked to stand by in Town of Batavia fire's station #1; Pavilion is called to Stafford's hall. The homeowner signed off, declining medical treatment.

UPDATE 9:34 a.m.: Caledonia, which was standing by in quarters, is moved to Le Roy's fire hall.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: The fire appears to have started in the kitchen. The homeowner believes a space heater was plugged in and in use at the site where the fire broke out, but it remains unknown if that is indeed what started the fire, according to scene commander Mark Dougherty, 4th assistant chief of Le Roy Fire Department. The house is heavily damaged, but it is unknown at this point if it's considered to be a total loss. Two cats lived there and one of them perished in the blaze; the other is missing. The family that lives in the house plans to stay with family. Video T/K.

June 5, 2019 - 6:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
foggmug2019.jpg
      Brandon Fogg

A local citizen came to the aid of a Batavia police officer who was attempting to apprehend a criminal suspect when the suspect pulled a handgun -- it turned out to be a BB gun -- from his pocket during the struggle.

The citizen stepped on the suspect's wrist causing him to drop the gun.

Brandon Fogg, 32, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, criminal possession of a weapon, 4th, obstructing governmental administration, and trespass.

He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held without bail.

The incident began as a trespass complaint at 11:22 p.m., Tuesday, at a location on Ellicott Street.

Fogg was reportedly at a residence banging on the door against the complainant's wishes. 

Before patrols arrived, Fogg left the property. 

Officer Darryle Streeter observed Fogg in a passenger vehicle that was being driven with an illegal tire on it. 

Streeter initiated a traffic stop on Cedar Street near Ellicott Street. 

According to police, Fogg opened the car door and attempted to flee.

Streeter was able to grab Fogg and take him to the ground. Fogg allegedly fought with Streeter and during the struggle removed from his pocket what appeared to be a handgun.

At that point, an employee of a local business intervened and stepped on Fogg's wrist. When Fogg dropped the gun, Streeter was able to take him into custody.

Batavia PD did not release the name of the citizen at this time because the department has not obtained the citizen's permission to release it.

June 5, 2019 - 2:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, batavia, Oakfield.

Rebecca N. Mann, 30, of Pringle Avenue, Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct. She was arrested at 5:30 p.m. on June 2 after being observed allegedly fighting with another person on Pringle Avenue. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on June 11. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Edward Robert Freida, 47, of Pringle Avenue, Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct and public lewdness. Freida was arrested at 5:30 p.m. on June 2 after he was observed allegedly fighting with another person on Pringle Avenue. During the altercation, Freida allegedly exposed himself to several people. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed in lieu of $1,000 cash bail or bond. He is due to reappear in city court at a later date. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Nikayla C. Jackson, 21, of Pringle Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree harassment. At 5:30 p.m. on June 2 on Pringle Avenue, Jackson allegedly had unwanted physical contact with a child less than 17 years of age. She was arrested and released on an appearance ticket and was due in Batavia City Court on June 4. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Matthew Lutey, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Kevin Michael Waleski, 31, of Orchard Street, Oakfield, is charged with second-degree attempted criminal trespass and second-degree harassment. At 12:17 a.m. on June 2, police responded to a West Main Street residence for a reported physical altercation in which a subject attempted to enter a residence unlawfully. A subsequent investigation resulted in Waleski's arrest. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court at 8:10 a.m. bail was set at $2,500 cash bail or bond. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins, assisted by Officer Peter Flanagan. Before being taken to jail, Waleski was being transported to UMMC for medical treatment when he allegedly began to physically resist patrols. He was subsequently also charged with obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree, and that case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins, assisted by Officer Mitchell Cowen.

Ernest D. Lane, 61, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt and aggravated family offense -- more than one offense within five years. Lane was arrested at 2:59 p.m. on June 4 following a complaint that he allegedly violated a complete stay away order of protection. He is accused of going to the home on Ellicott Street of protected parties. He was jailed without bail and was due in Batavia City Court this morning (June 5). The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Marc Lawrence, assisted by Officer Christopher Camp. While he was being held on this case, he was issued a computerized ticket for aggravated family offense and second-degree criminal contempt. These charges stem from an incident on Ellicott Street at 8:55 p.m. on April 8. He was due in city court this morning to also answer those charges. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Arick Perkins.

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