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Howard B. Owens's blog

Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Fully involved car fire reported on Central Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire

A car fire, fully involved, has been reported at 6 Central Ave., Batavia.

City Fire responding.

UPDATE 6:57 p.m.: Fire's out.

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Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Arson suspect given resources to mount possible defense

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A Rochester man accused of purposely setting a fire in order to kill his ex-girlfriend's father could have some of the DNA evidence reportedly being used against him re-examined by an out-of-state forensic lab, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled today.

Andre L. Scott, 30, of 2323 Spencerport Road, Rochester, is in Genesee County Jail on high bail while his attorney Thomas Burns prepares for a trial on attempted murder, burglary and arson charges filed against Scott.

Scott is a accused of purposefully setting a fire at 12 Elm St. on Jan. 24, 2009. He was arrested in August.

Because Scott cannot afford an attorney, Burns is his appointed counsel. The DNA testing, private investigator and  expert witnesses Burns might call are being paid for by the county.

One glitch in getting new DNA tests is that there may not be enough of sample left from the original evidence to properly test it. Burns is researching that matter.

The samples come from a Clorox bleach bottle found at the scene of the fire and a book of matches.

Noonan noted that the DNA tests could cost a substantial amount of money, but given the seriousness of the case, he was mindful of "the importance of sufficient preparation for the defendant to be ready for trial."

The expense could including bringing in a forensic expert to testify about the findings from the lab in Massachusetts.

The private investigator will not be a significant expense, Burns said.

Scott has until June 30 to accept a plea bargain, or go to trial on Aug. 23.

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Batavia police continuing investigation into baseball-bat attack on State Street

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, State Street

Batavia Police detective Todd Crossett is conducting interviews today, trying to determine who was involved in an aggressive attack on at least two people at 112 State St. last night.

One person was hospitalized with "significant" but non-life-threatening injuries, Crossett said. Another person was transported to the hospital for evaluation.

From five to six people entered 112 State St. with baseball bats, Crossett said, and the attack may be related to a fight -- possible retaliation -- the night before.

No arrests have been made.

The incident does not appear to be gang related, Crossett said.

Batavia detectives do not believe there is actual gang activity in the city. Any individuals in the city who appear to gang members -- from the colors they're wearing or sports paraphernalia they're wearing -- seem to be people from larger cities visiting friends and relatives in Batavia, but do not appear to be here to establish operations.

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:58 am

Comptroller expresses concern about financial stability of OTBs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business, Western OTB

In an audit of New York's five regional off-track betting operations, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that OTB wagering has dropped precipitously over the past five years, threatening the viability of the OTBs.

Western OTB comes off a little better in DiNapoli's audit, primarily because the gains in video slot operations are more than offsetting the declines in horse wagering (full Western OTB report (pdf)).

Western OTB Corporate and Branch Operations has experienced a 10-percent ($15.6 million) decline in net handle (total amount bet) over the past five years. And through May 2009, its net handle was down over $5 million compared to the same time the previous year. In addition, live racing and inter-track wagering at Batavia Downs were down 7.6 percent in 2008 from the prior year and have decreased 25 percent since 2005.

However, the corporation’s new video-gaming facility has generated additional revenue for the OTB. As a result, operating revenues increased to more than $21 million in 2008 compared to nearly $17.6 million in 2004, a 19-percent hike. These increases have significantly affected revenue distributions to local governments, which have grown from almost $3.9 million in 2004 to more than $4.9 million in 2008.

In the report on Western OTB, DiNapoli expresses concern that VTL gaming could level off or decline, depending on the economy or changing competitive issues.

The Buffalo News received a written response from OTB President Martin Basinait, who said WOTB is "somewhat more optimistic."

But he said a number of changes can be made in state law to make the OTBs more competitive, such as changing the formula by which revenues are shared with tracks.

Basinait noted other past warnings from the state comptroller's office, including a 2005 report that found the OTB did not properly plan for the possibility of failure of Batavia Downs and the casino. He said the success of the casino has shown it was "not due to happenstance."

Basinait said DiNapoli's red flags about the future economic health of the OTB's casino are "unwarranted."

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:51 am

Accident with an injury on Route 5, Pembroke

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke

A two-vehicle accident has been reported on Route 5, a quarter mile west of the Pembroke Fire Hall, in Pembroke.

At least one person is injured, still in a car, but not trapped.

Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS are responding.

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:15 am

Today's Deals: Enchanted Florist, Adam Miller, South Main, Carlson's and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you wantto eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Give yourself the gift of flowers, or give to a friend. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, NY: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: Handcrafted items, gifts with a regional flair, candles, teas and spices -- South Main has a wide selection to please most any interest. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10. A great Valentine's gift!

Carlson's Studio, 39 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Weddings, new babies, family portraits, pet portraits and group events -- preserve those memories with professional photographs. We have a $100 gift card for $60 (+$2 PayPal Service fee).

Sallome's Italian Deli, 40 Oak St., Batavia, NY: Wraps, subs, paninis and pasta as well as pizzas -- Sallome's offers a tasty variety of Italian deli items for eat-in or take-out. We have $10 gift certificates for $5 each.

Main St. Pizza Company, 206 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Pizza, wings, subs and even hamburgers and hot dogs, Main St. Pizza makes everything deliciously. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Present Tense Books and Gifts, 101 Washington Ave., Batavia, NY: Whether your taste runs to local authors, the finest in fiction or nonfiction or you're looking for a unique and special gift, this charming store in a cozy Victorian house on the edge of downtown is a great place to stop and shop. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.


Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Attack on State Street by five people with baseball bats and pipes reported

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, State Street

Law enforcement is responding to 112 State St., where reportedly five individuals with baseball bats and pipes entered the residence.

At least one person is on the floor requiring medical assistance.

The people with baseball bats and pipes may still be in the area.

One person was struck with a pipe and another person is having a seizure.

Mercy EMS is being dispatched, but the scene is not yet secure.

Now, they're reporting the victims are at 5 Lewis Place.

A third victim is now reported on Hutchins Place.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Scott Doll accused of promoting prison contraband

post by Howard B. Owens in corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll


Scott F. Doll, convicted today of murder, 2nd, for the beating death of Joseph Benaquist, was arrested, seemingly, as soon as he entered the Genesee County Jail.

According to a Sheriff's Office press release, Doll tried to conceal on his body a green balloon containing a white powdery substance.

The substance has been sent to a lab for testing.

Doll will appear in Batavia City Court on June 1 to answer the charge of promoting prison contraband, 2nd.

The investigation is continuing, according to the Sheriff's Office.

UPDATE:  Added newest Genesee County Jail mug shot of Scott Doll.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Scott Doll convicted of murder, but appeal planned

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll


BATAVIA, NY -- Following a conviction for murder, 2nd, by a jury of 12 honest Genesee County residents today, Corfu resident Scott Franklin Doll, 48, is facing a possible state prison sentence of at least 15 years to life for beating to death Joseph Benaquist, 66, on Feb. 16, 2009.

"How do you find the defendant, Scott F. Doll, charged with murder in the second degree, guilty or not guilty?" a court clerk asked the woman appointed as jury foreperson. The woman answered "Guilty," and people on both sides of the aisle in the courtroom let out  gasps.

At least two women sitting on the defense side began to cry and sob immediately, with at least one person rushing from the courtroom in tears.

Judge Robert C. Noonan set July 2 as the sentencing date and Doll, who came to court in a pressed blue suit, stood motionless as the verdict was declared. He displayed no emotion as he was escorted from the courtroom by deputies to a holding cell in the courthouse.

dollverdict02.jpgHis attorney, Paul Cambria, met with him privately for about 20 minutes after the verdict and said later that Doll's first words were, “I’m an innocent man and I’ve just been convicted of a crime."

Cambria said there will definitely be an appeal.

"We have a very strong issue on appeal that we intend to pursue," Cambria said. "I’m going to look forward to this conviction being reversed and for us to retry this case at another time."

Cambria's main point of appeal, he said, is the continued questioning by investigators after Doll repeatedly asked to speak to an attorney.

"New York State has the strongest right-to-counsel law probably of all 50 states," Cambria said. 

Doll asked for an attorney very soon after being confronted by Sheriff's Deputies on North Lake Road on Feb. 16. 

In pre-trial motions, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman argued that under what is known as the "emergency doctrine" -- when investigators believe they must get information from a person in order to save a life -- they can continue to question a suspect who has asked for an attorney.

Cambria will likely challenge the use of statements by Doll against him at trial, especially, perhaps, those made after Benaquist's body was found and the emergency doctrine might no longer at issue.

Both Friedman and Sheriff Gary Maha were clearly pleased with the outcome, stating that the right verdict was reached.

"We just hoped the jury would see the truth and see past the defense that was raised," Friedman said. "We are very pleased with the outcome."

Maha said there was never any doubt in his mind that Doll was the killer.

"He lied from the beginning," Maha said. "There was no way he was telling the truth in his testimony. Based on what I saw at the scene, the amount of blood, there is no way he could explain that without being involved."

Maha characterized Cambria's closing argument as fabrications and speculation.

"There is no evidence there at all," Maha said. "I think the jury saw through that and concentrated on the evidence and came out with the right verdict."

Friedman, in his closing argument, called Cambria's defense theories, "speculation." Cambria said after the verdict today that he found Friedman's characterization ironic.

dollverdict04.jpg"They (the prosecution) do that all the time (claim "speculation")," Cambria said. "That’s a standard argument that is made. It’s interesting that when that argument was made, the District Attorney then went into all of these various scenarios that no one testified about and we thought, ‘Where’s the speculation coming from?’ Talking about people under cars and the jacks and there wasn’t any of that  evidence in the case."

What the case came down to, Friedman said, was Doll's motivation kill Joseph Benaquist.

"As I said in my opening and my closing, it was all about cars and money," Friedman said. "I still believe that’s the case. Whether this was a premeditated murder for those reasons or whether there was an argument that led to this happening, I firmly believe that’s what it was about."

Even though he isn't happy with the verdict, Cambria -- who has had an unshakable faith in Doll's innocence for 15 months -- said he still believes in the system.

"I have never criticized the system," Cambria said. "I believe in the system. I obviously think the verdict was the wrong one. I can’t recall a case that I’ve had that had as many reasonable doubts as this case had."

Joe Benaquist's stepsons, John and Josh Garcia, said they felt it was nice to see the system work.

"It doesn't bring our dad back," John said, "but it does bring a little closure."

Joe's girlfriend, Judy Scott, said, "My heart goes out to Scott's family. They don't deserve this. They seem like a good family."

She declined further comment.

Friedman credited volunteer firefighter James Waff with making the key difference in the case.

"Right from the start of this case, having a citizen call in a suspicious person walking down the road and doing the right thing  -- look what it led to," Friedman said. "I’m not sure how this case would have turned out if that person had not made that phone call to the Sheriff’s department."


Photos: Top, Lawrence Friedman; first inset, Sheriff Gary Maha; second inset, Paul Cambria; Bottom, Cambria and Daniel Killelea exit the Genesee County Courtroom to meet with the media.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Scott Doll murder trial verdict: Guilty

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- A jury of 12 Genesee County residents has found Scott F. Doll guilty of murder, 2nd.

The jury began deliberations around 2 p.m., Wednesday and took a recess at 5 p.m. The jury returned to deliberations at 9 a.m. and notified Judge Robert C. Noonan that it reached a verdict just before 4 p.m.


Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Winners of GCASA poster contest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, GCASA

Submitted by Laura Russell Ricci:

On Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 GCASA honored winners from schools throughout Genesee County at our Annual Poster Contest. Pictured are our winners: Caitlin Napper, Aidan Berne, Aiden Sisson, Gemma Bochicchio, Stephanie Hoy,  Jacob Cryer, Laura Winspear, Austin Hynes-Fisher, Michael Shepard and Grand  Prize winner Sarah Scott. Our other winners not pictured are Nathan Moore and  Olivia Marchese. Congratulations to all of the students!

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

Man admits to giving methadone to friend who died

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy

A man who gave methadone to a friend, allegedly resulting in the death of that friend, entered a guilty plea today to criminal sale of a controlled substance.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said in court that there was no homicide charge in the case, but that a man did die and his brother asked to speak at the sentencing of Joel W. Eagleson.

The victim was Donald Burnell, 41, of Le Roy. He died in early September, 2009.

Eagleson, who has a prior non-violent-felony conviction for robbery, 3rd, in 2004, faces up to four years in prison.

Under the law, Friedman said, you don't need to accept money for drugs to be convicted of criminal sale.

UPDATE, Friday, 10:26 a.m.: We've received a couple of more details from the Sheriff's Office not available in court yesterday.  Eagleson is 45. He was arrested in Arizona on March 31 and then extradited to New York.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

Guilty plea stands for man who admitted stealing guns in Byron

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, crime

A Holly resident who admitted robbing three long guns from a Byron resident, only to have his guilty plea hit a snag on May 10, completed the process this morning.

In the previous court appearance for Darrell Bruce Reid, 45, of 4 N. Main St., the prosecution presented a document for a previous felony conviction that turned out to be beyond the range, under New York State law, as a predicate felony for sentencing purposes.

But Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell presented proof of another felony conviction for Reid in Butte, SD, in which Reid stole a pickup truck in 2000 and was convicted of grand theft.

After confirming that with Reid, Judge Robert C. Noonan accepted it as a second felony conviction and set sentencing for 9 a.m., June 23.

Reid previously pled guilty to assault, 2nd, for robbing a Byron man of his guns last month.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

Police Beat: DWI arrest made in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Stafford

Kathyrn D. Decker, 26, of 2250 River Road, Caledonia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and speeding. Decker was allegedly observed at 2:40 a.m., Thursday, by Sgt. Michael Hare of the Le Roy Police Department speeding on West Main Street in Le Roy.

Tiffany Marie Sheffer, 19, of Transit Road, Stafford, is charged with petit larceny. Sheffer is accused of stealing $66.95 in merchandise from Target. She was arrested at 3:45 p.m., Wednesday.

Alex Patrick Brasky, 19, of Clifton Avenue, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Brasky was charged following a traffic stop in the area of 301 Oak St., Batavia, by Deputy James Diehl at 11 p.m., May 12.

Aaron J. Horn, 35, of Fairport, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and aggravated unlicensed operation. Horn was arrested by State Police in Stafford at 9:50 a.m., Tuesday. He was jailed on cash bail. No further details available.

Michael C. Tunley, 39, of Bergen, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, motor vehicle registration suspended and aggravated unlicensed operation. Tunley was stopped by State Police at 3:05 p.m., Tuesday, on Route 33 in Stafford.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 1:17 am

Scott Doll murder trial: Key points in the closing arguments

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- On Wednesday, Paul Cambria, defense attorney for Scott Doll, and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, presented their best arguments for guilt or innocence to a jury of 12 Genesee County residents.

Below are what they said about some of the key points and facts in the case.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Duo accused of entering store to fill up garbage bags with merchandise

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

mug-milton_campbell.jpgTwo Buffalo residents were arrested yesterday after they allegedly entered the Batavia JC Penney store with large garbage bags and tried to fill them with merchandise.

When approached by store employees, the couple reportedly dropped a bag stuffed with clothes, left the store, got into a van and drove away.

The incident was reported at 1:50 p.m.

mug_manning.jpgA description of the van was provided to local law enforcement and it was reportedly stopped on Route 33 in Corfu by Corfu Police and State Police.

Taken into custody and turned over to Batavia Police were Milton J. Campbell, 51, of 825 Fillmore Ave., Buffalo, and Maria N. Manning, 39, of 102 Stevens St., Buffalo.

Campbell and Manning were jailed without bail.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Batavia Police veteran signs off after 30-year career

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia


Tonight, John Zola is relaxing for the first time in 30 years as a civilian.

The Alden/Buffalo-area native came to Genesee County more than three decades ago as a GCC student and never left.

“It was the place for me to be," Zola said. "It really was. It’s my adopted city, but it was the place for me to be. I blended in well. I worked here well. I think I helped the community."

Community is a key word to Zola's style of police work. I've only known him for a year or so, but I noticed he was a guy who never stood behind his badge, letting it become a barrier to talking with people and relating to them on a personal basis.

The newfangled term for that kind of police work is "community policing." To Zola, it was "old-time policing."

"I think you talk to people, you learn things about people," Zola said. "Everybody is different. Everybody’s situation is different. Getting to know the community and certain needs of different neighborhoods and different families, getting to know your community, that’s what it’s about. That’s what small-town policing is all about."

Eventually, Zola will be replaced by a rookie and I asked him if he had any advice for that rookie, and Zola said:

"Take it for it’s worth. Like I said, it’s small-town policing. It’s getting to know your community. Help the people you can and arrest the ones you have to and move on. Never, NEVER, take yourself too seriously. I mean you’re a human being first. You’re a parent, you’re a husband or a wife second. You’re a cop somewhere down the road there. Don’t walk around with that badge on your chest all the time. Don’t get a heavy badge. Treat people the way you would want to be treated."

He said it's important not to get bogged down by what he called "the 5-percenters," the minority of people who cause problems. It's important  to remember that "95 percent of the people you come into contact with in this job are fantastic people."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm

No verdict yet in Doll trial as jurors allowed to go home for the night

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- Shortly after 5 p.m., Judge Robert C. Noonan gave the jurors in the Scott Doll murder trial what he called a "little history lesson."

Noonan said for his 20 years as a lawyer and the first five years as a judge, jurors who hadn't reached a verdict at the end of the day would be sent to a hotel, each with a room with no TV and their mobile phones would be taken away.

"We don't do that anymore," Noonan said.

He then proceeded to instruct the jurors to avoid all contact with any information or discussion about the case.

He said they are at a critical stage of the trial and there should be no outside influences on their thinking.

Before dismissing the jurors for the evening, there was no indication given as to how far along the jurors might be in their diliberations.

They were instructed to return at 9 a.m.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Both attorneys in Scott Doll murder trial say common sense is on their side

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- Apply your common sense, jurors in the Scott Doll murder trial were told this morning.

That was the plea from Doll's attorney Paul Cambria and the message from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.

But of course, the two experienced attorneys disagreed on where common sense would lead the jury.

For Cambria, it was toward acquittal and for Friedman it was toward conviction.

Around 2 this afternoon, after 45 minutes of instructions from Judge Robert C. Noonan, the 12 primary jurors were led to a private room where they are expected to deliberate in secret until they determine which trail of common sense leads to a verdict of guilt or innocence.

"I'm going to go through the evidence with you step-by-step," said Cambria to start his final presentation to the jury. "I'm going to show you that the evidence demonstrates, or fails to demonstrate, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm guided by common sense and I think common sense always rules the day ... I'm asking you to look at the case as reasonable people would look at it."

Friedman opened his closing argument by characterizing the defense case as "speculation."

"I will ask you to return a verdict based on facts," Friedman said.

As he wound up his remarks, Friedman referenced "Occam's razor," a rule of logic that postulates that the simplest explanation is often the right explanation.

"Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not an invitation to abandon common sense," Friedman said. "Common sense will lead you to the correct answer. Common sense will answer the question, 'who did this?'"

NOTE: Assuming the jury doesn't come back with a verdict some time soon, I will write a more in depth story about the closing arguments tonight.

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