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Howard B. Owens's blog

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Photo: 400 Towers residents

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 400 Towers, thebatavian

400towers.jpg

This fine group of people are residents at 400 Towers. They came out today for a little lunchtime talk about The Batavian. They asked a few questions and talked about how they get their news. Bea McManis, in the back row with The Batavian sweatshirt on, organized the event and said very nice things about the site, its news and its readers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Two-car accident at Main and Jackson, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

mainjacksonaccident.jpg

There was a two-car accident at the corner of Main and Jackson, Batavia, this morning.

One person was taken to UMMC, as a precaution, with a complaint of chest pain.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

Today's Poll: Are the terrorists winning?

post by Howard B. Owens in polls
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:58 am

Chris Charvella Case: Putting a comment in context

post by Howard B. Owens in Chris Charvella, Jay Grasso, politics

Since the Batavia Daily News is not likely to run this correction themselves, we'll run it for them.

In the Daily's story about Chris Charvella's arrest, there is this paragraph:

"Charvella responded with an additional blog, according to state police. It included the comment 'I'm going to travel around the district and puncture Republican tires.'"

There are multiple problems with this one short paragraph.

First, the context is though Charvella is responding to events in November. But the quote above is from June 2. It was not a response to anything regarding election signs in November.

Second, it is not "an additional blog." A blog is a website with multiple entries on it. A blog post is an item posted on a blog. People can comment on blog posts. These are called comments.

In this case, Chris left a comment on a blog post. And there was nothing "additional" about it in context of current events. The comment had nothing to do with the sign issue and was not directed at Jay Grasso.

Third, the comment did not appear on Charvella's personal blog, as the story would lead you to believe. It was posted on The Batavian (something, of course, the Daily could never admit).

Fourth, it's completely out of context. Here's what Chris wrote:

Charlie, I'm going to do what any political hack worth their salt would do. Starting at midnight on November 2nd, I'm going to travel around the district and puncture Republican tires :)

Note, the emoticon at the end -- a clear signal, it's a joke, but the emoticon was not included in the Daily's quote.

UPDATE: As of 10:08 a.m., without acknowledging the error or putting the comment in context, the Daily has removed the paragraph from its story completely. It's possible, considering the timing, it may still appear in the print story.

For our previous coverage:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Settler's, Clor's, Larry'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 want to eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

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.

Clor's Meat Market, 4169 W. Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: For the best, most flavorful, juiciest chicken or hamburger in town, hands down, stop by Clor's. Oh, and the steaks are great, too. And the sausage. Clor's also serves lunch and dinners from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Larry's Steakhouse, 60 Main St., Batavia, NY: The name says it all -- Larry's is a great place for steak. Larry's has a fine dining atmosphere with a great menu and outstanding service. 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.

South Beach, 59 Main St., Batavia, NY: Try the new lunch buffet. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50 (must be used by Nov. 30, 2010).

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.

Red Osier, Route 5, Stafford, NY: Truly, one of the landmark restaurants of the area. Red Osier features prime rib carved table side. We have $25 gift certificates for $12.50.

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.

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.

Kravings, Valu Plaza, 4152 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Kraving's offers soups, salads and sandwiches, fresh and flavorful; Monday through Saturday. We have $10 gift certificates for $5.

Stafford Trading Post, 6173 Main Road, Stafford, NY: Lunch or dinner, Stafford Trading Post offers a variety of fresh, homemade meals, as well as snacks and drinks. Now in a new, expanded location. We have a $25 gift card 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.

SOLD OUT

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:09 am

School bus disabled on Main Street, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, traffic

There is a disabled school bus partially blocking traffic in a westbound lane of Main Street near Oak Street.

Police are on scene and a tow truck is on its way.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Student pilot apparently forgot to put down landing gear

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, Genesee County Airport

A student pilot apparently forgot to put down the landing gear on his plane today leading to an unintentional crash landing at the Genesee County Airport this afternoon.

While the crash, reported at 12:17 p.m., caused an estimated $40,000 damage to a 2004 Cessna, there were no injuries, fire or fuel spill.

The student pilot, according to a Sheriff's Office release, was 66-year-old Michael E. Pearson, of Pittsford.

His instructor was Robert J. Roberts, 35, of Rochester.

The student and instructor were doing "touch-and-go" training at the airport this afternoon at the time of the accident.

The plane skidded 546 feet down the runway.

The investigation is continuing, conducted by Deputy Lonnie Nati and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Assisting at the scene were Genesee County Emergency Services, Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS.

(initial report)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Incidents in Le Roy and Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in Darien, Le Roy

There's a couple of incidents going on -- amidst other heavy scanner traffic -- that I've not been able to quite nail down.

There's an apparant grass fire somewhere off Route 33, apparently in Darien's fire district.

Also, there's a car off the road in Le Roy. Their may be power lines down. A caller reports a power outage. The driver called and said he wasn't injured, but an ambulance was started. The car is in the woods.  The location sounds like "Valence Road," but I can't locate such a road anywhere in Genesee County.

UPDATE 6:14 p.m.: The fire was on a recently purchased plot of land in the area of Countyline Road and Route 33. The burn is within legal limits and the owner is planning to have more controlled burns this week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Jury finds Scott Doll not guilty of promoting prison contraband

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

A jury of six Batavia residents took only about five minutes to reach a not guilty verdict in the promoting prison contraband trial of Scott F. Doll.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl had little to say after the trial.

mug_scott_doll.jpg"I guess I don’t have a reaction," Zickl said. "This is divided up. Everybody has different jobs to do. They have their job, I have mine. Everybody does their job and this is where we wind up."

Doll's attorney, Dan Killelea, said Scott insisted from the beginning that he was not guilty.

"I think his faith in the jury system was very shaken by his conviction in the murder trial," said Killelea, who helped defend Doll in May against charges that he killed retired corrections officer Joseph Benaquist.

"I’m hoping, I’m really hoping, this restores some of his faith in the system, because it’s a system I believe in. I think it’s the best system we have, though it’s not perfect."

He also praised Zickl for putting on a thorough case and presenting a strong closing argument.

"Bob Zickl did, I believe, a tremendous job," Killelea said. "I thought his closing argument was outstanding. He had me worried. He gave the jurors a lot to work with if they were going to go that way. I hope I was able to point out some holes in the case and I’m hoping that’s what they hung their hat on."

As for the implication that a specific corrections officer supplied the aspirin to Doll, Killelea said it wasn't his intention to draw a bead on a specific individual.

"I think in light of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case, I don’t think the facts led to only one conclusion -- that he was guilty -- and I’m hopeful the jury agreed with me and found reasonable doubt in other legitimate conclusions that could have been reached," Killelea said.

Doll, dressed in a prison-supplied pair of tan slacks and white shirt, showed no apparent reaction to the verdict.

Today's coverage:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Doll's attorney suggests corrections officer at jail was source of aspirin

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

In closing arguments in the Scott Doll prison contraband case, the key question attorneys for both sides wrangled over is who brought powdered aspirin into the Genesee County Jail.

Defense Attorney Dan Killelea made the suggestion that the aspirin was given to Doll by a corrections officer at the jail.

Repeating a phrase Doll reportedly used when speaking "officer to officer" with Corrections Officer Vincent Maurer about his state of mind after trying to ingest the aspirin, Doll reportedly said to Maurer, "an officer gave it to me."

After the aspirin was discovered by Maurer, Killelea suggested, jail officials had no choice but to prosecute him for promoting prison contraband.

"Who’s going to step up (and say) they just gave aspirin to a guy just was convicted of murder?" Killelea said. "Who is going to fess up to showing some humanity, some professional courtesy?"

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl said that suggestion made no sense and wasn't supported by the evidence.

This is not "Law and Order Batavia," Zickl said, adding that conspiracy theories belong on TV, where they’re entertaining, but they’re not reality. Zickl said this case is reality.

"If you are a senior corrections officer are you going to risk your career by giving the defendant aspirin ground up in a balloon?" Zickl said. "If you did that, why would you say you've got to go upstairs to check on something and let somebody else watch the defendant? Why wouldn’t you stay there and watch him ingest it?"

Zickl argued that if a corrections officer wanted to give Doll aspirin, why grind it up, why not just give him a few tablets?

The evidence -- the balloon, the white powder all over the jail cell and on Doll's face -- is more consistent with the behavior of an intoxicated, despondent person who carried the alleged contraband into the jail himself.

Killelea questioned why the balloon wasn't introduced as evidence, why it wasn't tested for fingerprints or DNA. He argued that to produce the amount of white powder observed by officers, a pretty large balloon would be needed, and a balloon that size would be difficult to hide through three pat down searches.

There is no evidence, Zickl argued, that the balloon was giant. He said 20 ground-up pills could produce a good deal of powder and easily be concealed by an experienced former corrections officer who would know how to hide something not easily found in a standard pat down search.

After arguments, with the jury out of the courtroom, Killelea objected to Zickl's closing argument, saying that Zickl repeatedly made reference to the aspirin being in the balloon at one time. He said no evidence was introduced to prove the balloon ever contained aspirin, or that there even was a balloon.

Judge Robert Balbick is just completing instructions to the jurors, who will begin deliberations shortly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm

No proof Doll brought contraband into jail, defense contends

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

There's no proof that Scott Doll carried a green balloon into the Genesee County Jail on May 20.

mug_scott_doll.jpgThat's the assertion made by defense attorney Dan Killelea in an opening statement this morning in Doll's trial for allegedly introducing contraband into jail following his murder conviction.

Doll was allegedly found in a holding cell about to drink from a cup with a mixture of water and a white powdery substance.

Sgt. Greg Walker transported Doll from the courthouse, and then came back to the jail to investigate the alleged incident in the holding cell. He testified that when he looked into the holding cell, there was a white powdery substance trailing from the sink, to the floor and onto the bed.

The green balloon was laying empty on the bed.

It turned out that the white powder was aspirin.

Walker testified that he did a brief pat down search of Doll in the holding cell at the Genesee County Courthouse and found only a couple of coins in Doll's pocket, which he allowed him to keep.

The sargeant testified that Deputy Vincent Maurer also conducted a search of Doll upon his arrival at the jail.

At that time, Maurer felt something unusual along Doll's pant leg and took Doll into a holding cell for a more thorough search. Nothing was found.

Walker also testified that he arrived at the courthouse as the same time Doll was dropped off at the front door and held the door for him to enter the building.

Doll appeared intoxicated, Walker said. He could smell alcohol on his breath and he was staggering and swaying a bit.

UPDATE 12:16 p.m.: Maurer testifies that Doll told him an "officer" gave him the white powder and he didn't know what it was.

"I told him it was my birthday and I didn’t want to see him hurt himself on my birthday and have that be my memory," Maurer said. "He said it was nothing against me. I'm trying to take the edge off -- some officer gave it to me."

Maurer added that Doll said, "You don’t know what I’m going through. I’ve lost my family. I’ve lost 25 years of my career. I’ve lost everything. Officer to officer."

When Doll arrived, prior to the alleged white powder incident, Maurer observed that Doll appeared despondent and intoxicated. He recommended Doll be placed under constant supervision, but that constant supervision -- which involves an officer sitting outside his cell and logging everything he does -- would not begin until after he was fully processed.

Maurer said a document that says he should be on constant watch while in the holding cell is a typo, that he should have gone on constant watch after processing was completed.

Maurer also testified that nobody was in the holding cell prior to Doll entering and that he didn't see a balloon or white powder in the room.

As for the pat search when Doll first arrived, Maurer said when patting his pant leg, "I felt something funny" and asked him to go into a holding cell for a more thorough search. Doll was asked to drop his pants and nothing unusual was found. At that point, he said he thought that maybe he only felt the seam of Doll's pants previously.

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: Batavia City Court Judge Robert Balbick rules that Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl could have asked his question during his initial direct examination, after Wolf had been qualified as an expert witness. Since that didn't happen, Killelea's objection is sustained.

UPDATE 12:56 p.m.: Lunch break. Prosecution will rest after lunch. The defense will not call any witnesses.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 11:36 am

Today's Deals: Red Osier, T.F. Brown's, Center Street, Kravings and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Red Osier, Route 5, Stafford, NY: Truly, one of the landmark restaurants of the area. Red Osier features prime rib carved table side. We have $25 gift certificates for $12.50.

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.

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.

Kravings, Valu Plaza, 4152 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Kraving's offers soups, salads and sandwiches, fresh and flavorful; Monday through Saturday. We have $10 gift certificates for $5.

Larry's Steakhouse, 60 Main St., Batavia, NY: The name says it all -- Larry's is a great place for steak. Larry's has a fine dining atmosphere with a great menu and outstanding service. 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.

South Beach, 59 Main St., Batavia, NY: Try the new lunch buffet. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50 (must be used by Nov. 30, 2010).

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.

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

SOLD OUT

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:36 am

Cast of local production of "RENT" gets special visit from an original cast member

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, batavia, theater

rent01.jpg

The Tony Award-winning rock opera "RENT" ran on Broadway for 5,124 performances and now a group of local actors are working on putting together a Batavia production that will run Jan. 13-16.

With the cast deep into rehearsals, they received a special visit at Batavia Middle School on Monday evening -- Gwen Stewart, one of the original cast members of "RENT" on Broadway stopped by for a visit.

After a short rehearsal, Stewart hopped onto the edge of the stage and talked about the importance and message of RENT, which dealt with what was a very controversial issue at the time -- AIDS.

She said because of advances in treatment, AIDS isn't the death sentence that it was when "RENT" opened in 1980, but the message of dealing with medical hardships is still relevant.

A couple of cast members mentioned that they had seen Stewart perform in "RENT," either on Broadway or in Rochester.

The local production of "RENT" is being staged by WNY Arts Society. For a complete cast list, click here. The director is Ashley Bateman, pictured above on the left with Stewart.

rent02.jpg

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:04 am

Lack of jail for female prisoners puts additional burden on Sheriff's Office

The inability of the Genesee County Jail to house female prisons continues to create an expense and drain of resources for the Sheriff's Office, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Monday, Maha informed the County Legislator's Public Service Committee that the cost of housing female prisoners in other counties is going to be $30,000 more than anticipated.

sheriff_gary_maha.jpgThat's the bad news. The good news is, Genesee County Jail has been getting additional federal prisoners for short-term detention. So while the county anticipated $10,000 in revenue from the Border Patrol and Federal Marshals, the actual figure will be closer to $30,000 or $35,000.

But keeping female prisoners in out-of-county facilities has a cost that doesn't show up on a balance sheet -- the only means of transporting female prisoners is to use a designated road patrol.

Deputies must shuttle inmates from Genesee County to Orleans County, or Wyoming or Allegany.

And a deputy on prison transport is a deputy who isn't on patrol.

Ideally, the Sheriff's Office would have a dedicated prisoner transport team, Maha said, but that just isn't a realistic proposal right now.

"Unfortunately we have to live with it, with the resources we have, with the situation the county is in economically," Maha said.

Orleans charges the county $70 per day per prisoner to house Genesee's female inmates.

Because Orleans County jail is closest to Batavia, the Sheriff's office prefers to keep detainees not yet convicted and with pending court dates at that facility.

Convicted prisoners are housed primarily in Allegany County.

Sometimes, however, Orleans runs out of space, and deputies are dispatched there to pick up one of Genesee County's female prisoners and move her to Allegany County.

Maha said he is particularly worried about what the impact will be on the jail if Genesee Justice is eliminated.

"They help us manage our jail population," Maha said. "We have a very efficient operation."

Genesee Justice helps with prisoners who need medical care and it also manages programs that provide alternatives to incarceration. Maha said he is concerned that without Genesee Justice, the local male prison population will outgrow available bed space.

He plans on addressing that issue with the County Legislature at a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m., Wednesday, in the County Courthouse.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Two car accident with injuries reported in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in accident

A two-car accident with injuries has been reported at the intersection of Route 33 and Route 19, Bergen.

It is not blocking.

Bergen Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Jury selection begins in prison contraband trial for Scott F. Doll

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

mug_scott_doll.jpgScott F. Doll is back in Batavia this afternoon, dressed in tan slacks and a new, white, unironed shirt, listening to attorneys question prospective jurors in his newest criminal case.

Doll allegedly tried to smuggle a white powdery substance into the Genesee County Jail on May 20, the day he was convicted by a jury of murdering 66-year-old Joseph Benaquist in February 2009.

It turned out the substance, reportedly stashed in a purple balloon concealed on his body, was nothing more than aspirin.

But even aspirin can't be brought into a jail without permission.

Currently, Doll is living in Fallsburg at the Sullivan Correctional Facility.

Sullivan is an all male, maximum-security prison just north of New York City.

Doll is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence.

Dan Killelea, part of Doll's legal team for the murder trial, is representing Doll in the alleged "promoting prison contraband" case.

More than 30 prospective jurors crowded into Batavia City Court at 1 p.m.

A jury for a misdemeanor allegation in city court is comprised of six people with only one or two alternatives. The number of challenges each attorney can make is reduced to three, so jury selection shouldn't last past this afternoon.

The trial is on the docket for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Girl reported missing is back with her family

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

A 15-year-old girl reported missing by Batavia Police on Friday has been found and reunited with her family.

Det. Rich Schauf said no criminal activity is suspected in her disappearance but did not release further details.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Former corrections officer sentenced on workers comp fraud charges

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

mug-james-gibbs.jpgA former corrections officer who admitted to workers compensation fraud will spend a couple of more months in jail before serving five months of probation, but the stiffest penalty he may face is paying back the nearly $38,000 he still owes the state.

James S. Gibbs has completed two months in county jail and will serve another two months before being released on probation, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled today.

In May, Gibbs admitted to charges of grand larceny and attempted workers compensation fraud. He also agreed to more than $40,000 in restitution, with $20,000 payable before his sentencing.

Since then he's allegedly violated the terms of his presentencing release by getting arrested in Monroe County on a possession of a controlled substance charge, and he's been through a divorce in which the couple lost their home.

Rather than a $20,000 payment, Gibbs has paid only $3,003.13.

Over the five years of his probation, his attorney Thomas Burns noted, paying back nearly $38,000 would work out to more than $600 per month, which Burns said seemed like a steep amount to expect Gibbs to pay back (among other expenses, Gibbs must pay child support). He asked for payments of $175 per month.

Even District Attorney Lawrence Friedman acknowledged that asking Gibbs to pay back the full amount in five years was a tall order.

"We ask that you set whatever maximum amount you deem appropriate," Friedman said.

Noonan noted that Gibbs was a good wage earner before his arrest, even in his side job -- driveway paving. He set the monthly payment at $200 per month and ordered that restitution be reviewed next summer.

For previous coverage, click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Wendt sentenced on DWI manslaughter charge

post by Howard B. Owens in alexander, crime, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt

Ronald J. Wendt, the 25-year-old Alexander man convicted of drunken driving and taking the life of a Dansville girl, will spend at least another 15 months in prison and could end up serving a total of seven-and-a-half years behind bars.

Wendt was sentenced in Genesee County Court today on his 11 convictions stemming from the fatal accident in Darien Center on Aug. 14, 2009.

Katie Stanley, 18, died in the crash that also injured three other people, and two of them say they continue to have medical problems.

The top count of Wendt's charges was aggravated vehicular manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Judge Robert C. Noonan sentenced Wendt to two and a half to seven and a half years on that count, and Wendt has already been in Genesee County Jail for 13 months, leaving a minimum of 15 months to serve.

On the other 10 counts, Wendt received concurrent sentences ranging from one year to two-to-six years. (For a list of the counts the sentencing options available to Noonan, click here.)

Noonan called the case a tragedy and noted, as did Friedman, that the underlying DWI charge was no more serious than what hundreds of people in Genesee County face every year. If there had been no accident, Noonan said, and Wendt was still arrested, he probably would have faced a misdemeanor DWI case, have it reduced to a violation and have served no jail time.

"You wouldn’t be standing here and you wouldn’t be facing a prison sentence, but unfortunately your conduct did lead to some serious consequences and I intend to impose a serious prison sentence," Noonan said.

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