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August 19, 2019 - 10:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in connor lynskey, news, crime, darien lake, notify, jennifer serrano.

The 49-year-old mother of three who drove drunk a year ago and killed a Hinckley teenager, leaving him to die alone in ditch in a cornfield off Sumner Road, was given the maximum possible sentence today in Genesee County Court.

Jennifer Serrano was convicted by a jury on July 2 of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. Connor Lynskey was killed sometime after midnight on Aug. 11 on Sumner Road while walking back to a campsite after attending a country music concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center with friends.

But before she was sentenced, Serrano had to listen to the tragedy she has wrought on Connor's family and hear firsthand of his mother's heartbreak.

Donna Lynskey read her remarks at the podium in a packed courtroom, with her husband, Michael, gently holding her right elbow, and Connor's brother, other relatives and their priest holding large portraits of Connor -- in his soccer uniform, suited in a senior high school photo, smiling in khaki shorts and a light-colored shirt.

A Mother Tells A Courtroom About Her Son

"I want you to know who Connor was," she said.

By last summer, the 18-year-old had completed his freshman year with honors at Siena College in Loudonville and he planned to become a rural doctor. At the time of his death, he had one week left of his summer vacation before he was scheduled to return Aug. 19 for his sophomore year and training as a resident assistant in the freshman dorms.

He had already been accepted into Upstate Medical University’s Medical Doctor Program during his senior year at Holland Patent High School, where he had a 95.35 GPA and was the president of his class.

Connor was also captain of his soccer team, named to the Center State Conference All-Star Team for soccer, and was the Division 1 Player of the Year in 2017 for the Center State Conference.

In his honor, Connor’s soccer coach now gives out the Connor Lynskey Award to a player on the Holland Patent Varsity Soccer Team at the end of the season. The award reads that it goes to “someone who always gives 100 percent at everything he does; doesn’t take shortcuts; always leads by example; is kind; a leader off and on the field; a good musician; does great in school; is an excellent runner; and always treats people with respect."

Connor also participated in track and field in high school, was a talented saxophone player, both in his high school wind ensemble and jazz band. His classmates voted Connor as the most likely to succeed in his graduating class.

"Not once was there ever a phone call home from school that Connor had misbehaved," Donna Lynskey said. "At all parent-teacher conferences and open houses, the comments that were made about Connor were glowing – respectful, kind, intelligent, and the list goes on."

He also enjoyed kayaking, skiing, swimming, pickup games of football and soccer, climbing the Adirondack Mountains, and February breaks in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

He was employed at his family's restaurant where he started as a landscaper and dish washer and then moved up to carver, cook and banquet server. He took pride in working with his father and helping out his family.

On several occasions Connor talked about wanting to be a foster parent when he got older. He wanted to help kids who were less fortunate. He always came home inspired whenever he volunteered at the soup kitchen in Utica, his mother said.

"He stated to our priest that he enjoyed being an altar server because that is when he felt closest to God," Lynskey said.

Connor’s favorite place to go was Ager Falls (in Lyons Falls) to swim, discover, explore and slide down the rocks.

"We are grateful that the Sunday before Connor was killed we went there as a family one last time and took some priceless photos of him," she said.

In fact, 2018 was the best summer of his life. He had grown into an impressive young man. He had spent a week on Montauk Point with his cousin, aunt and uncle. He ran the 15K Boilermaker Road Race in Utica with his cousins and uncle. And he traveled to Lima and Machu Picchu, Peru, where he spent close to three weeks learning the culture with newfound Peruvian friend, Manu, from Siena College. Connor had already made plans to travel to Peru again in 2019.

"Above all Connor was a kind and caring person," his mother said. "Connor was the one to find time to travel to his grandmother’s house just to check in on her and play a game of rummy or seeing what he could do to help her around the house.

"He was the one to take time out of his busy schedule to hand write his grandmother letters via snail mail (USPS) to let her know how he’s doing at college since she doesn’t email or text."

The aspiring doctor was also full of joy.

"When you were around him you couldn’t help but feel his happiness and his love for life," his mother said. "He wasn’t loud and boisterous. He was a listener, a thinker. He had his grandfather’s steel blue eyes and his father’s wonderful sense of humor. ... He was the mysterious light that others followed. We all relied on him."

His biology study group at college said they could count on Connor to liven things up when they were stressing out because he'd tell a silly joke like "Under what?" to try and get someone to say "Under where?" even though they'd heard the gag a hundred times.

"​He had a way about him that brought happiness, peace and inclusiveness," Lynskey said. "Connor seemed to have a deeper understanding about life than most people."

A Miracle Child

After their first child, Michael Jr., was born the doctor told the Lynskeys they would not have any more children. But nearly six years later Connor was born.

And his big brother Michael took great pride in teaching his little sibling things he needed to know.

"Connor was Michael’s protégé," she said. "They played sports, video games, fantasy football, and the game of life. They were best friends. When they were together, it was as if they had their own language that only they understood."

Connor's medical school ambitions were modeled after his brother's, who had blazed the trail to medical school before him. They planned to open their future medical practice together in Upstate New York.

Almost three years after Connor’s birth, his sister, Meghan, was born.

"Connor will always be her guardian angel," his mother said. "From the time Meghan was born, Connor took his role as big brother seriously and guided her every step of the way."

Their Lives Are Shattered

Connor was killed sometime after midnight on Aug. 11 last year. They received a phone call about 9 a.m. that morning that Connor was missing.

“Missing? What do you mean? He went camping with his friends. How could he possibly be missing?” she told the caller.

His parents quickly left on the three-hour trip to Darien Lake, praying the whole way there was some misunderstanding. It just didn’t make sense to them that their responsible, reliable son was missing. They called the area’s hospitals and they prayed. By 11 a.m. “we were at a loss. We knew something was terribly wrong.”

As they crossed Sumner Road, they noticed the road was closed and a police car had its lights flashing. As they came closer, they noticed several police cars at the side of the road with their lights on. “This couldn’t be.” Then an officer approached their vehicle and told them they could proceed no further.

I explained “My son is missing. Did you find my son?”

Lynskey paused at this point and swallowed hard, fighting back tears.

She told the officer her son’s name and the officer said yes, they had found her son. "Can we see him?" she asked. “He stated ‘no you cannot.’ “

“Is he dead?” she asked, “and he shook his head yes. 'Are you sure? Are you sure he is dead?' And the officer replied ‘I am sure.’ "

“That’s when our lives were shattered. Unless you have experienced the loss of one of your children, you cannot understand or even begin to imagine the anguish. Our world fell apart. The shock was overwhelming. To think that Connor had worked so hard for his short 18 years … and it was taken away so quickly. All of his hopes and dreams were extinguished. He would never be able to help the people of Upstate New York that he so wanted to."

They tried to fathom how someone could hit him and leave him in a ditch to die.

"At first we thought it must have been a young driver – someone under age 25 whose brain hadn’t fully developed yet, somebody who did not realize the extent of their actions," she said.

But after they came to learn the killer was a then-48-year-old mother of three, with a passenger in the car – another mother, she said they "lost their faith in humanity."

Things Have Different Meanings Now

Everything in their lives has changed – "from the meaning of songs on the radio, to the patterns of the clouds in the sky, the actions of the birds around us, the meaning of the butterflies flying near us, to the pain of waking up in the morning and realizing it isn’t just a nightmare. This is our reality.

"Little by little, we are trying to rebuild our lives. It's a slow process. I'm told by others who’ve lost children that the pain never subsides. All you can do is learn to live with the pain and try to put the shattered pieces back together. We cannot get through it; but we are trying to live forward.”

The Way It Appears

"According to court testimony, it appears it wasn’t enough for the defendant to consume 22 to 29 alcoholic beverages on Aug. 10 into the early morning hours of Aug. 11," Connor's mother said. "She then decided to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, turning it into a deadly weapon. It appears that it wasn’t enough for her to decide to leave my son in the ditch on Sumner Road to die alone.

"It appears that if she had stopped and called 9-1-1 my son would have had a chance at survival. It appears that didn’t matter to her or the passenger in that vehicle. The only concern they had was for themselves.

"Even after nearly hitting a police vehicle and watching the body cam video of the field sobriety test, I was perplexed and disgusted. How could a person who just hit a human being and left him at the side of the road be laughing and smiling? And even after all that the defendant has shown no remorse and took these charges to trial."

Lynskey then quoted from a transcript of a phone call that Serrano had with someone named "Dennis" while in Niagara County Jail: “I know that I did the stupidest thing I could have possibly ever done. But I’ve done stupider and this is a horrible accident.”

Connor's mother finds it "absolutely despicable" that Serrano chose to drive drunk, killed her son, left him in a ditch to die, then took the case to trial and tried to blame Connor for his own death.

"She has no regard for human life except her own," she said.

She then asked Judge Charles Zambito for the maximum sentence allowable by law: four-and-two-thirds to 14 years in state prison.

Throughout the mother's statement, Serrano seemed to pay attention and she looked at Lynskey as she spoke. Serrano wore heavy bangs and had her hair in a topknot pinned unneatly on her head. She had on eyeglasses, wore dark slacks and an ivory blouse. She was flanked by her two attorneys. She did not cry -- at first.

No Plea Deal Ever Considered

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman spoke next and said this case is the first time in his nearly 38 years of working as a prosecutor that he made absolutely no plea offer.

The reason is because when he spoke to Connor's mother initially about the case and told her that the maximum this defendant was facing was four-and-two-thirds to 14 years, she couldn’t comprehend how that could be possible.

"I had to agree with her," Friedman said. "That sentence is woefully inadequate."

But it's possible because of the way the statute is written and by Serrano's decision, some say a calculated one, to refuse a Breathalyzer test, not report the accident and therefore not be subjected to BAC mandatory testing.

Based on testimony at trial, had her BAC been known, Friedman, Lynskey and subsequently Judge Zambito all said they had no doubt it would have been above .18 percent – which would make the crime a first-degree vehicular manslaughter charge – a Class C felony – with a sentence of five to 15 years. If you add the two-and-one-third to seven years for leaving the scene of an accident, she could have faced seven to 22 years.

"Concurrent sentencing would constitute a horrible failure to recognize what the defendant did by fleeing the scene," Friedman told Zambito.

The district attorney reminded the court that the defendant ignored pleas from her own passenger about striking something in the roadway and drove off. When she nearly struck a deputy's vehicle a short time later, she refused a BAC test.

"She knew what she had done," Friedman said. "She knew this was not just a minor DWI."

After she was arrested for DWI and her license was taken, she still got into her Jeep Wrangler and drove on the Thruway to her home in Chautauqua County, Friedman said. Ultimately it was her passenger's husband who reported the accident, the DA said, and the passenger contacted an attorney who then called Genesee County Sheriff's Office to check on a hit-and-run accident.

Friedman said he read the letters submitted to the court by Serrano's friends and family, but the person described is not a person capable of committing the acts in this court case.

"That person is not someone who simply engaged in an uncharacteristic lapse of judgment -- her decisions, her choices, her actions showed over and over a callous disregard for human life -- of others, not just Connor’s," Friedman said. "She continued to drive while intoxicated after striking Connor, causing his death, after her license was suspended, while she was still under the influence of alcohol."

This point prompted Serrano to twist uncomfortably in her chair, slump over the table and sob.

"Then she tried to convince a jury that Connor was responsible for his death, which a unanimous jury did not buy beyond a reasonable doubt," Friedman said.

He then read more quotes from transcripts of her jailhouse phone calls: "I feel so guilty, I feel so bad for that mother." In an effort to blame her passenger she says “the princess couldn’t walk two miles to the tent. …. I’m just pissed, you know, I take my blame in it. I shouldn’t have driven. But you know what Babs? We had a tent pitched at Brook’s house on 77, two miles up the road and the bitch didn’t want to walk. The princess didn’t want to walk.  … I am responsible for my own choices. ... I deserve everything I get."

"Truer words were never spoken, your honor, she deserves everything she gets," Friedman added.

'She Knows She Is Really Messed Up'

Her attorney Frank LoTempio said it's been "a tough road for everyone involved." He perfunctorily apologized to the Lynskey family for their loss.

Then he told Judge Zambito that the person who has been portrayed in the Genesee County courtroom is not the person Serrano really is. He characterized her as remorseful and said "she knows she is really messed up" -- a fact underscored by her attempted suicide a few days after the incident.

"She never had an issue with the law before," LoTempio said. "She's not a monster as Mr. Friedman portrayed her to be. ... This is a successful businesswoman who was strained by going through a difficult divorce. She will make a difference when she gets out. She's a very, very, very good person.

LoTempio said a consecutive sentence, versus a concurrent one, is “not at all” appropriate in his client's case. He even cited a case from January where Zambito sentenced someone involved in a serious injury accident while intoxicated to six months in prison and five years probation. This is the kind of balance Zambito should consider today, he added hopefully, and noted that his client has already been behind bars for a year to date.

But Zambito was unpersuaded after reviewing all of the case materials and the letters from family and friends on both sides. He acknowleged that he had wide latitude in sentencing.

"Connor Lynskey appeared to be an outstanding young man with a bright and luminous future," Zambito said. "His death amounts to an immeasurable loss to his family, his friends and the community. Who’s to say whose lives he might have touched had he been able to live."

Nonetheless it is "untenable" to weigh the value of someone’s life in reaching a sentence. All life is valuable. He acknowleged the defendant has no prior criminal history.

For the Judge, the Facts Speak for Themselves

"The most important factors are the facts of the case itself," the judge said.

He agrees with the prosecution that the defendant was highly, highly intoxicated. She was driving the vehicle that struck and killed Connor Lynskey.

"As to the question of Connor walking in the roadway, with all respect to the jury, it doesn’t matter," Zambito said.

Serrano drove with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Her passenger said when they were stopped on Route 77, she either fell asleep or passed out.

Testimony of the defense expert did not indicate she did not see Connor; she should have known she hit something. She should have seen him. The front right fender was torn off, flew over vehicle, the windshield smashed, the passenger side mirror was broken off.

Later, she tried to talk her way out of getting arrested by Deputy Henning, Zambito said, citing her ties to law enforcement. When that was not successful, she became verbally combative. She refused testing and did not report an accident, which allowed her to avoid mandatory testing, therefore her degree of intoxication is unknowable.

Then she still drove after her license was revoked that night following the near-accident with the deputy. She didn’t go to the police, she talked to an attorney. Her friend finally reported it.

"Her actions are so egregious, they outweigh mitigating factors," Zambito concluded.

He was singularly unimpressed with the letter she wrote on her own behalf to him.

"Your statements are so nuanced, to express regret without admitting guilt, maybe it was written by your attorney," Zambito said.

She mentions having "no intent" – none is required, he noted, and "to say you expected to be found not guilty, tells me you still don't feel guilty."

Indeed, she writes as if she's being wrongly persecuted  – that she’s been treated unfairly by the DA, law enforcement. The overall correspondence lacks sincerity, he told her.

"I do try to be balanced, I'm not what anybody would call a hanging judge, but I can’t find any reason not to give the maximum possible," Zambito said.

So he wrapped matters up by declaring she will serve two-and-one-third to seven years indeterminately on the conviction of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and the same amount of time consecutively for leaving the scene of an accident -- a total of four-and-two-thirds to 14 years, along with a $2,000 fine. 

Serrano studied her hands and picked at her nails as the minutae was read.

Upon release, her NYS driver's license will be revoked for one year for the manslaughter conviction. For the misdemeanor DWI, her prison sentence is one year to run concurrently, with a $500 fine and a license revocation of six months.

For aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree, she'll serve 180 days concurrently and pay a $500 fine.

Post-release conditional discharge was set for three years and she must have an interlock ignition device on her vehicle once she receives her driving privileges back.

She'll also pay: a $50 DNA fee; $75 surcharge on misdemeanor DWI conviction; a Crime Victim Assistance Fee of $25; $195 DWI and vehicle and traffic law surcharge.

All fines must begin being paid within 60 days of release at the rate of $100 a month.

Serrano did not look back at anyone in the gallery as she was led out of a courtroom side door to begin serving her sentence.

'Connor's Way' -- 'Something Good'

Also, Connor's mother announced the creation of "Connor's Way" -- "to help something good come out of this" -- established by her son's friends and family members. It will offer "scholarship opportunities to graduating high school seniors and to future medical students who want to work in underserved communities, and also help families in need."

Photos: Still frames taken from video by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

Story based on video and audio provided by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

August 19, 2019 - 9:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, indian falls, pembroke, notify.


A motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene this evening an accident on Sliker Road, Pembroke.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the accident and will release more information later.

The victim is described as a middle-aged male.

Pembroke fire and Indian Falls fire along with Mercy EMS responded to the scene.

Photo and information: Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

August 18, 2019 - 1:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rob Ortt, NY-27, news, batavia, notify.
Video Sponsor

Sen. Rob Ortt on Saturday, in announcing his run for the NY-27 congressional district, hung his star -- his Bronze Star -- on his military service and what he said are his conservative credentials as a "battle-tested warrior."

It's a phrase he is using on his campaign signs, he used in his speech and in his remarks to the media after his announcement.

Ortt came to Batavia, which he said is the heart of the district, and made his announcement in front of City Hall, where just a month ago, Medal of Honor winner David Bellavia received the Key to the City.

"This really is the heart of the district," Ortt said. "We wanted to make a point, we wanted to be here in Genesee County, in Batavia, because if you think about Genesee County, Orleans County, Livingston, Wyoming even parts of Ontario, it's rural New York. It's rural America.

"Those are the values that we talk about all the time that we're losing in places like Albany and Washington, D.C. These are values that our party talks about defending all the time. And I think it's important that you are actually where those folks live. This is the heart of the district in my opinion."

Ortt talked at length about his decision to serve in the military after 9-1-1 and take part in the War on Terror and what his service meant to him.

"I was lucky to return home to Meghan and my family but I wear a constant reminder on my wrist of four of my brothers in arms who were not so lucky," Ortt said. "That is what motivates me and inspires me to this day. These men and countless others died for an idea that we refer to as America. My commitment to that idea did not end when I took off my uniform."

Ortt said he is fully committed to defending President Donald Trump, that he wants to go to Washington to support the president's agenda. He said he supports tighter border security, accused Democrats of being for "open borders," and said he wants to build a wall along the Southern border.

"I deployed to the Southern border as part of Operation Jumpstart," Ortt said. "I know what our Border Patrol is up against. We need to build the wall. We need to increase funding for border security of all kinds. And we need to close the loopholes that are allowing people to cut the line and waltz in here consequence-free."

Ortt said Democrats in Washington are pushing a radical agenda and he wants to go there and fight it.

"Albany, and by extension New York State, is a stark warning to the rest of the country," Ortt said. "We already know here what the Democratic Socialist agenda is: Higher taxes. Open borders. Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Unionization of our farms. Abortion on demand, more rights for criminals, and more gun control for our law-abiding gun owners."

Ortt said he has been named through multiple years the most conservative member of the Senate and that he is experienced in standing up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"I will do the same to the extreme radical Speaker of the House," Ortt said. "You all know who I'm talking about. She runs the Democratic policy agenda and she has never seen a camera she doesn't like. And she's a New Yorker.

"Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has a couple of deputies, too: Nancy Pelosi and her America-hating squad members Ilhan Omar and  Rashida Tlaib. I look forward to meeting all of them."

Earlier in his speech, Ortt accused some Democrats of hating America and said, "If you don't love this country, you're free to leave. Our borders work both ways."

After these statements and statements about how well he believes the country is doing under Trump, Ortt said, "So if you hadn't guessed it, I support President Trump. And I'm not afraid to talk about his agenda and all the good that I believe he's doing for this country."

He concluded his speech with, "I am Robert Ortt. I'm a conservative warrior. I'm a battle-tested patriot and I will never back down from the fight. I'm not running for Congress to have a seat at the table. I'm running for Congress to flip the table over."

At no time during his speech did he mention the incumbent congressman, Chris Collins, who is facing a House ethics investigation and a federal trial on insider trading charges and has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection. Asked about Collins after his speech, Ortt said he is committed to the race and will run in a primary against Collins should Collins decide to try and retain his seat.

"This race is wide open and I think it's so important that we have a strong conservative veteran voice, a battle-tested leader, in this race," Ortt said. "I think it's important for the people of this district and I think it's important for our country for our president."

Also left out of Ortt's comments were the names Chris Jacobs, Beth Parlato, and David Bellavia. Neither Jacobs nor Parlato have yet to make a public appearance in Batavia, but both are running in the primary election on June 2020. And while there is a "Draft David Bellavia" movement among a group of Republicans in the district, Bellavia has remained neutral on political questions since receiving the Medal of Honor.  He is currently serving the Army in publicity and recruiting capacity and is prohibited from making statements about his political plans. It's unclear when his status will change and what his intentions might be toward the seat.

The video contains Ortt's full remarks, including the discussion with reporters after the event.

After Ortt's announcement, Jacobs released the following statement:

“I want to welcome my friend Rob Ortt to the campaign for New York’s 27th district. As a conservative who has created jobs, I’m running for Congress because our community needs a fighter for small businesses who can help President Trump enact better trade deals and stop the illegal immigration crisis. I intend to run an issues-based campaign focused on my record protecting taxpayers, cutting fees and defending the 2nd amendment and I welcome Rob to that conversation.”

August 16, 2019 - 4:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in weather, news, notify.

At 4:41 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement for Southwestern Genesee County and other portions of Western New York.

A strong thunderstorm was located a short time ago over Darien Lakes State Park, moving northeast at 25 mph. Winds in excess of 40 mph are possible with this storm.

Locations impacted include: Batavia, Darien Lakes State Park, Le Roy, Pembroke, Pavilion, Byron and Oakfield.

This includes the following highways: Interstate 390 near exit 10; Interstate 90 between exits 48A and 47.

If outdoors, consider seeking shelter inside a building. Torrential rainfall is also occurring with this storm, and may cause localized flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways.

Frequent cloud-to-ground lightning is occurring with this storm. Lightning can strike 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. Seek a safe shelter inside a building or vehicle.

This storm may intensify, so be certain to monitor local radio stations and available television stations for additional information and possible warnings from the National Weather Service.

August 16, 2019 - 3:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, bergen, crime, news, notify, corfu.

Robert James Barnes, 29, of West Main Street, Corfu, is due in Corfu Village Court at 1 p.m. on Sept. 10 on charges of: falsifying business records in the first degree, a Class E felony; and attempted criminal contempt in the second degree, a Class B misdemeanor. On Aug. 6, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office was notified by the FBI that the defendant allegedly tried to purchase a firearm on West Main Street in the Village of Corfu at 4:47 p.m. on Aug. 2 while there was an active order of protection against him. Further investigation revealed that the defendant allegedly put false information on the background form that was submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Alan R. Price, 24, of Chili Avenue, Chili, is charged with: second-degree strangulation; first-degree criminal contempt; and endangering the welfare of a child. Price was arrested on the felony and misdemeanor charges and arraigned in Bergen Town Court on Aug. 14. The charges stem from a domestic dispute that occurred at 8 a.m. on April 11 on the eastbound Route 490 at mile marker 3.3 in Bergen. Price is accused of strangling the driver of the vehicle while it was being driven on Route 490. There was a 1-year-old in the back seat and the time and an active order of protection in place. Following arraignment, he was released under supervision of Genesee Justice. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Office Investigator Howard Carlson, assisted by Batavia Police Detective Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Wesley Thigpen, 38, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested after a domestic incident at 7:18 p.m. Aug. 13 on Hall Street in Batavia when there was an order of protection against him. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in Genesee County Jail; bail status not provided. He is due back in city court on Aug. 22. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Felicia DeGroot.

August 16, 2019 - 1:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rob Ortt, NY-27, news, notify.

Sen. Rob Ortt, who represents Tonawanda and surrounding areas in Albany, has scheduled a press conference tomorrow to discuss the NY-27 congressional race.

The media advisory does not explicitly say he is planning to announce a primary challenge to Rep. Chris Collins.

Collins, facing a federal indictment on insider trading charges and a House ethics investigation, while maintaining his innocence, has been noncommittal about whether he will seek reelection.

That has kept many potential challenges, including Assemblyman Steve Hawley, on the sidelines.

Hawley reiterated today, "As I have always maintained, we have an incumbent congressman. I will make a decision once his status is known."

Assuming Ortt, a NY Army National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan and earned a bronze star in combat, enters the race, he will join two other candidates in the primary field against Collins. The other candidates, who have yet to make a publicly announced visit to Batavia, are Chris Jacobs and Beth Parlato.

In the past few months, Ortt has paid a bit of attention to Genesee County, hosting a public forum in Batavia on the farm labor bill and visiting a farm in Corfu, where he first shared a possible interest in running for this congressional seat.

While there is an effort to convince Medal of Honor recipient and Batavia resident David Bellavia to enter the race, Bellavia has taken no public position on the race and is maintaining a busy schedule with the Army to promote service to community and country.

August 15, 2019 - 10:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Stafford, notify.


A driver told investigators that he was singing to his 18-month-old daughter, and briefly looked at her at the back seat before his 2002 Acura sedan crossed the center line on Route 33 in Stafford at 9:23 a.m., last Friday, and struck an oncoming truck that was hauling garbage.

Alexander P. Ortiz, 22, of Canary Street, Rochester, was cited for driving without insurance, driving with an expired inspection, driving left of pavement markers, unlicensed operation, and driving on a suspended registration.

His baby daughter, Elle A. Ortiz, who was placed properly in a child safety seat in the backseat of the car, was uninjured but was transported to UMMC for evaluation.

The Acura clipped at 2019 Mack truck driving by R.W. Kellen II, 40, of North Road, Scottsville. The impact caused the driver-side front tire to be torn from the vehicle and Kellen lost control of the truck. It crossed the oncoming lane of traffic, the westbound lane, and left the roadway, flipping onto its side and dumping its load of garbage on the roadway and onto the field as it slid out of control.

A third vehicle, a 2010 Nissan sedan, driven by Alexander Boehlig, 17, struck some of the debris, causing damage to the front bumper and windshield.

Boehlig, from Bergen, was uninjured.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush.

Previously: No serious injuries reported, including to 18-month-old, in trash-truck vs. car accident in Stafford

Photos: Previously published photos.


August 15, 2019 - 1:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Dan's tire, dickinson's auto service, batavia, news, notify.


You might say it takes a community to pull 80,000 pounds of cement truck and cement out of a ditch after it overturns.

That's what happened Wednesday when crews from Dan's Tire, Dickinson's Auto Service, and L&L Transmission, came together to figure out a way to recover a cement truck that had crashed on Route 98 in Batavia after blowing out a tire.

"They (the truck owner) requested that we go out there and remove their truck with the least damage possible without cutting up their truck because they want to keep the loss on it as minimal as possible," said Steve Grice, towing operations manager for Dan's Tire. "They were also concerned about the property owner and not any further damage to their property, which Tony Scalia is taking care of tomorrow, restoring their property."

The crew was Grice, T.J. DiLaura, Jesse Repass, and Matt Scott, from Dan's Tire, and Chad Dickinson, Bob Dickinson, Bobbie Dickinson, and Steve Dorf from Dickinson's Auto Service, Cameron Selapack from L&L Transmission.

Grice said between Dan's and Dickinson, he thinks they had the two largest wreckers in the county on the scene to deal with a truck and a full mix barrel weighing an estimated 80,000 pounds.

"I know it was a huge safety concern of the fire department and everybody," Grice said. "To our knowledge, everyone was happy that everything was done safely. The road was closed down for a short period of time. Once the truck was upright on the roadside, we had one lane opened up and within an hour that the road was open and clear for public traffic."

Dickinson's used their 45-ton "King Kong," with its 90,000-pound capacity, and Dan's it's "Big Black" with 50- to 100,000-pound capacity. King Kong took control of the mix barrel and crews were able to lift it back onto the frame of the truck and safely chain it to the truck. Big Black was able to hook onto the front of the truck and then the two trucks "walked" it back and forth onto the shoulder of the roadway.

After repairing airlines and refilling the truck's suspension to be able to handle the load, Big Black held the truck stable while King Kong moved to the front end and lifted it so the broken axle could be removed. After repositioning the truck, Dickinson's was able to safely tow it to the owner's property on East Main Street.

Grice said Wreck Master's was on speed dial to help with any weight calculations during the operation.

"It was a combined effort and combined brains came up with the proper way to safely remove it without causing further damage," Grice said. "I know someone brought up one point they were concerned for safety because of the weight we were dealing with.

"At no point at any time was anybody's safety in jeopardy. Everyone knew the weight they were dealing with; what had to be done; and the safest way to do it."

Photo: Steve Grice, Chad Dickinson, and Bob Dickinson.

Below, video provided by Steve Grice showing a little of the operation to get the truck out of the ditch. Photos below courtesy Steve Grice.

Previously: Concrete truck rollover reported on Alexander Road, Batavia




August 14, 2019 - 5:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, Stafford, batavia, news, crime, notify.

Michael J. VanBuskirk Jr., 45, of Lake Street, Le Roy was arrested by Le Roy Police Department on Tuesday afternoon after a short standoff at a residence on Church Street in the Village. The parolee was allegedly wanted by New York State Parole as an Absconder and a Parole Warrant was issued for his arrest. At about 12:16 p.m. Aug. 13, VanBuskirk was seen entering a relative's house on Church Street in the Village. When officers attempted to take VanBuskirk into custody, he would not answer the door or come outside. The residence was surrounded and the roadway was briefly closed. During the standoff, the homeowner came home and allowed the officers inside where VanBuskirk was located and taken into custody without further incident. VanBuskirk was then jailed on the Parole Warrant. The Le Roy Police Department was assisted by members of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, the NYS Police, NYS Environmental Conservation K-9 and NYS Parole.

Tyson James Carpenter, 35, of Empire Boulevard, Irondequiot, is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree; criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree; aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree; unlawful possession of marijuana; and having an obstructed driver's view. At 2:15 p.m. on Aug. 9, Carpenter was stopped on Route 33 in the Town of Stafford following the alleged observation of a vehicle and traffic violation. Upon checking his driving status, it was allegedly found that the defendant was driving with a non-driver identification card and that he had a suspended driver's license. He was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Stafford Court on Aug. 23. The casse was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush, assisted by Deputy Ryan DeLong.

Henry Kevin Michael, 41, of Granada Circle, Rochester, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent or more; and speeding. At 12:02 a.m. on Aug. 11 on Pearl Street Road in Batavia, Henry was stopped on Route 33 in the Town of Batavia for allegedly driving 70 mph in a 55-mph zone. He was arrested in the charges and issued appearance tickets for Aug. 29 in Town of Batavia Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Erik Andre, assisted by Sgt. Jason Saile.

August 14, 2019 - 4:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, Grand Jury, batavia, Le Roy, Alabama, pembroke.

Benjamin Santiago Jr. is indicted for the crime of first-degree robbery, a Class B violent felony. It is alleged that on June 2 at an upper apartment on Ellicott Street in Batavia that Santiago forcibly stole property from another person, and in the course of the commission of the crime used or threatened the immediate use of a dangerous instrument -- a hammer. In count two, Santiago is accused of forcibly stealing property and in the commission of the crime, causing serious physical injury to a person. It is also a Class B violent felony. In count three the defendant is accused of first-degree assault, another Class B violent felony, for intentionally causing serious physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument -- a hammer. In count four, Santiago is accused of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a Class E felony, for stealing a credit or debit card belonging to another person. In count five, he is accused of petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor, for stealing U.S. currency from the same victim. In count six, he is accused of petit larceny for stealing a Fuji bicycle from a different victim that day on Bank Street in the city, which is a misdemeanor. In count seven, Santiago is accused of second-degree burglary, a Class C violent felony, for entering a dwelling on Bank Street Road in the Town of Batavia with the intent to commit a crime. In count eight, the defendant is accused of third-degree grand larceny, a Class D felony, for allegedly stealing property with a value of more than $3,000 -- a 2010 Ford F150 Lariat super cab truck -- belonging to a third victim.

Juaquin E. Davis is indicted for the crime of criminal contempt in the first degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on Jan. 16 in the City of Batavia that he violated an order of protection by being in the presence of the protected party. In count two his is accused of the same crime on March 18. In count three, Davis is accused of the same crime on March 18 for allegedly grabbing the protected party by the hair and pushing her up against a wall, then shoving her against a window. In Special Information filed by the District Attorney, Davis is accused of having been convicted of second-degree criminal contempt, a Class A misdemeanor, on Oct. 3 in City of Batavia Court. His conviction stems from violating an order of protection and that conviction was within five years of the crimes alleged in the current indictment.

Cody M. Landin is indicted for the crime of aggravated driving while intoxicated, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on March 20 in the Town of Stafford that Landin drove a 2008 Mazda on Route 237 while intoxicated and while a passenger age 15 or under was a passenger. In count two, he is accused DWI, also as a Class E felony, for driving that day while allegedly intoxicated. In count three, Landin is accused of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree, a Class E felony, for allegedly driving while intoxicated, knowing that his NYS driver's license was suspended or revoked by authorities. In count four, he is accused of aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree, as a misdemeanor, for driving when his license was suspended by authorities on Nov. 14. In count five, the defendant is accused of refusing to submit to a breath test, a violation of vehicle and traffic law. In Special Information filed by the District Attorney's Office, Landin is accused of having been convicted of driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs, as a misdemeanor, on Jan. 14 in Town of Covington Court and that conviction was within 10 years of the crimes alleged in the current indictment. The conviction forms the basis of the driver's license revocation referred to in count three of the current indictment. The DA also accused Landin of failing to pay a fine imposed for a conviction in Town of Le Roy court for an offense committed on May 15, 2018; failure to pay that fine forms the basis for the driver's license suspension on Nov. 14.

Eric C. Cleary is indicted for the crime of driving while intoxicated, as a Class E felony. It is alleged that on March 31 in the Town of Alabama that Cleary drove a 2016 Ford van on Lewiston Road while intoxicated. In count two, he is accused of first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a Class E felony, for driving that day while intoxicated and while his driver's license was suspended or revoked by authorities. In Special Information filed by the District Attorney, Cleary is accused of having been convicted for DWI, as a felony, on Nov. 23, 2010 in County of Monroe Court and that conviction is within 10 years of the crimes alleged in the current indictment. He is also accused by the DA of having been charged in Brighton Town Court of DWI, per se, on Nov. 18 of last year, and prosecution of that crime forms the suspension referred to in count two of the current indictment. Furthermore, as a result of the Nov. 18 crime, his driver's license was suspended or revoked on Dec. 19 pending the prosecution of it.

Eduardo Santiago is indicted for the crime of aggravated driving while intoxicated, per se, as a Class E felony. It is alleged that on May 19 in the Town of Pembroke that Santiago drove a 2002 Fore Ranger westward on I-90 while having a BAC of .08 percent or more and while a child age 15 or less was a passenger. In count two, he is accused of aggravated DWI, also as a Class E felony, for driving while intoxicated with a passenger age 15 or less. In count three, he is accused of speeding for driving over the maximum speed limit. In count four, he is accused of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle for driving the Ford Ranger without a driver's license.

Paula A. Cipro is indicted for the crime of criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on March 21 that Cipro knowingly possessed stolen property while on Bank Street in the City of Batavia -- a debit card belonging to another person. In count two, she is accused of petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor, for using the victim's debit card to make purchases at a local deli.

August 12, 2019 - 12:49pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, batavia, Le Roy, Darien.

Donald Frisby (inset photo left), 64, was arrested by the Le Roy Police Department on July 16 and charged with one count of first-degree sexual abuse, a Class D felony.

It is alleged that in the month of July, while in the Village of Le Roy, that Frisby subjected a female to sexual contact by forcible compulsion. Frisby was arraigned before the court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

Jeremy D. Lyons (inset photo, below right), 34of Perry Road, Le Roy, is charged with one count each of the misdemeanors of third-degree assault and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. A violent domestic/assault led to the arrest of Lyons, a parolee, in the Village of Le Roy on Aug. 6.

The domestic incident was reported in the early morning hours on Church Street in which the victim reported that Lyons was staying with the female on Church Street, allegedly in violation of his parole conditions. It is alleged that Lyons tackled the female to the ground then punched her multiple times in the face and choked her.

Afterward, Lyons ran off. Lyons was located later that day by police after a small search, in which Lyons was discovered hiding in the weeds in the area of the Little League Field between East Main Street and St. Marks Street. Following his arrest, Lyons was arraigned and put in Genesee County Jail in lieu of $750 bail. A parole violation warrant was also issued due to this incident.

Darrell D. Smith, 52, of Highland Parkway, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief. He was arrested after a domestic incident at midnight on Aug. 8 on Prune Street, Batavia. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released on his own recognizance. He is due in city court at a later date. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Carlos E. Flores, 27, of Rand Street, Rochester, is charged with second-degree harassment. Flores was arrested after an incident at 8:35 p.m. Aug. 11 on Bank Street in Batavia. He allegedly threatened a person using gestures with his hands during a verbal dispute that caused the victim to be in fear. He was issued an appearance ticket and released and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 20. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Sgt. Dan Coffey.

Darius Lamar Jones, 27, of Exchange Street, Attica, is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance; unlawful possession of marijuana; speed violation -- exceeding 55 mph; and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. At 9:02 p.m. on Aug. 7 on Route 33 in Byron, Jones was arrested after a traffic stop. It is alleged that "criminal indicators were observed," leading to a search of Jones and his vehicle. The search allegedly yielded marijuana, controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. He was issued appearance tickets for Sept. 9 in Byron Town Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy James Stack.

Linda Marie Clemens, 58, of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated and DWI. At 11:23 p.m. on Aug. 7, deputies responded to the parking lot of Batavia Downs on Park Road for a reported motor-vehicle accident. When they arrived they located Clemens in her vehicle. It is alleged that Clemens struck a parked vehicle in the parking lot. She was released on appearance tickets for Aug. 26 in Batavia Town Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Brock Cummins, assisted by Deputy Ryan Young.

(name redacted upon request), of Farwell Drive, Batavia, is charged with unreasonable noise. He was arrested following a loud music complaint at 11 a.m. on Aug. 9 on Farwell Drive. He was released on an appearance ticket for Aug. 20 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Adam Tucker, assisted by Officer Jason Ivison.

Carrie A. Stewart, 39, of Church Road, Darien, is charged with petit larceny. She was arrested after an investigation of a larceny that occurred at 11:47 a.m. on Aug. 10 on East Main Street in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 20.

Christine Wark, 34, of School Street, Le Roy was arrested by the Le Roy Police Department on July 22 and charged with one count of petit larceny after a complaint from a local business that Wark was allegedly seen shoplifting inside the store. Upon arrival of the Le Roy Police, Wark was arrested and released on an appearance ticket to appear in the Le Roy Court at a later date.

Cody N. Proefrock, 26, of Liberty Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. He was arrested after allegedly shoplifting from a local store at 5:20 p.m. on Aug. 6. He turned himself in. He was issued appearance tickets and released and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 20. The case handled by Batavia Police Officer Marc Lawrence.

Tony J. Aguglia, 39, of Main Street, Clarence, is charged with failure to appear. He responded to Batavia Police station at 1 p.m. on Aug. 6 and turned himself in on an arrest warrant. He is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Felicia DeGroot.

August 9, 2019 - 12:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in dog bite, batavia, news, notify, GC health department.

Press release:

On Saturday, Aug. 3, at approximately 7 a.m. a man was bitten by an unfamiliar dog that was with its assumed owner but not on a leash. The incident occurred at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue on Pearl Street in the City of Batavia.

The assumed owner of the dog is described as a slender white male in his late 20s; he also had a second dog with him on a leash.

The dog that bit the man is described as being white in color and possibly a pit bull or a similar, resembling breed or mix. It was reported that the white dog was a female and appeared to have recently given birth to puppies.

The man who was bitten did not obtain any information from the man with the dogs and has not seen him since the incident.

“The purpose in locating the owner of the dog is to make sure the dog is up-to-date on its anti-rabies vaccine,” said Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties. “If the owner cannot be located, the individual will have to go through unnecessary treatment.”

Anyone with information on the dog and/or dog owner is asked to contact the Genesee County Health Department at 585-344-2580, ext. 5555.

August 9, 2019 - 12:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, notify, Stafford.


A semi-truck hauling garbage and a passenger vehicle with a driver and 18-month-old child were involved in an accident on Route 33 near Ivison Road in Stafford at about 9:30 a.m.

The driver of the passenger vehicle was taken into custody on a warrant.

The 18-month-old was reportedly uninjured and transported to UMMC for evaluation. The child was reportedly properly strapped into a child safety seat.

We've been unable to obtain information about the accident from the Sheriff's Office.

(Initial report)










August 8, 2019 - 1:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in Pavilion, pembroke, bergen, crime, news, notify.

Ajie Jqunn Javontez Smith-Ezell, 24, of Cummings Street, Rochester, is charged with: criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to sell; tampering with physical evidence; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; resisting arrest; escape in the third degree; driving while ability impaired by drugs; unlawful possession of marijuana; and failure to keep right. Additional charges are pending. The county DA's Office was contacted due to felony-level charges. At 9:17 a.m. on Aug. 1, a traffic stop was conducted on Route 33 in the Town of Bergen. While conducting a roadside interview with operator/owner Smith-Ezell, the odor of burnt marijuana was allegedly detected. He was escorted to the rear of a marked Sheriff's patrol car, where he was interviewed by Investigator Christopher Parker. A vehicle search allegedly yielded packaging indicative of narcotics distribution as well as about an ounce of marijuana. Smith-Ezell was interviewed some more and while attempting to remove "an anomaly" from the driver's pant leg, he is accused of resisting arrest and obstructing deputies from accessing and taking possession of the item. A brief foot chase ensued and Smith-Ezell was taken into custody after allegedly physically resisting arrest. He was arraigned in Bergen Town Court and jailed in lieu of $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong, assisted by Investigator Parker and several others, including Deputy Richard Schildwaster, Sgt. James Diehl, Deputy Rachel Diehl, Deputy Kevin McCarthy, Investigator Ronald Welker, Trooper Valetta, Trooper M. Schmidt and his K9 partner.

Brandon Eugene Matteson, 25, of Ellicott Street Road, Pavilion, is charged with disobeying a mandate of the court and second-degree harassment. He was arrested after the investigation of a domestic incident that occurred 9:39 p.m. on July 25 in Pavilion. He was issued appearance tickets and is due in Town of Pavilion Court on Oct. 1. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Sarah Ann Fiegl, 26, of Moore Road, Ransomville, is charged with: driving while intoxicated; DWI -- with a BAC of .08 percent or more; having a front headlight out; and driving left of pavement markings. At 11:24 p.m. on Aug. 4 on Main Road in Pembroke, Fiegl was arrested following a traffic stop. She was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 22 in Pembroke Town Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Clor, assisted by Deputy David Moore.

August 7, 2019 - 6:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCASA, Bohn's, batavia, news, notify.


John Bennett, executive director of GCASA, has gone in a short time from the shock and disappointment he felt when people in the City of Batavia reacted with anger to a proposed social center at the former St. Nick's on Swan Street, to gratitude for the acceptance the same proposal for another property in the Town of Batavia.

Tuesday night there was a public hearing on a request for a special use permit to convert the former Bohn's Restaurant location on Clinton Street Road into a recreation center for people in recovery. There was no opposition and several people spoke in support of it. The Town of Batavia Planning Board subsequently passed all the necessary resolutions unanimously to give the project a green light.

"I'll say when I came to the town to meet with the town board originally, that I got a little choked up," Bennett said. "I got a little emotional because my reception was so different than what happened on the Southside in the city.

"(Town officials) were welcoming and they really had seemed to have an understanding of addiction and they said that this is needed in the community. I just feel blessed, actually, to be connected with this project and the town and they've welcomed us with open arms and they see the benefit of it."

The center will be the first of its kind in Batavia, a place where people who don't want to be an environment where beer, wine and liquor are part of the fabric of the party, and some people might show up with drugs. That's because the context of such an atmosphere makes it harder to resist the temptation to partake. Instead, they'll have a place to go to relax, socialize, make friends, and have a good time.

Several speakers at the public said the new center will make it easier for people in recovery to stay in recovery.

"The recovery center itself is it really a meet and greet," said Kathy Miller. "After you go in and you get treatment, you start living your life and you start getting normal, doing normal everyday things like get a job, buy a house, buy a car, have a baby -- living your life.

"You're not meeting anyone in recovery because now you're doing things and there's no place to go unless you can go into a recovery center. Then, when you're meeting other people, you don't have to say, 'hey, I'm in recovery,' because you already are there meeting people in recovery."

If you don't change the people you hang out with, Miller said, it's harder to stay in recovery.

"You need to change the people, places, and things around you," Miller said. "And sometimes that means your old friends, sometimes that's the people that are still doing the same old things they used to do. You have to find a new place. You have to find a way to live in it."

Jason Adams said a social and recreation center for people in recovery will be a game-changer for people locally. It will give them a place to engage in a variety of activities, watch sports on TV, or just hang out and talk, all without thinking about easy access to booze.

"The sky's the limit of what the program is available to do," Adams said.

The closest thing to an objection to the proposed recreation center on Clinton Street Road came from a nearby neighbor who said she supports the concept -- she understands the struggle of people in recovery because she's a cigarette smoker herself -- but was concerned that people using the center might loiter in the area or along the street, which could diminish her privacy.

A board member asked if a privacy fence would help. She said it would.

As soon as the public hearing was completed, the woman left.

During the board discussion of the project, Code Enforcement Officer Dan Lang looked up her property on a parcel map and said it was really too far from the actual Bohn's property to warrant a privacy fence.  

There is a parcel in between the Bohn's Restaurant property and the woman's property, and that property, Bennett revealed is subject of a negotiation with the town -- GCASA may swap that property with the town to settle some tax issues.

The board agreed to approve the project without the privacy fence, but left the door open to revisit the issue should circumstances make it more apparent a fence is needed.

Bennett said he totally understands the concern about people loitering and smoking cigarettes outside. He's aware of complaints about similar activity outside the GCASA property along East Main Street.

The state agency that oversees drug rehabilitation facilities has always frowned on designated smoking areas on the property of such programs or facilities but that policy is changing. GCASA has been given the approval to have a designated smoking area on the Bohn's property. He said he's working on getting approval for smoking areas on all of GCASA's properties.

"I think smoking in general in front of restaurants and other buildings the community is an eyesore and we working to remedy that," Bennett said.

Bennett said the community opposition to GCASA opening a recovery center on Swan Street caught him by surprise but admitted it may have been his own fault. He wasn't prepared for the opposition and therefore did a poor job of setting the stage and explaining the project.

At a 400 Towers community meeting where residents expressed a great deal of anger about the proposal, he could barely say anything to try and explain the project, there were so many other voices dominating the conversation.

"I guess I didn't get out ahead of this in terms of really getting out and educating people because it was such a quick grant that we got," Bennett said. "And I really guess I didn't think people would have an issue with a recovery center because people in recovery really are just like you and I.

"If you stood in a room full of  -- I bet you couldn't tell tonight who was in recovery and who wasn't, right? And the methadone clinic kind of went off without a hitch, so I just kind of thought the recovery center would, too.

"I didn't really see people being upset and angry about this. I missed that and then I should have done a couple more things to educate the public, especially down on the Southside."

Photo: Sue Gagne and John Bennett.

August 5, 2019 - 5:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, antwan odom, ray leach, news, notify.

The stenographer whose Grand Jury work has been called into question in a few criminal cases in Genesee County testified in open court today in a hearing on motions brought by the attorney for Antwan Odom.

Odom is charged with attempted assault, 1st, and criminal possession of a weapon in a case stemming from an altercation with a high school teammate a year ago yesterday.

Susan Ryckman, who is contracted with the county for Grand Jury transcription through Forbes Court Reporting Service, testified today about the equipment used to make transcriptions of proceedings and how that was tied into an automatic audio recording feature on her transcription device.

In 22 years of transcribing grand jury proceedings neither her employer nor any staff member with the District Attorney's Office ever informed her it was against state law to make an audio recording of a grand jury proceeding, Ryckman testified.

While Ryckman said she started handling grand jury work for the county in 1997, she wasn't asked nor did she say in what year she started using a transcription machine that enabled audio recordings of proceedings.

While motions have been made in other criminal cases, and there has been at least one prior hearing on the topic, and in each case, Judge Charles Zambito denied defense motions related to the audio recordings. Odom's attorney, Frank Housh of Buffalo, elected to require another hearing on the issue.

Housh is seeking disclosure of the grand jury minutes -- typically kept confidential and not disclosed to the defense attorney until the start of a trial -- to see if the audio recording resulted in anything prejudicial against his client. An example might be the stenographer asking somebody to speak up so the audio recorder would pick up the sound of the reporter not asking an inaudible word to be repeated.

If Housh could prove to Zambito that the grand jury proceedings were improperly influenced by the audio recording, then Housh would have a basis for dismissal of the charges against his client.

Zambito indicated he is skeptical that the actual substance of the grand jury testimony was changed because of the audio recording.

On another front, Housh is asking the case against Odom be dismissed because of "prosecutorial misconduct," which he said stemmed from the failure of the DA's office to ensure Ryckman knew she couldn't audio record grand jury proceedings.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman called the accusation "ridiculous."

As for the audio recording material affecting the case, Housh noted that based on Zambito's prior ruling, the burden of proof falls on the defense, which he said he found unusual but that he was in a no-win situation if he couldn't review the transcript to prove there was an issue material to the case.

Zambito said he first had to be convinced that it would be possible there would be something in the transcript revealing the audio recording impacted the integrity of the grand jury proceeding.

Ryckman testified that with her present transcription setup she can record audio in one of two ways -- directly into her transcription machine or onto her laptop computer when it is connected to the machine. She said she doesn't always use her laptop during grand jury proceedings.

The recording is only activated when she touches a key on her transcription machine keypad. When she's not typing, if she pauses for any reason, there is no recording.

The quality of the audio is not good, she said, and doesn't necessarily pick up everything that is said. It can be affected by the position of the speaker, other room noise, or even a piece of paper left sitting on the internal mic of the laptop.

She said she doesn't rely on the audio recording for making the official transcript. She has used it to spot check her notes if she thinks something is unclear but she never listens to the audio recording from beginning to end. Her software allows her to highlight a questionable word or phrase and it will open that section of audio recording for her to check if the recording can help her clarify what was said.

The audio recordings only came up as an issue because Assistant District Attorney Shirley Gorman called Ryckman about a case citation contained in a completed transcript. Ryckman said she checked her notes and her transcript and then mentioned to Gorman that she also checked her audio recording. That was a red flag for Gorman.

And that was the first time Ryckman -- who is also a court reporter in a variety of other kinds of court cases, not just grand juries, throughout Western New York -- learned that she couldn't audio record grand jury proceedings.

Ryckman said she did not retain the recording from the Odom proceeding. She had deleted the recording by the time of Gorman's call per her standard procedure. She said once a transcript is done, she backs up the transcript and her notes to an external hard drive. The software she uses asks her if she would like to save the audio recording as well and she always checks "no" in the box. She then deletes the original files from her laptop.

She said she doesn't save the audio recordings because they are no longer needed once the official transcript is done and they take up too much storage space.

She did have audio recordings for Nov. 7 and Jan. 15 (Odom's hearing was in early December) when Gorman called. She had the Jan. 15 recordings because she hadn't finished the official transcript yet for that proceeding. She had no explanation for why she still had Nov. 7 recordings on her computer at the time of Gorman's call.

"I don't know how I missed the backup for Nov. 7," Ryckman told Housh during cross-examination. "I don't know why for some reason it was still on my computer."

Under questioning from Zambito, Ryckman said there is nothing in the final transcript that would indicate an audio recording had been made during the proceedings.

Earlier she testified that she didn't always use the audio recording feature and that she couldn't remember if she used it specifically during the Odom proceeding, and if she did, if she referred to it at all while preparing the final transcript. And if she did make a recording, she couldn't recall specifically deleting it, but if she did make it she deleted it according to standard procedure.

Zambito said he will make a decision on Housh's motions within a couple of weeks.

Friedman noted that Housh has said he is going to file a motion to make raise the character and background of Ray Leach at trial and that no such motion has been filed. In the interest of judicial expediency, Friedman asked that a deadline be set for the motion.

Housh countered that if judicial expediency was at issue, he should be given access to the grand jury transcript prior to the trial. He argued that if standard procedure is followed and he doesn't receive a copy until the first witness takes the stand, then the trial will need to take a recess while he reads the transcript and reviews it with his client.

Zambito ordered Friedman to turn the transcript over to Housh 30 days before the Sept. 30 trial date.

So, one way or another, Housh will soon get the transcript -- either 30 days before the trial, or sooner, if Zambito rules to his favor on his motion regarding the stenographer issue.

August 5, 2019 - 2:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, Stafford, Oakfield, Darien, darien center.

Nathan Lyle Rogers, 35, (inset photo, right) of Sky Hi Drive, West Seneca, is charged with second-degree unlawful surveillance and endangering the welfare of a child. At 5:15 p.m. on July 31, Rogers was arrested after he allegedly used two of his cell phones to record a juvenile female changing clothes in his camper while attending the Kingdom Bound Festival at Six Flags Darien Lake, Darien Center. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Darien Town Court at 4 p.m. on Aug. 13. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Mathew Clor, assisted by Investigator Christopher Parker.

Jason H. Freeman, 37, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment -- physical contact, and criminal obstruction of breathing -- application of pressure. Freeman was arrested on Hutchins Street at 9 a.m. on July 31 following a complaint that he choked, then threw a bicycle at one of his tenants. He was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 6 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller, assisted by Officer Stephen Quider.

Candice Sue Tortorice, 35, of Route 20, Darien, is charged with: aggravated driving while intoxicated -- a BAC of .18 percent or higher; DWI; reckless driving; failure to use designated lane; and driving with an obstructed view. On Aug. 3 at 4:25 p.m., following a traffic complaint on Route 20 in Pavilion, Torortice was arrested. She was issued appearance tickets and is due in Pavilion Town Court on Sept. 10. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon.

Emily D. Schramm, 33, of Main Road, Stafford, is charged with aggravated family offense -- more than one offense within five years (five counts). On July 17, the GC Emergency Dispatch Center received a report at 10:29 p.m. from a third party of a possible violation of an order of protection. Following an investigation, Schramm was identified and is alleged to have committed second-degree criminal contempt by knowingly violating an order of protection by accepting phone calls from a protected party. Due to her previous conviction for second-degree criminal contempt, the charge was elevated to a Class E felony. She was issued an appearance ticket for Town of Stafford Court and is due there Aug. 6. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong, assisted by correctional officers at the GC Jail, including Senior Correctional Officer J.A. Smart.

Tonya M. Weber-Jackson, 35, of Highland Park, Batavia, is charged with second-degree obstruction of governmental administration. She was arrested at 1:54 Aug. 4 following an investigation into an unrelated matter outside a Batavia dance studio. She was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 20 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Flanagan, assisted by Officer Stephen Quider.

Tonya M. Weber-Jackson, 35, of Highland Park, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree and criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree. She was arrested at 1:54 a.m. on Aug. 4 following an investigation into an unrelated matter. She was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 20 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Flanagan, assisted by Officer Stephen Quider.

Robert Lewis Villano, 37, of Oak Street, Oakfield, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. At 9:17 a.m. on June 17, the GC Emergency Dispatch Center received a report of a suspected overose on Oak Street. Medics on scene requested law enforcement to the scene following their arrival. It is alleged that Villano endangered the welfare of a child due to narcotics in plain view, which was likely to be injurious to the mental, moral and physical welfare of a child in the residence. He was issued an appearance ticket for Oakfield Town Court and is due there Sept. 2. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong.

Kevin J. Weber, 48, of Columbia Avenue, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested at 6:48 p.m. on July 28 on Columbia Avenue after allegedly violating a stay away order of protection by contacting the protected party. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 6. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Officer Peter Post.

Jesse D. Bowman, 26, of Vine Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Following a traffic stop on Ellicott Street at 5:05 p.m. on Aug. 3, Bowman was allegedly found to possess a crack pipe. He was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 6 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Tony M. Peebles, 52, of Riley Street, Buffalo, is charged with driving while intoxicated -- common law, and aggravated DWI -- a BAC of .18 percent or higher. Peebles was arrested on School Street in Batavia at 12:30 a.m. on July 26. Batavia police were investigating a 9-1-1 hang-up call in the area when Peebles was located and allegedly found to be operating his vehicle while intoxicated. He was processed at the jail and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 7. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Cowen Mitchell.

Jonathan Patrick Little, 29, of Drake Street, Oakfield, is charged with second-degree forgery and second-degree criminal impersonation. He was arrested on Aug. 3 for allegedly impersonating another person and completing a written instrument by forging another person's name while being processed at the Genesee County Jail at 4:20 p.m. on July 10. He is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 20. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy James Stack.

Patricia A. Herzog, 52, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. She was arrested at 1 p.m. on Aug. 1 after allegedly stealing property from a grocery store in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Aug. 6. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

August 2, 2019 - 3:27pm

(File photo.)

Led by the Joint Veterans Council of Genesee County, local veterans will host a rededication ceremony Saturday morning marking the centennial of the city's gateway monument at the junction of routes 5 and 63 that pays tribute to the Union Army's Emory Upton, the military service of men and women of Genesee County, and its war dead.

It starts at 10:30 a.m. and everyone is welcome.

Commonly referred to as the Upton Monument, for the statue of the colonel of the Fourth Regiment of Artillery, Army Brevit Major General Upton, it is officially known as The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The actual marker at the base of the bald-eagle-topped pillar is engraved: In Memory of The Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of Genesee County.

Doug Doktor, chairman of the Joint Veterans Council, said that James Neider, of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia, will provide a brief historical overview of Upton, one of the nation's foremost military strategists of the 19th century. Then Elijah Monroe, of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln Camp 6 in Rochester, will speak on that organization's instrumental role in fundraising and getting the monument constructed.

There will also be a rifle salute.

The dedication held a hundred years ago took place on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1919.

According to City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes, there was a morning footrace from Le Roy to Batavia, followed by the dedication ceremony at which a relation of the Upton family, Col. Upton, served as the keynote speaker. The special occasion was capped off by a grand display of fireworks at the old Genesee County Fairgrounds, where Tops Friendly Market is now on West Main Street.

Proposals for the monument were bandied about as early as the 1870s. But getting it funded and built was not a given. Its price tag of about $15,000 was considered steep. Funds were sought from the county, the city and fundraising campaigns were launched by Batavia City School District Superintendent John Kennedy and Sarah Upton Edwards, sister of Emory Upton.

In 1907, city voters nixed spending $5,000 as their share of the monument's cost. It was not until World War I that action was taken that would finally pave the way for the planned monument to become reality.

In 1917, city fathers managed to get the city's funding share approved by a bit of political maneuvering -- slipping language for the monument expense into a sewer and water appropriations bill.

The architect chosen to design the monument was C. A. Worden, a local company responsible for many monuments at Gettysburg.

Once built, there was controversy as to whether the statue of Emory Upton was based on the actual likeness of the man himself. And the question, some local historians say, has never been wholly resolved.

To read more about Emory Upton from an 1885 biography, click here.

Also, previously: 

(Editor's Note: Publisher Howard Owens had planned to complete a video of the history of the monument in time for tomorrow's rededication. That is no longer possible, but he does hope to finish it very soon.)

August 1, 2019 - 11:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
       Brandon Fogg

A 32-year-old Batavia man went into County Court today facing a certain prison sentence for menacing a police officer with a BB gun but left with a second chance.

The attorney for Brandon Fogg told Judge Charles Zambito that his client had secured a bed-to-bed substance abuse treatment program and asked that he be allowed to enter the program Friday morning for 21 days of treatment. 

Expressing a bit of reluctance, the judge agreed to let Fogg enter treatment, with his mother providing transportation from the Genesee County Jail to the Bradford Regional Medical Center for treatment.

"I'll give you an opportunity to convince me that I shouldn't send you to prison," Zambito said. "That doesn't mean you won't do further jail time and time on probation."

Absent a chance at treatment, Fogg could have reasonably expected to be sent to prison today for one and a half to four years.

"One of the conditions is that you stay in bed-to-bed treatment and follow any recommendations of the program," Zambito said. "If you violate any of the terms of the program you will be brought back here and sentenced and you will be going to prison."

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

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

An employee of a nearby business came to the aid of Streeter by stepping on Fogg’s wrist, which caused him to drop the BB gun from his grasp. Streeter took Fogg into custody shortly afterward.

Fogg's next scheduled court appearance is Aug. 26 when Zambito will decide whether a prison term is still appropriate or if he should receive less time in the local jail.

August 1, 2019 - 5:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.
       TeeSean Ayala

A former high school basketball star who got caught with a gun outside the county manager's home on Washington Avenue in November is being released from jail before being sent to prison so he can be at the hospital later this month for the birth of his child.

Judge Charles Zambito granted the unusual request because he promised TeeSean Ayala, 19, the opportunity to be around for the birth of his baby if he cooperated with prosecutors. Today Zambito acknowledge that Ayala kept his promise.

"I'm doing all of this because you did cooperate," Zambito said. "That's part of the bargain."

In May, Ayala entered a guilty plea to a charge of criminal possession 2nd, which carries a mandatory prison sentence with a maximum possible term of 15 years.

The plea also satisfied several charges related to local burglaries.

"If you flee, you will eventually be caught and then you're going to be sentenced to the 15 years," Zambito told Ayala. "If you commit any crimes while you're out, you will be sentenced to 15 years and face enhanced sentencing on those charges."

Ayala said he understood.

When the case was first called a little after 1:30 p.m., there was some discussion between Zambito and the attorneys about whether to adjourn the sentencing of Ayala. Ayala's attorney Richard Shaw started whispering to Ayala and at one point, Ayala became visibly emotional and said loudly, "but it's my first one."  

Shaw continued whispering to Ayala and Zambito asked if he and his client needed to discuss the matter privately. They did so Zambito ordered the case recalled later in the afternoon.

When Ayala came back into court, Zambito said he had been reminded of the promise to allow Ayala to be present for the birth of his child if he kept up his end of the bargain.

Zambito said Ayala isn't to leave his residence for any reason other than going to court or to go to the hospital for the delivery of his child when his fiancée goes into labor.

Ayala is allowed to have visitors but cannot be in contact with Malik Ayala, his brother who is a co-defendant.

Sentencing on the weapon charge is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Aug. 21.

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