BUFFALO — The work of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office is serious business, as evidenced by several high-profile cases prosecuted by the current DA, Frank Sedita.
He and his staff often deal with some of the worst elements of our society. But recently, the press releases generated by his staff have taken on a somewhat humorous tone.
The following examples are not meant to make fun of the seriousness of the crimes involved, but merely give readers an insight into some of the comments and observations made by the DA’s staff.
In a Feb. 12 release titled “No plea deal for gun-toting thug,” an incident that took place in April 2013 is described in detail. Buffalo police attempted to stop a driver wanted in connection with a menacing complaint. The suspect led police through the city at speeds in excess of 100 mph.
The chase ended when the suspect crashed between two houses on Glenwood Avenue. He bounded from the disabled car wielding a loaded .45 semiautomatic pistol. Here is where the literacy excellence of the DA’s staff floats to the top.
“Fortunately, Officer John Messina anticipated the flight path of the gun-wielding thug and tackled [him] as he emerged from the back yard. Providing a glimpse into both his IQ and his respect for the law, [the suspect] told officers, ‘I am a great driver and I would have gotten away, if I hadn’t run out of gas.’”
We need more of these candid, irrelevant glimpses into the work of law enforcement. Sarcasm can be an art.
The back story to a July 2012 burglary was revealed in a press release sent on Feb. 4. According to the DA, two armed men illegally entered the residence of a 48-year-old Buffalo woman. Wearing masks and plastic gloves, they repeatedly threatened the woman’s life and demanded money.
According to the press release, “The assailants fled from the house when Buffalo police officers arrived, managing only to steal $10 in cash and a bag of condoms, leading one law enforcement source to observe, ‘The rubber really hit the road, in this case.’”
One of the defendants claimed a former tenant had given him permission to enter the home and the prosecution was blowing the matter out of proportion.
“The jury quickly saw through the defendant’s lies, as evidenced by their 1 1/2 hours of deliberations, including lunch,” according to the DA’s press release.
A 23-year-old Buffalo man pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree in New York State Supreme Court in early February. The suspect was arrested late last year, in possession of a loaded revolver.
“In a shocking coincidence, [he] was on parole from state prison, in connection with a 2009 conviction for possessing a loaded firearm,” stated the DA.
Another Buffalo man pled guilty to a similar charge, the same week. The suspect was stopped on suspicion of driving a stolen car and was found to be carrying a loaded handgun. He told police he had a pistol permit and his attorney would provide it.
“[He] was lying through his teeth,” according to the DA.
An incident on Buffalo’s East Side gave Sedita’s office yet another comic opening.
Officers observed a subject exit a vehicle and repeatedly stop to look back at them before suddenly fleeing. The officers next observed the suspect standing next to a garbage tote containing a loaded gun.
“The defendant admitted the gun was his, but explained he purchased it to protect himself from those with whom he was ‘beefing.’ In a stunning coincidence, [the suspect] also had 19 individually wrapped bags of marijuana and $450 in cash his possession, suggesting that the defendant illegally possessed a loaded pistol to protect his inventory and assets from business rivals.”
For the DA, it’s just another day at the office.
“These defendants, like hundreds before them, were not offered a plea bargain and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Sedita said. “That’s our version of gun control.”
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.