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April 1, 2019 - 3:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, byron.

Laura J. Reed, 27, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. Reed was arrested at 10:22 p.m. on March 25 after a disturbance at 160 Bank St. She was processed and is due to be arraigned in Batavia City Court on April 2. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Jamie Givens.

Valentin Brito III, 21, of Seven Springs Road, Batavia, is charged with trespass. It is alleged that after being issued a written trespass warning, Brito returned to College Village at 4:05 p.m. on March 31, in violation of the written warning. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Batavia Court on April 8. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Andrew Michael Pridmore, 34, of Mechanic Street, Elba, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or more; and speed not reasonable and prudent. On March 30, following a complaint of a property damage accident at 2:13 a.m. on Byron Road in the Town of Byron, Pridmore was arrested. He was issued appearance tickets for Town of Byron Court and is due there on April 15. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Tyler Michael Powers, 21, of Frederica Street, North Tonawanda, is charged with second-degree contempt. He was arrested after an investigation into an incident in the City of Batavia. He allegedly disobeyed a court mandate. Powers was arraigned in City of Batavia Court and jailed in lieu of $500 cash or $1,000 bond. He was due to return to court on March 29. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Lute.

Kevin Wayne Howard, 19, of Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with promoting prison contraband in the first degree. Howard was arrested while being processed at the GC Jail on March 21 after he was allegedly found in possession of a dangerous drug upon entering the facility. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court on March 28 then jailed in lieu of $1,000 cash or bond. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Lute, assisted by Deputy  Matthew Burgett.

Joseph J. Kuzma, 39, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument. During a home visit at 10:32 a.m. on March 29 by GC Probation, Kuzma was allegedly found in possession of nine hypodermic instruments. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in jail in lieu of $2,500 cash bail. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Frank Klimjack.

Jacob J. Sponaugle, 20, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. At 10:40 a.m. on March 30, Sponaugle was arrested at his residence on Liberty Street in Batavia after a search by GC Probation. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on April 9 to answer the charge. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post, assisted by Officer Kevin DeFelice.

March 31, 2019 - 1:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, Le Roy, notify.
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       Lorie Litolff

Lorie A. Litolff, 57, of Craigie Street, Le Roy, has been accused of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident following an incident on Lake Street, Village of Le Roy, at 5:05 p.m. Saturday where a man exited a moving vehicle and suffered a head injury.

The charge of leaving the scene of a serious injury accident is a felony.

She is also charged with DWI, failure to report an accident with injuries, driving without an ignition interlock device, and failure to submit to a breath test.

Litolff was jailed on $10,000 bail.

The name of the victim has not been released and there's no current information available on his condition.

The investigation is being led by Sgt. Emily McNamara, who reports that police have yet to determine why the victim exited the vehicle while it was moving but believe he did so voluntarily. 

Several witnesses were interviewed and police believe Litolff and the victim were engaged in a verbal argument prior to the man exiting the vehicle.

When he exited, according to McNamara, he lost his balance and fell, striking the pavement, which is the cause of at least some of the victim's injuries.

After the victim exited the vehicle, witnesses said the dark-colored, small SUV continued northbound on Lake Street.

Witness descriptions helped police identify and locate the vehicle. Litolff is accused of driving the SUV at the time of the incident, which occurred in the area of 78 Lake St.

Multiple witnesses attempted to render first aid to the victim. He was transported to an area hospital by Mercy Flight.  

Le Roy ambulance and Le Roy fire assisted at the scene.

Previously: Man reported to fall out of vehicle on Lake Street, Le Roy

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March 30, 2019 - 5:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Le Roy, notify.

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A man has reportedly fallen out of a moving vehicle in the area of 78 Lake St., Le Roy, and may have suffered a head injury.

The vehicle he was believed to be in continued northbound on Route 19.

It's a maroon Jeep Liberty.

Le Roy fire and Le Roy ambulance dispatched.

Mercy Flight being put on ground standby.

UPDATE(S)(By Billie) 5:41 p.m.: Mercy Flight is at a field near the crash site preparing to transport the victim to a hospital.

UPDATE 6:03 p.m.: Mercy Flight is airborne; destination not known. The patient suffered severe head trauma and was in and out of consciousness at the time of transport.

UPDATE 6:29 p.m.: Le Roy Police Sgt. Emily McNamara said it is not known at this "very, very early stage of the investigation" how or why the victim exited a moving vehicle, or what speed the vehicle was going at the time. The speed limit on Route 19 in the village is 35 mph. The vehicle continued on without stopping. It is thought to a smaller, dark-colored SUV; the previous description of a maroon Jeep Liberty is not certain, nor is it ruled out. In fact, any witnesses of this incident are asked to call the Emergency Dispatch Center directly with information that might help the investigation at 343-5000. Although the victim's identity has been established, police are not yet releasing the name until they have contacted family members.

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March 30, 2019 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Evans Street, news, notify.

109evansfire200b.jpgA deadly fire at 109 Evans St., Batavia, this morning, claimed the life of 41-year-old John Sherman Sr., said City Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano this afternoon while supervising the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire.

He said it's too soon yet to even speculate on how the fire started.

There were at least six or seven other people in the residence when the fire started, Napolitano said, and some of them owe their lives to smoke detectors and the fact that they were sleeping with the doors of their bedrooms closed.

"A room that has a door closed is a safe haven," Napolitano said. "They were alerted by a smoke detector and they were able to safely exit the house. That is why it's so critical when you have young children or yourself in a home. You need to sleep with the door closed. It stops the fire from entering. It gives you a shelter so you can shelter in place, a safe haven, or whatever you want to call it. But it gives you an opportunity to escape."

Sherman was the owner of the 1,528-square-foot house, which was built in 1890 and has an accessed value of $69,000.

Evans Street remains closed during the ongoing investigation but Napolitano said the investigation is nearing completion. 

Joining city fire investigators in the house is a Batavia PD detective and two investigators from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

It's city fire policy to call in state investigators when there is a fatal fire.

Napolitano described the investigation process as meticulous.

"They're methodically going through layer by layer, removing debris, removing furniture, trying to put a puzzle together, if you will," Napolitano said. "You know when you open up that box with all the puzzle pieces and you have to find the outside edge first, and then you build. That's what they're doing. They're building a puzzle."

It's a bit like reverse engineering the fire, he said.

"We're trying to figure out, OK, from the patterns and the indicators that were left, how and where that fire started, and how it traveled, where it migrated to, what could be a cause, what could be the origin."

The chief said the results of the investigation will be released as soon as some conclusions are reached about the findings.

Previously:

March 30, 2019 - 10:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, batavia, notify.

One person died in a house fire this morning at 109 Evans St., Batavia.

The fire was reported at about 7:15 a.m.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they found heavy smoke and flames at the rear of the house from the ground floor to the roof line.

Capt. Bob Fix described the situation as "untenable" and it wasn't possible for firefighters to enter the house until the fire was knocked back.

"We were dispatched to report of a building on fire just down the street from the fire station," Fix said. "As we pulled out of the station we could see heavy smoke in the sky so we knew we had a fire."

There were at least seven people in the residence at the time the fire was reported, including four adults who lived in the house. Residents told firefighters that one person was still in the house and provided firefighters with the person's location in the residence.

"We found heavy smoke and flames coming from the back side of the building as well as several people telling us the there was a victim inside a window," Fix said. "We attempted to make entry. Conditions were untenable at the time. We got some water on the fire there and tried to make entry again a short time later."

Once firefighters were able to make entry, they located the victim on the second floor and carried him out a window and down a ladder. He was placed on a stretcher and Mercy EMS personnel immediately began performing CPR.

While CPR was in progress, he was transferred to a nearby ambulance and transported to UMMC where he was later pronounced dead.

The victim's name has not yet been released.

"As it happened, the call came in right shift change and we had quite a bit more people available than we normally would have," Fix said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and Chief Stefano Napolitano said it's too early in the investigation to even speculate about the cause. The origin appears to be on the first floor.

State Fire, as is standard operating procedure, assist City Fire with the fire investigation.

The house is uninhabitable and The Salvation Army was contacted to assist the four adults who lived at 109 Evans.

Three pets, two dogs and a cat, were rescued from the fire.

Assisting City of Batavia was Town of Batavia fire, Alexander fire, and Darien fire.

Also assisting at the scene was Batavia PD.

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March 30, 2019 - 7:18am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, batavia, news, notify.

Heavy smoke and fire are reportedly coming from a residence at 109 Evans St. in the city. City Engine #11 is on scene, reporting a working structure fire at a two and a half story building. Smoke and flames showing. One person is still said to be inside.

All city platoons are called to respond. Mercy medics are on scene. Alexander's Fast Team is called for mutual aid; Town of Batavia is to report to its quarters; and Darien's rescue unit is called to the scene.

UPDATE 7:20 a.m.: An engine from Town of Batavia fire is called to the scene; one other from the town is to report to its headquarters for standby. Firefighters are working to extricate a person from the house on Evans Street.

UPDATE 7:28 a.m.: "Fire's been knocked down; looking for any hidden fire," fire command resports, and the person inside has been extricated and is being seen by medics. Utilities have been notified.

UPDATE 7:31 a.m.: "Looking for hot spots in the ceiling -- C side," reports command, "no fire below you (on the first floor)." A crew is called to the second floor to pull open the ceiling to check for extensions.

UPDATE 7:36 a.m.: Working to ventilate the structure now.

UPDATE 7:41 a.m.: Stairs to the second floor are bad. Firefighters are to enter and exit from the C side ladder. Water and electricity have been secured -- cut -- to the building.

UPDATE 7:45 a.m.: "We're hitting some fire from the Bravo-Charlie (C-D) corner." The male resident, who was pulled from the second floor, which was fully charged with smoke, is being transported to UMMC in emergency mode.

UPDATER 8:32 a.m. (by Howard): Alexander and Town of Batavia going back in service. Salvation Army requested to the scene to assist four adults. Code enforcement also requested to the scene.

March 29, 2019 - 5:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, pembroke, news, notify.
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     Jacqueline Saeli

The ex-boyfriend of a Pembroke woman who destroyed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a garage fire Jan. 6, 2018, let Judge Charles Zambito know today that he wasn't happy the 53-year-old woman is able to avoid jail time as part of her plea agreement.

"What kind of lesson will she learn with no prison time or no jail time?" asked Ben Reuben. "Local jail time would be an education for stopping her from doing something like this again."

Zambito told Jacqueline Saeli that both the probation department and Sheriff's Office investigators recommended jail time for her, but in order to send her to jail, he would have to allow her to withdraw her guilty plea and take the case to trial.

He said he wasn't inclined to send her to jail because she has paid $10,000 in restitution. She has a 30-year career caring for other people as a nurse and no prior criminal record. Saeli has successfully completed alcohol abuse treatment on her own.

All of those factors figured into his decision, Zambito said.

Saeli's attorney requested three years probation but Reuben and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman both said they thought five years probation was more appropriate. Zambito agreed that the case called for at least five years probation.

"This case isn't just about you and the victim," Zambito said. "This crime put at risk an entire neighborhood. You set a shed on fire out of anger at your boyfriend. That required volunteer firefighters and the police to show up and deal with a substantial fire. These firefighters are people who are there to serve you and your community and you put them all at risk. What if a volunteer had had a heart attack? How would you have felt if somebody had died because of what you did?"

Though Zambito couldn't send Saeli to jail, he did order to serve 200 hours of community service over the next 18 months and fined her $1,000.

Before being sentenced, Saeli had told Zambito that she was raised by her grandmother who instilled in her a sense of integrity, honesty and accountability, and that "you always do your best to help others."

She said the Jan. 6 incident was prompted by what she thought was a betrayal by two people she trusted. She said she was hurt and distraught and she admitted to drinking that night.

"I can't take back what I've done," Saeli said. "I've lived with regret and shame every day since. I can't believe I did this to somebody I loved. I wish I could take this back but I can't."

Saeli and Reuben didn't look at each other as she left the courtroom.

March 29, 2019 - 4:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, notify, Darien, fire.

Darien beekeeper and mead maker Michael Potoczak is managing to keep his chin up along with his spirits after a swift-moving fire early Sunday morning destroyed his businesses at 541 Bell Road.

Around 6 a.m. on March 24, callers half a mile away on Sumner Road called 9-1-1 to report the blaze. The Darien Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene quickly, but the buildings which contained the beekeeping and winemaking equipment were already "on the ground."

A Sheriff's deputy pounded on the door of the nearby house to alert the residents, prompting the family's two dogs to bark, waking up Potoczak and his two sons -- who all got out safely, including the dogs. A beloved 14-year-old calico cat named Lily perished in the fire.

"I tried to save my diesel truck," said the 77-year-old, who is an associate professor emeritus of Math and Physics at the University of Buffalo. "But it was so hot I couldn't even get near it to open the door."

The cause of the fire is unknown.

"I've really stood strong. I just deal with it. But it does get emotional," Potoczak said, noting that he lost all the equipment that he had accumulated during 45 years of beekeeping and making wine from honey on his 150-acre property.

He's not sure what the future holds for the businesses -- Potoczak Bee Farms and Midgard Winery -- but he will have a better idea of whether starting completely over is possible once the insurance claims are settled in the coming weeks.

Turns out the metal buildings, 40' by 60', were insured but nothing inside them was covered.

"They really did a number on me," he said. "The insurance agent came out and I took him through and showed him everything. He said I'd have the same coverage; it's not even close. He put in zero where it said the value of the contents and I didn't notice that. You have to have someone who knows insurance read the document to know what it says."

By Potoczak's estimation, his loss is worth $400,000 or more. He figures the buildings' value at $250,000 (insurance says $130,000), plus he lost the heating furnace, a new skidster worth $33,000 and the $20,000 diesel truck; $75,000 in winemaking equipment including four stainless steel fermenting tanks worth $4,000 each, filters, and $85,000 in beekeeping equipment.

How much he can recoup will influence his decision whether to continue the businesses, which are intended as a way for his children to make a living.

His customers, he says, "have been phenomenal" and are encouraging him to start anew.

His beehives are all outside and located at different 20 sites for his WNY customers. The mead, which he has sold for about five years, can be found in 50 WNY liquor stores, including locations in Genesee County (Mr. Wine & Liquor), Wyoming County (Warsaw, Attica), Orleans County (Medina), and Erie and Chautauqua counties. The fermented honey wine is about 12 percent alcohol by volume, on a par with, say, cabernet sauvignon.

Regardless of what the future holds, Potoczak's daughter, Elizabeth Knaus, said she is grateful to everyone who came to her family's rescue.

"I would like to send out a big thank you to the emergency personnel who responded so quickly," Knaus wrote in an email. "Also to the our neighbors who could see and hear the fire and called it in. If it wasn't for them, I probably would not have my dad or my brothers today. Thank you!"

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Knaus.

For initial report, click here.

March 29, 2019 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in marijuana, news, notify.

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Chief Shawn Heubusch and Sheriff William Sheron at a Public Service Committee meeting in January.

Rather than a potential revenue windfall, marijuana legalization could drive up costs for county government, County Manager Jay Gsell warns, as the county will need to cope with several matters related to law enforcement, public health, and federal contracts.

He's concerned state officials pushing for legalization haven't fully thought through these issues.

"I see it mostly as there could be more negative cost implications to the county as far as what we'll be dealing with in terms of our social service agencies or treatment agencies, and the related people that are part of what we fund in county government, such as law enforcement, and the public health considerations, rather than, 'oh, I see this as just another nice thing to do -- a little bit of a revenue stream,' " Gsell said. "I just don't even see that happening per se."

State officials are talking about implementing a 2 percent or 4 percent sales tax on marijuana sales and remitting some portion of that tax to local jurisdictions that don't opt out of permitting sales.

Gsell said since consumption will be legal in all counties in the state, opting out of allowing local sales will really be just turning down whatever revenue a county might be able to recoup for the potential increase in expenses that go with legal pot.

Both Sheriff William Sheron and Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch have publicly opposed legalization of marijuana, expressing concern about the potential for more highway fatalities, easier access to cannabis for teens, and the potential for increased crimes. Last month they shared these concerns with the county's Public Service Committee.

"The public safety issue is really what has law enforcement against it," Sheron said.

Both top cops have sent out press releases generated by their respective state law enforcement associations opposing legalized marijuana. In both cases, the Sheriff and the Police Chief say that marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased in Colorado since recreational use of cannabis became legal.

However, various reports available online contradict this assertion.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported last summer that while the number of fatal accidents where some trace of marijuana was present in one or more of the drivers involved had increased, fatalities in accidents where a driver was considered impaired by marijuana dropped significantly, from 52 in 2016 to 35 in 2017.

The Reason Foundation compiled a comprehensive report on driving and marijuana use that also suggested there is little correlation between legalized marijuana and increased traffic fatalities. Reason also found some data to suggest that legalized marijuana helps reduce drunken driving fatalities either because people consume less alcohol or since states like Colorado ban public consumption of marijuana, people who mix alcohol and marijuana are more likely to do so at home.

On the law enforcement front, a report from Police Quarterly, cited in a story from the Seattle Times, said that legalized marijuana seems to correlate to high clearance rates (cases solved) for reported crimes as officers spend less time on drug offenses.

It might surprise some that Jeremy Almeter, owner of Glass Roots on Center Street, isn't exactly eager to start selling marijuana from his shop, should it become legal. But he does support legalization and takes issue with opponents who say marijuana will lead to more traffic accidents or that it's some sort of gateway drug.

"I've been hearing marijuana is a gateway drugs since I was a kid, and I can tell you that the only true gateway drug in our society right now is alcohol," Almeter said. "You know, nobody smokes a joint and then goes out and decides to rob a liquor store. Bad decisions are made by people when they're inebriated.

"You know they're making decisions that they wouldn't normally make. I have seen, firsthand, the effect of alcohol on people doing exactly that. I think marijuana is one of the safest plants on the planet. I think hemp is right in the same plant family and they both deserve access for every person on the planet.

"If they if they're helping you, great, but they've never killed anyone. How many people are we losing a year to drunken driving?"

Almeter added, "Alcohol kills 88,000 people a year. Cigarettes kill 480,000. Cannabis has never killed anybody."

Whether marijuana has ever killed anyone is a disputed assertion. Here's Politifact on the topic.

Dealing with drivers who are so high their ability is impaired, regardless of what the statistics out of Colorado and elsewhere say, is a major concern for both Sheron and Heubusch. The chemical test for driving under the influence of alcohol is pretty straightforward. Blood alcohol content is scientific, objective and reliable. Busting a driver impaired by marijuana is more of a judgment call, and getting such a charge to stick in court requires officers who are trained as drug recognition experts.

It's an expensive proposition to have a DRE on a department's force. The Sheriff's Office has six currently. Batavia PD, only two.

It takes an experienced officer six months of training before obtaining DRE certification.

"In the law enforcement realm, the DRE program is one of the most difficult and time-consuming certifications that you can obtain," said Undersheriff Bradley Mazur.

During a recent interview, Deputy Ryan DeLong (top photo), who is DRE certified, discussed the process involved in making an arrest of a driver suspected of driving while impaired by a drug.

First, there needs to be probable cause to make a traffic stop. Second, the officer must observe something about the driver that indicates he or she is either high or intoxicated. Then the officer can initiate a field sobriety test.

If the officer isn't DRE certified but has a good reason to believe the driver is impaired by marijuana or another drug, then the officer will require the assistance of a DRE officer.

"The first thing that we do really doesn't change and that's just the administration of standardized field sobriety testing," DeLong said. "At the roadside, we're doing the battery of tests --  horizontal nystagmus (follow a pen with your eyes), walk and turn, and the one-legged stand. If we determine that the person is intoxicated or impaired by drugs, we take them into custody and start the process of bringing in a drug recognition expert. The drug recognition expert's job is to do three things: Determine is a person impaired? Is the impairment a medical impairment or a drug-induced impairment? And what category of drug or drugs is a person under the influence of, and how the DRE determines that is a 12-step process."

The process involves question, observation, and chemical testing (and those results can take some time to come back from the lab).

"What we're looking for, is there an abnormal dilation of the pupil for the lighting conditions or an abnormal constriction of the pupil and also how the pupil will react to a light stimulus," DeLong said. "We're looking at their muscle tone. We're going to check to see where it's most rigid or flaccid. We're checking for any injection sites for intravenous drug use throughout this whole process, and also just conducting an interview as we're interacting with the person.

"We're looking for observable signs of a drug usage such as somebody being on the nod, as we call it, where they're basically falling asleep in front of us, or different body tremors, or different signs of impairment. If we determine that this person is under the influence of a drug and what category of drug they are under, they'll go for a blood test or spittle test and (depending on the results) they'll be charged accordingly."

When it comes to law enforcement, marijuana legalization and the correlating expenses, the potential need for more DREs, aren't the only concerns for the county.

The Sheriff's Office has two new K-9s coming into service and of course, today's K-9s are trained to detect marijuana. That's a skill a K-9 won't unlearn, so there is some question about whether weed-sniffing dogs can remain in service.

Gsell is also worried about how legalization might impact Federal grants. The county receives more than $11 million a year from the Federal government and many of those contracts are contingent on the county maintaining a drug-free environment. Even if the state decriminalizes cannabis, that won't change Federal law or policy.

"As far as where federal money is used to fund positions and things of that nature, we have to provide assurances, like we do with our CDL drivers at the County Highway Department, that there are random drug tests done and there is a zero tolerance with regard to persons having any of that stuff in their systems," Gsell said.

While the state is promising an increase in revenue if marijuana sales become legal, a share of that revenue will only be available to counties that don't opt-out of legal pot sales within their borders. Given the anticipated increase in expenses, Gsell suggested the county will have little choice to allow local sales even if the additional revenue doesn't totally offset the additional expenses.

"The prospect of revenue or increased revenue is an ephemeral situation at this point," Gsell said. "There's no way to predict what that is and the things that we see from the state are not what I would call vetted enough, nor necessarily what I believe is actually going to come to reality."

March 28, 2019 - 4:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in bergen, batavia, crime, news, notify, Le Roy.
     Sylvan Grayson

On March 25, the Le Roy Police Department arrested 19-year-old Sylvan P. Grayson, of Myrtle Street, Le Roy, and charged him with one count each of burglary in the second degree, a Class C felony, and grand larceny in the fourth degree, a Class E felony.

The arrest stems from a complaint that during the evening hours of March 4, people unlawfully entered a residence on Lake Street in Le Roy with intent to commit a crime and stole property while the tenants were away. It is alleged that Grayson stole more than $1,000 worth of property. 

He was arraigned in Le Roy Town Court and released on his own recognizance.

Thomas L. Crawford, 29, of Dorstone Road, Rochester, is charged with third-degree assault -- intent to cause physical injury. Crawford was arrested at 2:30 p.m. on March 25 on Liberty Street in Batavia after he allegedly struck a person in the forehead during an argument, causing a large laceration. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed in lieu of $2,500 bail. He was due back in city court on March 27. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jamie Givens, assisted by Officer Jason Davis.

Ryan Christopher Northup, 35, of Chamberlain Street, Rochester, is charged with: aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree -- mandatory suspension; operating a motor vehicle with without a required ignition interlock device; leaving the scene of a property damage accident; and unlicensed driver -- license revoked. On March 24 in the Town of Bergen, Northup was arrested during a vehicle checkpoint conducted by GC Sheriff's deputies on Route 33. It is alleged that Northup, while attempting to avoid the checkpoint, pulled into a driveway and missed it, striking a drainage culvert and causing damage. He then left the scene of the accident and was arrested at 4:36 p.m. He was arraigned in Town of Bergen Court and put in jail on $1,000 cash bond. He is due in Town of Bergen Court on April 17 to answer the charges. The case was handled by GC Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy McClellan, assisted by Deputy Travis DeMuth. Subsequent to his arrest on the above charges, Northup was arrested at the jail and charged with introduction of dangerous contraband into a prison in the first degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. On March 24, while being processed at the jail, Northup was allegedly found with a white substance tucked into his wallet. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in jail on those two charges without bail. He is due back in city court at a later time and date. The contraband case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy McClellan, assisted by Sgt. Andrew Hale.

Teesean T. Ayala, 20, of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree burglary. Ayala was arrested March 19 on a grand jury warrant following an investigation into a residential burglary that occurred on Hutchins Street in Batavia at 9 p.m. on Aug. 2. Ayala was jailed without bail and is due in Genesee County Court in May. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Det. Thad Mart.

March 28, 2019 - 4:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, pembroke. grand jury.

Laura L. Dutton, AKA Laura Godlewski, AKA Laura L. Godlewski Dutton-Pontillo, AKA Laura Dutton, is indicted for the crime of filing a false instrument in the first degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on May 4 at the Genesee County Clerk's Office that Dutton filed a NYS Pistol-Revolver license application knowing that it contained false information, and with intent to defraud she offered it to a public servant for filing to become part of the public records.

Dennis S. Rogers Jr. is indicted for the crime of driving while intoxicated, as a Class E felony. It is alleged that on Nov. 3 in the Town of Pembroke that Rogers drove a 2003 Chevrolet on Route 5 while he was intoxicated. In count two, Rogers is accused of DWI, per se, as a Class E felony, for having a BAC of .08 percent at the time. In count three, the defendant is accused of aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree for driving that day when his license was suspended or revoked. In Special Information filed by the District Attorney, Rogers is accused of having been convicted of DWI as a misdemeanor on June 30, 2011 in County of Monroe Court and also on Sept. 16, 2002 in City of Rochester Court. Those convictions and an additional suspension of Rogers's privilege to drive on July 27 last year, based on failure to pay child support, forms the basis for the suspension or revocation referred to in count three of the current indictment.

March 28, 2019 - 4:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.
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    Nikki Stonebraker      Marquise Lee      Angela Bateman      Derek Wilcox
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      Joseph Burr

 

 

Probation officers reportedly found 56 bags of crack cocaine along with drug paraphernalia and drug packaging material during a check of a residence on Liberty Street, Batavia, yesterday and as a result of a joint investigation by the Probation Department, Child Protective Services, and the Local Drug Task Force, five people were arrested and charged with multiple crimes.

Investigators reported also finding unidentified pills and currency.

Charged were:

  • Marquise L. Lee, 36, of Hobart Street, Rochester, with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia 2nd;
  • Angela R. Bateman, 46, of East Main Street, Batavia, with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd;
  • Nikki L. Stonebraker, 30, of Liberty Street, Batavia, with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, endangering the welfare of a child;
  • Joseph T. Burr, 25, of North Lyon Street, Batavia, arrested on a warrant for alleged violation of probation and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd;
  • Derek E. Wilcox, 30, of Congress Avenue, Rochester, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, a Class B felony, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia, 2nd.

All five suspects were arraigned in Batavia City Court.

Lee was ordered held without bail. Ball was set at $50,000 or $100,000 bond for Burr, who was also ordered held on $5,000 bail for the violation of probation charge. The other three suspects had their bail set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

March 27, 2019 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

One of the two men arrested in connection to thefts from local liquor stores, where one man would distract the store clerk and another would enter the back room to steal cash or credit cards, admitted to his crimes today in front of County Court Judge Charles Zambito.

The way career-criminal Edward F. Perdue, 58, seemed to figure it when he walked into County Court today, unless he could persuade Judge Zambito to be a bit lenient with him, he won't get out of state prison until he's 67 years old.

Perdue, arrested in Batavia for entering the backrooms of local liquor stores and stealing cash and credit cards, is currently serving three to six years in the Orleans Correctional Facility on a burglary conviction in Monroe County.

Zambito's choice today was to send him to prison, based on his guilty plea to grand larceny, 4th, in November, for either one and a half to three years or for two to four. Perdue added another twist with his own request of the judge: make his Genesee County sentence concurrent to his Monroe County sentence.

The reason the five-time felon should get a break, according to the felon himself, is that he tipped police to a threat against the life of District Attorney Lawrence Friedman. Perdue said he overheard another inmate on a bus make a threat against Friedman (whose name he kept pronouncing "fryedman" and noted that "I never saw him before today").

"I'm not asking to be released," Perdue said. "I'm asking for my time to be concurrent with the time I'm doing now. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

During his talk with the judge, Perdue claimed both that officers did not talk with him about his tip and he also said he spoke with investigators and provided them with the name of the person who he said made the threat.

"The cops said they would help me," he said.

"The detectives said they would come and talk with me and they never did," he said.

"The cops said they would talk with me and I would rather talk with them," he said.

He indicated he thought he deserved a break because he's been labeled a snitch in Orleans.

Friedman, outside of court, said state authorities did investigate Perdue's allegations and found the allegations unfounded.

Zambito noted during sentencing that Friedman asked for the maximum term for Perdue and never mentioned giving him any consideration for his cooperation with police, and without evidence of Perdue's claims, he said he couldn't really consider the request.

What he could consider is Perdue's criminal record going back to 1976 and includes multiple burglaries and other property crimes, a criminal contempt and a manslaughter conviction.

"You're a career criminal," Zambito said. "A career thief." 

He told Perdue, "there's no reason not to give you the maximum allowable sentence and hope that protects society."

The sentence: two to four years consecutive with the term Perdue is currently serving.

Perdue will, in fact, likely spend his 67th birthday in prison.

"I never burglarized anything," Perdue said before he was led from court in a statement that garnered no response from Zambito."Isn't a burglary when you break into some place? I just walked into the backroom of places."

March 26, 2019 - 11:15am

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A change in federal tax law in 2017 could help attract Downstate investors to Upstate communities such as Batavia and the Batavia Development Corporation is planning on pursuing those dollars for economic development in wards three and six.

The new tax law allows investors who have realized profits from prior investments, known as capital gains, to defer and reduce capital gains taxes on those profits if they invest those gains in economically distressed neighborhoods.

Wards three and six -- which contain the City Centre mall and the Harvester Center, among other distressed properties -- were previously designated Opportunity Zones by the City of Batavia and would be eligible to attract investment under the terms of the revised Federal Tax Code.

Rachael Tabelski, BDC director, asked the City Council on Monday night to approve at its next business meeting a resolution that would allow the BDC to invest $20,000 in setting up a Batavia Opportunity Zone investment vehicle.  

"These wards are distressed and would benefit from both large and small investment projects," Tabelski said.

The goal is to attract $5 million in investment funds. Tabelski said there are already potential investors Downstate who have expressed an interest in such investments.

Urban Vantage LLC, a Buffalo-based urban planning firm, would assist, including financially, in setting up the investment package.

The $20,000 would come from BDC's revolving loan fund, which has a current balance of $319,000.

At its next business meeting, the City Council will also be asked to approve a resolution that would allow the revolving loan fund, first established with Federal grants in 1997, to start assisting small businesses in Batavia with cash grants (in addition to continuing revolving grants).

Tabelski told the council that the purpose of the fund is to get money into the hands of local businesses to help spur economic development and the fund isn't accomplishing that goal if the money isn't being put to use.

The $20,000 initial investment would be used for legal preparation of the investment vehicle, listing and marketing the project, along with filing and accounting fees.

"We're setting this up so we are on the map as a proactive community taking advantage of a new federal tax law that is allowing investment into low-income census tracks and to show investors and developers that we're serious about moving our sites forward and creating our own fund as a city," Tabelski said.

There's much about how the new investments will work that hasn't yet been determined by the Treasury Department. The final guidelines should be released in a few weeks.

In general, the idea is if an investor has capital gains, the investor can move those funds to an opportunity zone investment fund and defer any capital gains tax until 2026. After five years, the basis of their taxable gains would be reduced by 10 percent. For example, if an investor had $100,000 in capital gains and invested those gains in an opportunity zone, the investor would owe taxes only $90,000 of those gains. After 10 years, the basis would be reduced another 5 percent.

Also, after 10 years, the investor would not owe any taxes on any additional gains on their opportunity zone investments. In other words, if that investor put $100,000 into an opportunity zone and at the end of 10 years, exited the investment and got back $150,000, there would be no capital gains tax on that additional $50,000 realized from the investment.

"It's really designed to attract investment in projects that have a high likelihood of appreciation," said Richard Rogers, a principal in Urban Vantage.

Tabelski first met Rogers and his partner Travis Gordon during the Downtown Revitalization Initiative process, when they represented Ken Mistler on the Carrs Reborn project. They worked together on developing a plan to create the opportunity zones under the tax code revisions.

Tabelski and Gordon both said Batavia could be attractive to investors not just because of a break on capital gains tax but also because of other credits available, such as historic building tax credits, new market tax credits, and the availability of PILOTs (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) on building improvements.

"This is a marketable location for people from places like Downstate to put the money into to actually get a good return on their investment as well," Gordon said.

The BDC-initiated fund will focus on real estate investment but there's no reason private investors can't establish their own funds to support business startups and expansions. So long as the business is based in designated opportunity zones, investors would be eligible, potentially, for the same tax breaks on capital gains.

There are some guidelines yet to come yet, however, that will either expand or limit those opportunities. For example, initially, the tax code would have required at least 50 percent of a business's revenue to come from within the opportunity zone.

That would seriously limit, as Rogers noted, a new firm's ability to scale, which would make a much less attractive investment for venture capital.

Tabelski said there is already an investment fund established in Buffalo that might be interested in projects in Batavia.

Photo: Rachel Tabelski presenting the project to the City Council on Monday, accompanied by Richard Rogers and Travis Gordon.

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March 25, 2019 - 2:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, batavia.

Juaquin E. Davis, 23, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with first-degree criminal contempt -- physical contact; first degree criminal contempt -- with a previous conviction within five years; and second-degree burglary -- illegal entry to a dwelling. Davis was arrested on March 21 after an alleged domestic incident on Thomas Avenue in Batavia on March 18 against a person with a complete stay away order of protection. Davis was arraigned in Batavia City Court then jailed in lieu of $5,000 bail. He was due back in city court on March 22. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jamie Givens, assisted by Officer Marc Lawrence.

Henry L. Banks, 49, of Ross Street, Batavia, was arrested at 12:49 a.m. on March 24 on Ellicott Street in Batavia. He was stopped for a traffic violation and it was shown that a bench warrant for his arrest was issued by Batavia City Court. He was processed and arraigned in city court, then jailed in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond. He was due back in city court this afternoon (March 25). The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Miah Stevens, assisted by Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Aisha I. Culver, 20, of Thomas Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a Batavia City Court warrant March 17 after she failed to appear in court on a traffic summons. Culver had previously been charged with: aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree; operating a motor vehicle with a suspended registration; and various other traffics infractions. She was released on her own recognizance. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post, assisted by Officer Jason Ivison.

Jordan R. Rose, 18, of Maple Street, Batavia, is charged with: criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree -- weight more than two ounces; and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. Rose was arrested at 10:45 a.m. on March 22 following a search by the Probation Department of his residence. He was allegedly found in possession of marijuana and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia. Rose was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed in lieu of $1,500 cash or $2,000 bond. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post, assisted by Officer Marc Lawrence.

March 25, 2019 - 11:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, news, notify.

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Nearly 500 people turned out at Batavia Downs on Sunday afternoon in support of Joe Trigillo, who is battling glioblastoma, a cancer that forms in a person's brain and is very difficult to eradicate.

Trigillo was diagnosed in January and has been through two rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment -- one for 33 days and another of 40 days -- and the fundraiser is intended to help Joe and his wife Kathy with any extra expenses.

Kathy said her husband was overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support.

"It means the world to him," Kathy said. "Every time I bring it up he just starts to tear up and he can't believe the great outpouring of love that he's gotten."

Trigillo and members of the Trigillo's family have worked at Batavia Downs for decades, including both of Trigillo's parents. Trigillo has been a stalwart of the local bowling community his entire adult life and is a regular on the local golf tournament circuit.

"He's always been the social person," Kathy said. "He's the one that goes to the bowling tournaments. He's the one that goes to the golf tournaments. He loves to be with people. He never, ever says no because he loves to go out with other people and do things. He's just always happy to do that and he loves people."

The symptoms of glioblastoma can be non-specific and are different for individuals, depending on where in the brain the cancer starts and how it progresses. At the start of the bowling season, Trigillo didn't have his A-game going and he and Kathy took it as an early-season slump.

"You just think it's a slump but he wasn't getting out of the slump," Kathy said. "Still, we didn't think much of it other than he's in a slump."

The community sees Joe the competitor and may not perceive he has a softer side, Kathy said, but he can get emotional in private; however, when Joe started crying during Hallmark movies, Kathy sensed he was being more emotional than usual. Even so, she didn't suspect a serious issue.

But then one day DirecTV called and when Joe wanted to hand the phone off to his wife, he couldn't remember her name.

That weekend, walking across some pavement, Kathy noticed Joe was shuffling his feet. She started to suspect a mini-stroke. That Monday, Jan. 14, she called a doctor who told her to take Joe to the emergency room at UMMC.

"They immediately ordered an MRI after I told them the symptoms," Kathy said. "I think they must have known more than we did."

The MRI revealed two tumors in the lower left frontal lobe and Joe was taken by ambulance to Buffalo General Medical Center.

Once there, surgery was quickly ruled out for treatment.

"If they did surgery to remove the tumors, it was a high risk to cause the whole right side of his body to be paralyzed and he would not be able to speak," Kathy said.

From Buffalo General, Joe was sent to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is also in Buffalo.

The regime of chemo and radiation was rough, Kathy said. Joe was hospitalized a couple of times during the treatment, with treatment suspended once because of complications.

The typical prognosis for glioblastoma is a survival rate of 12 to 15 months. Kathy is hopeful Joe will get back to doing the things he loves this spring and summer.

They'll know more when they meet with doctors at Roswell again on April 14.

"We're hoping that we're going to fight this and that we're going to play golf this summer and we're going to be at the long end of that prognosis," Kathy said.

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March 24, 2019 - 2:40pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, bergen, Le Roy.

Amanda Marie Bowles, 33, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree forgery -- four counts; first-degree identity theft -- four counts; criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree -- five counts; and one count of third-degree identity theft. Following an investigation of multiple credit cards stolen out of the Town of Batavia, Bowles was arrested on March 20 for allegedly using the stolen credits cards at multiple locations around the City of Batavia. She also allegedly completed some transactions by forging the signature of the credit card owner. She was arraigned on March 21 in Batavia City Court and jailed without bail. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy James Stack.

Woodrow Clarence Horseman, 43, of Porter Avenue, Batavia, is charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and petit larceny. He was arrested March 22 for allegedly stealing a wallet at 5 a.m. on March 21 at a location on West Main Street Road, Batavia. The wallet contained nine credit cards and other personal documents. He was arraigned in Batavia Town Court and put in GC Jail on $2,500 cash or bond. He is due back in court on April 9. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy James Stack.

Yacuzzo Salvatore, 73, of Oak Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested at 12:30 p.m. on March 21 on Red Mill Road, Le Roy, for allegedly violating a stay away order of protection. He was issued an appearance ticket for Le Roy Town Court and is due there April 11. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Clor.

Richard Dean Neal, 29, of Roosevelt Highway, Kent, is charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief. Neal was arrested on March 18. It is alleged that at 5:28 p.m. on March 16 that he damaged another person's vehicle while in the Walmart parking lot. He was released on an appearance ticket for April 1 in Batavia Town Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Travis DeMuth.

Aaron Lee Heale, 38, of North Lake Road, Bergen, is charged with: introducing dangerous contraband into prison in the first degree; fifth-degree conspiracy; and falsifying business records in the first degree. On March 14, Heale allegedly conspired to have drugs brought into the Genesee County Jail. He is currently incarcerated there. He is due in Batavia City Court tomorrow (March 25) to answer the charges. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy David Moore, assisted by Deputy Ryan Young.

Amethyst Rose McCracken, 31, of North Lake Road, Bergen, is charged with: introducing dangerous contraband into prison in the first degree; criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree; and fifth-degree conspiracy. It is alleged that at 9:48 p.m. on March 14, that she brought drugs into the GC Jail. She was arraigned in Batavia City Court on March 23 and is due back there tomorrow (March 25). The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy David Moore, assisted by Deputy Ryan Young.

Joseph G. Sumeriski, 27, of Batavia, was arrested by deputies of the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office on March 16 in the West Municipal Parking Lot in the Village of Warsaw on a warrant for allegedly failing to pay restitution ordered by Warsaw Village Court. He was arraigned in Village of Warsaw Court then posted cash bail. Warsaw police assisted at the scene. The case was handled by Wyoming County Sheriff's Sgt. Colin Reagan and Deputy John Button.

March 23, 2019 - 2:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.
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     Keith White

An inmate in the Genesee County Jail is accused of introducing dangerous contraband into the jail after receiving a birthday card allegedly containing a controlled substance.

Keith White, 47, of North Tonawanda, faces numerous other charges. Besides introducing dangerous contraband, a felony, he is charged with 16 counts felony falsifying business records, 1st, criminal solicitation, 4th, conspiracy, 5th, and 60 counts of falsifying business records, 2nd. 

White, who is being held on a petit larceny charge from July, is accused of using the PIN numbers of other inmates to make telephone calls.

The date and time of the incidents were between November and February.

Deputy Ryan Young is leading the investigation.

White was arrested last July in Batavia, accused, along with Jeffery P. Wozniak, of Niagara Falls, of stealing steaks, lobster, shrimp, a roast and several household items from Top's Market. That case is still pending.

He is being held on the new charges without bail because of prior felony convictions. He's been incarcerated three previous times on burglary and robbery charges. His most recent stint in state prison was from 2001 to 2016 on a robbery conviction in Niagara County. He was released from parole in February 2018.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. with additional information about the case.

March 22, 2019 - 8:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, notify, news.

 

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  Samuel Blackshear

When Samuel Blackshear shot Nathaniel Wilson on Central Avenue one evening last May, Blackshear was exercising "street justice" Judge Charles Zambito told the young man today at his sentencing on an illegal weapon conviction.

It wasn't a matter of self-defense, as defense attorney James Hinman contended, Zambito said. The judge said he believed there was a prior dispute between Blackshear and Wilson, even before Wilson showed up with a knife and stabbed and killed Terry Toote, and that Blackshear knew a woman he was with had a gun and that he expected to be handed the gun if he needed it.

Blackshear was denied youthful offender status and sentenced to three and a half years in state prison followed by two and a half years on parole, which is the mandatory sentence for a conviction on a count of criminal possession of a weapon.

The father of Samuel Blackshear, who was 17 at the time of the incident, said he was disappointed that Zambito denied his son a chance to go to school, get a job, and try to get on a path toward a productive life.

"I came here today expecting justice for my young son," Billy Blackshear said. "I'm not trying to make excuses for him. I'm not saying that he was in the right for how he reacted, but considering the factors that placed him in that situation...with him being a young person, you have the influence of television, you have the influence of peers, you have so many negative influences that could have carried him even worse than the way he reacted and he did not."

Before sentencing Blackshear, Zambito meticulously reviewed the law, the criteria that must be met for a finding youthful offender status, and the circumstances of the case.

Many new details about the murder of Toote and the shooting of Wilson on Central Avenue on May 17 came out during today's hearing.

Youthful offender status is reserved for those cases, Zambito said, where there are mitigating circumstances and where the defendant may have acted in haste and thoughtlessly. The judge making a Y.O. determination must consider the gravity of the circumstances, the defendant's prior record, prior acts of violence, the reputation of the individual, whether the defendant cooperated with police and prosecutors, the defendant's attitude, and whether the defendant has displayed respect for the law.

Y.O. status is mandated if the perpetrator is between 15 and 19 years old at the time of the offense but the conviction is for a misdemeanor. In this case, Blackshear admitted to a felony.

If the case involves an armed felony, as this was, Zambito said, then mitigating circumstances come into play.

In their remarks to Zambito prior to Zambito discussing his decision, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said there were no mitigating circumstances and dismissed assertions by the defendant's attorney, Hinman, that Blackshear acted in the defense of himself and others. Hinman passionately and exhaustively argued that there were mitigating circumstances and this his client did act in defense of himself and others.

Friedman argued that Blackshear, who had little experience, he said, with handguns, and no prior training in defending others, acted recklessly and without regard to the safety of others in the vicinity when he fired three shots at Wilson. After Wilson attacked Toote, he said Blackshear walked over to a nearby car, took a gun from the driver, and immediately turned around and started firing.

"That wasn't self-defense the first time he fired it," Friedman said. "It wasn't self-defense second time he fired it. It wasn't self-defense the third time he fired it. That was not self-defense."

If it was self-defense, Friedman argued, then why didn't Blackshear stick around after the shooting? Why did he flee instead of talk to the police? Why wasn't he cooperative with investigators once he was located? Friedman asserted the Blackshear has been unwilling to help police locate the handgun he used and that the gun is still missing.

Hinman argued that all available physical evidence, in particular, a video camera mounted on a utility pole on Central Avenue at the time of the shooting, shows Blackshear acted in defense of himself and others. He said it showed Wilson arrive on scene and within 10 seconds, attack Toote, kill him, and then immediately brandish the knife at other people in the area.

Other than his possession of the gun, Hinman said his client did nothing illegal. He suggested the other charges against Blackshear -- attempted assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree -- where satisfied in the plea agreement because Blackshear could have made a credible case to a jury that he acted within New York law to defend himself and others.

"Maybe he (Wilson) would have stabbed other people if he had not been shot," Hinman said. "That doesn't make Mr. Blackshear a hero but he stopped illegal acts."

As for Blackshear's leaving the scene of the shooting before police arrived, Hinman said that's the normal reaction of a black youth today.

"I would submit that a young black man in this day and age has a good reason to not stick around and talk to police," Hinman said. "Nor does he have the obligation to stick around and talk with police."

As for helping police find the gun, Hinman said his client told police that he handed the gun to a third party to take care of and that he has no direct knowledge as to the gun's whereabouts. He said that third party may have cooperated with police in locating the gun but since that person wasn't assured immunity from prosecution he hasn't cooperated. He did say police learned the gun may have been dropped from a bridge into a creek and a search was undertaken to try and locate the gun but it wasn't found. None of that, Hinman said, could be blamed on his client.

Hinman disputed statements Wilson made in a presentence probation interview where Wilson apparently asserted that Blackshear shot him because of a prior dispute and that Blackshear was looking for a confrontation with Wilson.

"It's nothing more than an attempt by Wilson to make himself a victim," Hinman said. "He's the one who set everything in motion."

Zambito, however, gave some weight to Wilson's account of the incident.

"I have no sympathy for Nathaniel Wilson," Zambito said. "He is convicted of murder and he is in jail for a long time, and deservedly so."

But, Zambito said, some of Wilson's statements are corroborated by the evidence on the pole cam video recording as well as mobile phone recordings by witnesses.

In order to find mitigating circumstances, Zambito said he would have to be convinced that Blackshear acted on the spur of the moment to defend himself and others but Zambito said the evidence suggested otherwise.

For example, well before Wilson arrives, a black sedan is seen on Central Avenue. At one point, the driver gets out and retrieves what appears to be a handgun from the trunk of the vehicle. Later the car leaves Central Avenue and returns. The car leaves again and reappears just before Wilson shows up. After Wilson stabs Toote, Zambito said, Blackshear is seen moving toward Wilson, who is turning to leave, and then sees the sedan and walks over to it and is immediately handed a gun by the driver of the vehicle.

"That tells me," Zambito said, "that he (Blackshear) was looking for that car and he expected to be handed the gun."

He said audio from mobile phones show that several people cried out "Sam," which Zambito took as a verbal attempt by witnesses to tell Blackshear to not fire any shots but that Blackshear fired anyway.

Wilson contends he and Blackshear had a prior dispute over Wilson hitting a girlfriend and that Wilson had tried to apologize and Blackshear refused the apology. He said even in a phone call earlier that day, Blackshear had refused the apology and hung up on him.

He said Blackshear had referred to himself as a member of the "L Gang" and that members of the "L Gang" would be looking for Wilson (outside of court, Friedman said "L Gang" may refer to a group of youths who grew up on Lewis Place and applied that moniker to themselves).

While acknowledging that Blackshear's natural impulse may have been to leave the scene and that he had no obligation to stay at the scene, his failure to do so did display a lack of cooperation with police, and one of Zambito's findings must include cooperation with police for Youthful Offender status. Further, Blackshear did not come forward voluntarily the next day. When he was located, he was at the residence of the adult who gave him the gun, playing video games.

As for Blackshear's criminal record and good conduct, Zambito said Blackshear had been arrested once, granted youthful offender status once, and was on probation at the time of the May 17 incident. He also said that Batavia PD and Sheriff's Office reported 26 negative contacts with Blackshear in the prior two years. He said Blackshear had been accused of shooting another person with a BB gun.

"And he's only 17 years old," Zambito said.

Citing district official at BOCES, Blackshear was characterized as having us vs. them attitude, of disrespecting authority, of hanging out with other youths who caused trouble.

In the presentence report, probation officers recommended against Y.O., and detectives Thad Mart and Kevin Czora, the lead investigators on this case, also recommended against Y.O. status.

"It was only by sheer luck that his reckless behavior didn't result in killing or seriously wounding a bystander," Mart wrote in his letter to the court.

Zambito said he took all of that into consideration in coming to his conclusion.

"The defendant attempted street justice," Zambito said. "He put at risk an entire neighborhood. Even Nathaniel Wilson recognizes the loss of life in this incident was over something very senseless and I have to agree with him. I have to believe this defendant was complicit."

Billy Blackshear said his son was raised well, as the grandson of a beloved local pastor, the late Reverend Oraid Blackshear of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Ellicott Street, and as the son of a man who has never been arrested or spent a night in jail.

But outside court he said he can't help but wonder if he did enough to prepare his son for dealing for life in today's society.

"As a parent, I wish I would have done more," Billy Blackshear said. "I think that's something that maybe a lot of parents say when bad circumstances happen. I said the same thing about my brother when he passed. I wish I could have had a chance to say goodbye to him. I wish there were words that I could have said to him had I known that would be the last time I saw him.

"I didn't get that chance and I feel that same sense of sadness and remorse in this particular case. I wish I could have spent more time or that I could have done or something, or something I could have said that would have better prepared him for such horrendous circumstance."

There's a lesson in this case for all of us, Billy Blackshear suggested.

"I think that young people are too busy being raised and being influenced by outside forces that gave other people monetary value," Blackshear said. "You know there's money to be made on telling kids you should be this way, to have a violent attitude, or look at, you know, you don't have to listen to the rules or anything like that. I'm not saying that's what Samuel was influenced by (that) but I'm saying that there is more negative input than ... positive.

"And so we as parents have to step up. I think the system has to step up as well. Hand-in-hand cooperate in order to be a counterbalance to the things that are steering our young people into the feeling hopelessness and anger and just frustration. We need to start putting hope back inside these young people. We need to start giving them better options. We could do more. There's always more that can be done." (View the full video at the top of this story for all of Mr. Blackshear's comments after the hearing.)

Zambito thinks it's time for Samuel Blackshear to step it up and use his time in prison to take advantage of programs that will help him be more productive and move his attitude away from "us vs. them."

"If you don't," Zambito said, "you're either going to spend a lot of your life in jail or you're going to wind up dead like Terry Toote."

March 19, 2019 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GOW opioid task force, opioid epidemic, news, notify.

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There is a lot of attention paid to opioid addiction treatment, Dr. Richard Blondell told an audience at the City Church Generation Center in Batavia today, but not enough effort is given to preventing addiction in the first place.

"The bottom line of this opioid epidemic is we cannot treat our way out of this epidemic," Blondell said. "We cannot incarcerate out of this epidemic. We can't legislate our way out of this epidemic. What we really have to do is prevention."

Blondell is vice chair of addiction medicine and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at SUNY Buffalo. He spoke today at a workshop for faith leaders sponsored by the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force.

Drawing on science, history and statistics, Blondell made the case that it's very difficult to successfully treat somebody for opioid addiction; therefore, to end the current epidemic, society needs to produce fewer addicts.

That begins with doctors, he said but includes families and individuals who need to be more aware and better educated about addiction and prevention.

The causes of addiction are both genetic and environmental, Blondell said.

About 10 percent of the population is genetically susceptible to opioid addiction. Those people, when exposed to opioids, usually through prescription medication, are much likely to become addicts.

The addiction for them is a disease.

An addict has about a 5 percent chance of dying in any given year. 

"The average life expectancy of a heroin addict is about 10 years, most are gone in 20," Blondell said.

Much of the blame for the opioid epidemic can be placed on Arthur M. Sackler, a medical marketing executive in the 1950s who, among other things, introduced the world to Valium, the first multimillion drug.

"It didn't treat anything actually," Bondell said. "Even though Valium was the number one prescribed drug in the country it was not clear what disease it treated."

The Sackler family went on to own Perdue Pharma, the company that introduced OxyContin. 

That pain pill was sold to doctors as non-addictive if used for pain.

Then the insurance companies got involved, Blondell said. They stopped funding pain-management regimes, which could cost thousands of dollars but were effective, in favor of prescription pain medications. And if doctors didn't prescribe enough pain pills, they would get low patient satisfaction scores from patients who said, "he didn't do anything for my pain."  

Doctors started prescribing opioid-based pain medications "like skittles," Blondell said.

Patients who become addicted to pain pills often, usually, turn to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to get. About 75 percent of heroin addicts started with a prescription to either the addict himself or to a friend or family member.

There are two types of treatment for addicts, neither high success rates -- counseling or medication.

In counseling, an addict receives psychological therapy, or they might live in a home and where they can learn adult life skills but if they are physically addicted, brain condition related to addiction is not treated. That is where medication, such as methadone, come in.

Blondell said all treatment methods should continue but that isn't the final answer on the epidemic. We've never treated our way out of an epidemic, he said.

People who say addiction is a choice really don't understand opioid addiction, Blondell said.  

Everybody is addicted to something. Addiction is essential to survival. We're all addicted, for example, to water.

But what substances, such as illicit drugs and alcohol do, is trick the brain into thinking that substance is a higher priority than other addictions, such as food.

"So people say to me, this is a behavior," Blondell said. "It's not really a mental illness or it's not a disease. It's not a disorder. It's really just a behavioral problem. To which my question is, what organ in the body produces behavior? Is it the kidneys? Is it the liver? No, it's the brain. So it's the brain that produces the behavior that we see and pass judgment on."

If we're going to end the epidemic, Blondell said, doctors need to be more cautious and judicious in when and how they prescribe pain medications. Patients who receive them need to be better educated about taking the prescribed amount for only a short period of time. Parents need to ensure they control the distribution of pain medication to their teen children, and ensure they actually take them when dispensed so they're not hoarded so five or six can be taken at a time. Everybody needs to be better educated about the nature of addiction and how to avoid it.

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