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Howard B. Owens's blog

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9:58 am

Guilty plea of man accused of robbery in Byron may not stand

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, crime

Darrell Bruce Reid, 45, of 4 N. Main St., Holley, came to court this morning, apparently ready to plead guilty to assault in the second degree -- a charge stemming from an alleged robbery in Byron in which Reid allegedly stole three long guns.

mug_darrell_reid.jpgBut the guilty plea process didn't proceed like clockwork, which is usually the case.

First, Reid had a protracted whisper conversation with his public defender, William Teford, when Judge Robert C. Noonan informed Reid of the maximum penalty -- four years in State Prison -- for the assault, 2nd, charge he was about to admit.

After the conversation, Reid softly said, "yes" to Noonan, acknowledging the Judge's warning.

Noonan made note for the record of the long conversation.

A few minutes later, Reid entered his guilty plea and made a factual admission to hitting a Byron resident with a 22-caliber rifle.

At the end of the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell asked the judge to make the factual finding that the assault, 2nd, charge is a second felony offense. But when Judge Noonan reviewed the paperwork, he noted that the only prior conviction listed was a 22-year-old DWI conviction. That can't count as a second felony offense for sentencing purposes under state law.

Finnell said it was a mistake and that he would have further information today on Reid's criminal history.

During Reid's last court appearance, on May 3, Noonan noted that Reid had more than 100 prior arrests.

If it turns out there are no qualifying felony convictions within Reid's recent history, his guilty plea this morning will not be valid, according to Noonan.

Another appearance in County Court for Reid was set for later this week.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9:23 am

O-A teacher admits to misconduct, but not to sexual contact with student

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield, oakfield-alabama

A former Oakfield-Alabama band teacher admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a student on Thursday thereby avoiding trial on the more serious charge of sexual abuse, 3rd.

Kerry Hoffman entered guilty pleas in Oakfield Town Court to endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct.

He will be required to give up his teaching credentials under the terms of the plea agreement, according to Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell.

Hoffman made factual admissions, according to Finnell, of making several phone calls and sending several text messages to a teenage student, and to taking her to the mall without her parents permission. But he did not admit to inappropriate touching and kissing, which the girl claimed happened.

Under terms of the agreement, Hoffman will serve two months intermittent incarceration and three years probation.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 8:29 am

Police Beat: Stafford man accused of using shotgun during domestic dispute

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

Jeffrey M. Kohorst, 21, of 6105 Main Road, Stafford, is charged with menacing and reckless endangerment. Kohorst is accused of getting into a domestic dispute with a former girlfriend and her current boyfriend at the Kohorst residence. While the former girlfriend removed her property from the residence, Kohorst allegedly retrieved a shotgun from inside his home and confronted the new boyfriend demanding that he leave the property. Kohorst allegedly followed his threat by firing one shot in the direction of, and in close proximity to, the boyfriend. Kohorst was jailed on $15,000 bail.

Frank E. Finnin, 44, of 10 S. Main St., Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Finnin reportedly was wanted on a warrant out of City Court for failure to answer an alleged petit larceny charge. Finnin was spotted by Officer Dan Coffey at 10:15 a.m., Friday, walking on West Main Street.

Timothy Lee Taylor, 35, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt. Taylor is accused of violating an order of protection out of Family Court that limited the number of calls he could make to his ex-girlfriend. Taylor allegedly made more than 355 calls over an unspecified amount of time.

Scot G. Judd, 27, of Albion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Judd was arrested at 9:47 p.m., Wednesday, by Deputy Kevin McCarthy, who was conducting an investigation at the Mark Trial Hotel when he found Judd allegedly in possession of marijuana.

Elizabeth Anne Holly, 46, of Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08, driving left of the pavement markings. Holly was stopped by Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello at 2:14 a.m., May 1, for allegedly crossing the double-yellow lines as she exited Valu Plaza on West Main Street.

Taheed Makal Moffett, 25, of Rochester, is charged with conspiracy, 5th. Moffett is accused of conspiring with another person in Genesee County Jail to promote prision contraband. No further details were released.

Jeffery Matthew Kaczmarek, 41, of Darien, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, driving left of the pavement markings, moving from lane unsafely. Kaczmarek was stopped by Deputy Jason Saile at 2:26 a.m, Saturday, on Route 20 in Alexander.

Michael James Killigrew, 21, of Corning, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08, and moving from lane unsafely. Killigrew was arrested by Deputy Jason Saile at 2:55 a.m., Saturday, on Route 20 in Bethany following a report of a one-car accident. Killigrew reportedly swerved to avoid striking a deer and his car wound up in a ditch.

Jason Guy Nichols, 37, of Batavia, is charged with criminal trespass and harassment. Nichols is accused of entering a residence on East Main Street in Batavia without permission. While inside he allegedly harassed a woman during a domestic dispute. At his arraignment in Batavia Town Court, an order of protection was issued.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Margarita's, Main St., Alex'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.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

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.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Settler's Restaurant, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. 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.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

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

SOLD OUT

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

More reader photos: Wiard Plow fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, photos, Wiard Plow

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Reader Carl Szalbak submitted these photos from last night's Wiard Plow factory fire.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Several homes in Genesee County still without power

post by Howard B. Owens in National Grid, weather

More than 20 hours after a major wind storm blew through Genesee County, power is still out at 18 locations, the largest effecting 166 National Grid customers in Bethany, according to the utility's website.

The other 17 or so outage spots effect fewer than five customers each, according to the site.

In each case, National Grid estimates that power will be returned to these locations by 11 p.m.

There are two remaining outage spots in the City of Batavia and two in the Village of Le Roy. In all four cases, fewer than five customers are without power.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Batavia Fire back on scene at Wiard to douse hot spot

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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Batavia Fire's Engine 12 was back on scene this afternoon after smoke started to rise from the rubble near the still intact part of the structure. While smoldering wood has been allowed burn well away from the remaining structure, firefighters were concerned this was a little too close. 

Curious area residents continue to drive by the Swan Street scene on a regular basis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Area residents coming out to see ruins of Wiard Plow factory

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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As a few last whiffs of smoke drifted from debris of the old Wiard Plow factory in Batavia late this morning, streams of area residents drove by the Swan Street location to see for themselves the destruction from Saturday's massive fire.

What they saw was more than the rubble of bricks, charred beams and twisted metal. They also saw the remains of Batavia's once thriving industrial history.

Firefighters were on scene as late as 10:30 a.m. as investigators tried picking through the debris to find the factory floor, in hopes of confirming the fire's origin and possible cause.

Lt. James Steinbrenner said they did get to a portion of the floor, but not the area they want to investigate.  Steinbrenner said the location investigators would like to examine is under much heavier rubble.  He said it will take heavy equipment to remove and it's unclear yet who will pay for that work.

Arson is still suspected, but police detectives have yet to announce any findings.

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More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Engine overheats, causes structure fire in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A structure fire in Elba on Saturday caused an estimated $100,000 damage after a diesel engine connected to a generator apparently overheated, setting off the blaze.

A shed at 5327 Watson Road was destroyed.

The fire damaged the motor, generator, wiring and controls.

Elba Fire and Deputy Jason Saile investigated the incident.

(initial report)

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:05 am

Old factory of one of Batavia's most historic businesses partially destroyed in fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Tom Mancuso, Wiard Plow

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There was nothing Tom Mancuso could do but watch.

Mancuso, donning a New York Yankees ball cap, and wearing a gaunt, dour expression in the unseasonably cold night, stood for hours just watching as firefighters tried to beat back the hungry red and blue flames devouring his building, the old Wiard Plow factory that his firm acquired in the 1980s.

Through the battle, Mancuso rarely turned away. He just watched.

wiardfire20_mancuso1.jpg"You can always build another 100,000-square-foot building," Mancuso said at one point. "You can never replace a 100-year-old building."

An Alarm of Fire
Just before sunset Saturday, Genesee County Dispatch started to get calls of a fire at 33 Swan St. -- the same location where a smaller fire had been extinguished by the Batavia Fire Department earlier Saturday.

On a day when the dispatch center dealt with hundreds and hundreds of calls, the switch board lighting up just fit the pattern.

But this time, this was no "possible" structure fire. Witnesses -- and there were several -- reported seeing heavy smoke.

By the time the Batavia Fire Department was on scene, flames were already showing.

The call quickly went out for mutual-aid departments to respond -- from Le Roy, Stafford, Town of Batavia and several others.

By 8:15 p.m., big balls of flame were shooting from the back of the historic structure.

Among the witnesses to the initial smoke was a reader of The Batavian, who told us he saw two youths running from the building. He said that later those same two youngsters were being questioned by police.

A little after 11 p.m., The Batavian confirmed Batavia Police detectives Todd Crossett and Kevin Czora were at the police station talking with two juveniles. Their parents had also been called to the station.

Earlier in the day, the Batavia Fire Department responded to a report of smoke coming from the rear side of the same Wiard Plow building.

wiardfire16.jpgTwo youths reported the fire, saying they were walking in the area when they spotted the smoke. Lt. James Steinbrenner said Batavia Police questioned the youths who reported the fire and determined they were in fact just witnesses and not involved in the possible arson.

The fire, according to Steinbrenner, appeared deliberately set. There were papers spread around the floor of an abandoned office space that had been ignited. The arrangement of the paper suggested it was sometimes used as bedding.

An electrical cause could be ruled out because the building had no utilities service.

People could gain access to the space where the fire was found through a collapsed wall in an inner courtyard-like area. There was evidence that somebody had used a pallet to construct a makeshift ladder to gain easy access from the courtyard down into the office area.

Four burned birthday candles sat on a table in a room adjacent to the office were the earlier fire was discovered.

That fire was completely extinguished by BFD before it had a chance to spread beyond the office.

This evening's fire, according to Steinbrenner, may have started several yards to the south of the earlier fire, but within the same group of rooms in the building.

Fire Protection
Mancuso was clearly concerned about access to his building. He said work crews just within the past couple of weeks had welded shut doors that vandals had been using to gain access by breaking locks. There was also a 10-foot-high chain-link fence that was supposed to prevent people from entering the courtyard area.

"It was secured from the casual person entering," Mancuso said.

Several fire companies from Genesee County responded to the blaze, including Le Roy, which over the previous six or seven hours had responded to 15 calls in its own district -- mostly trees and power lines down.

Batavia's interim fire chief, Craig Williams, said the first order of business was firefighter safety.

"It’s a vacant building, so our first priority is making sure our guys stay safe, so we weren’t going to enter the building," Williams said.

Firefighters formed a perimeter around the building, striking it with several streams of water -- including three aerial (or ladder) trucks.

One Batavia firefighter said Le Roy's ladder truck crew deserved special credit for attacking the fire from the front of the building and keeping the flames from spreading beyond the firewall.

“There were breeches in the firewall, because of construction and renovations over the years, but we dumped a lot of water on it," Williams said. "Between the firewall and our efforts it looks like we pretty much got it stopped at the firewall.”

All evening, temperatures were at or below freezing, and snow flurries occasionally blew through the scene.

Firefighters were universally thankful for the cold and damp weather. With the high winds of Saturday evening, the fire could have quickly and easily spread if not for the recent rains. The entire Harvester complex could have been lost. Winds of 30 to 40 mph were carrying embers directly over the old factory buildings.

Town of Batavia Fire was assigned early in the incident, Williams said, to watch over the Harvester buildings.

Shortly before 11 p.m., heavy-duty wrecking equipment was brought in to start knocking down bricks and mortar that were first set in the 1870s.

By knocking down the ancient walls, the remains of the fire could be more quickly extinguished.

By about 1 a.m., Sunday, most of the fire units who had responded were back in service.

Updated at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, to include information about weather conditions and potential damage to the Harvester complex.

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Previous coverage:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 2:20 am

Photos: Old Wiard Plow factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

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Here are 29 photos from the scene of tonight's Wiard Plow factory fire.

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More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:19 am

Reader Photos: Wiard factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Swan Street, Wiard Plow

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More pictures after the jump:

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Juveniles being questioned in connection with Wiard factory fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Wiard Plow

Two juvenile subjects are currently being questioned at Police Headquarters by Batavia Police detectives Kevin Czora and Todd Crossett.

Their parents have been called to the station.

A witness earlier informed The Batavian that he saw two youths running from the scene, and later saw those two same individuals being questioned by police.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Historic Wiard Plow Co. destroyed by fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow Co.

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Here are a few photos I took while at the scene. I'll post more later. We've also received numerous reader-submitted photos and we will post those later. I'm heading back to the scene as soon as this post is up.

A firefighter said it looked like this fire broke out only feet from where this afternoon's fire was apparently set.

The back of the building is a total loss. There is a chance the front half will be saved.

A number of firefighters I spoke with said they were thankful it's a cold and damp night.  With the direction of the wind and embers in the air, Harvester Center could have been ignited as well, if not for cold and damp weather.

More later.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Freeze watch in effect

post by Howard B. Owens in weather

Bad news for farmers and gardeners, a freeze watch is effect.

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.

Currently, it's snowing.

The National Weather Service warns that this freeze could kill crops and sensitive vegetation.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Tree that fell into house on Manhattan Ave. nearly removed

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Manhattan Avenue

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The report of this tree falling into a house at 2 Manhatten Ave., Batavia, came in around 5:30 p.m.

The initial report said the residents were trapped in the house, but they managed to get out before city firefighters arrived.

This is the scene at 6:51 p.m.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Possible barn fire reported in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A possible barn fire has been reported at 5327 Watson Road, Elba.

A generator that started smoking may be the cause of the fire.

An Elba chief on scene reports smoke showing.

A plumber from Oakfield is being sent to the Elba Fire Hall. Byron asked to stand by in its hall.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Photos: Wind damage in Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, weather

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A tree fell into a home on Kibbe Avenue. Witnesses said a limb pierced straight through the roof into the closet of a bedroom. One person was home, but nobody was hurt.

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A tree down and blocking Jackson Street near Wood Street.

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A man walking down Ellicott Street, trying to keep control of his umbrella in the wind.

More pictures after the jump:

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