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Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Sponsored Post: Think Spring! Visit the Home Show on Friday, March 28th - Sunday, March 30

It’s been a long cold winter and now it’s time to “think spring.” And there’s no way better way to beat those long winter blues than by attending the first annual Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Home Show. The all new Home Show will be held at Falleti Ice Arena in Batavia Friday through Sunday, March 28-30.
 
Here’s your chance to talk face to face with one of the 57 area businesses attending this year’s Home Show for help with your home ideas and projects. And while you’re there, make sure you register for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate from the Home Show vendor business of your choice. The winner will be drawn at the conclusion of the Home Show and you do not need to be present to win.
 
The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Home Show will be open Friday, March 28 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 29 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. And if you’re hungry, the concessions are being run by Alex’s Place, so you know the food will be excellent!
 
Admission is only $3 per person and children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Parking is free at the Falleti Ice Arena. Coupons good for $1 off all admissions are available at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce office, 210 E. Main St., Batavia, or at any of the participating businesses. For a complete list of participating businesses go to www.geneseeny.com/homeshow. For more information, call the Chamber office at 343-7440.
Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

Law and Order: Woman accused of hitting person's head with a brick

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

Rose H. Chiauzzi, 22, of 154 W. Court St., Warsaw, is charged with felony assault and criminal mischief, 4th. Chiauzzi allegedly grabbed a brick during an argument in the Village of Le Roy and struck the victim on the back of the head causing an injury that required an ambulance transport to an area hospital. Chiauzzi also allegedly damaged the windshield and sunroof of the victim's vehicle. Chiauzzi was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Jeffrey W. Scott, 31, of 14 Lake St., Apt. #3, Le Roy, is charged with issuing a bad check. Scott allegedly wrote a check based on insufficient funds at a business in the Village of Le Roy and then failed to make payment for the check.

Heather K. Wilcox-Villa, 43, of 9624 Clipnock Road, Stafford, is charged with petit larceny. Wilcox-Villa is accused of shoplifting at a business in the Village of Le Roy. She allegedly concealed a bottle of perfume in her purse and left the store without paying for it.

Marcus Allen Ciociola, 18, of West Main Street, Corfu, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Ciociola allegedly kicked another person during at dispute. He was jailed on $800 bail.

Andrei Peter Sliker, 23, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st. Sliker allegedly violated an order of protection. He was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Todd Patrick Gately, 22, of Long Pond Road, Rochester, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, uninspected motor vehicle and failure to obey traffic device. Gately was stopped at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday on Townline Road, Bergen, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Judith E. Peterson, 53, of Lancaster, is charged with DWI. State Police responded to a report at 11:18 p.m., March 23, on Bernd Road, Le Roy, of one vehicle striking a car parked in a driveway following a report of a domestic dispute. Troopers located Peterson walking on Bernd Road. State Police alleged Peterson was driving the vehicle that struck the parked car and then tried to leave the scene on foot. She allegedly failed field sobriety tests and had a BAC of .17.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Photo: Dusk at the Tonawanda falls behind the courthouse

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

I thought this was an attractive scene as I walked from the County Courthouse this evening.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Shane Bell found not guilty in felony assault case

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Shane M. Bell

Shane Bell, accused of felony assault against a fellow patron of the The Harvester on Aug. 25, was found not guilty by a Genesee County jury.

The jury deliberated for about two hours this afternoon.

Bell admitted to hitting Scott Baker once. Baker suffered a serious head injury and was in a coma for a period of time and remains in a nursing home seven months later.

Though District Attorney Lawrence Friedman did speak with the jury briefly after the verdict, he said they didn't discuss the specifics of why they found Bell not guilty. It could have been the justification (self) defense or it could have been they didn't think Bell had the intent when he hit Baker to cause serious physical injury.

"Needless to say disappointed," Friedman said. "I believed in this case. It was certainly my belief that the defendant committed this crime. Obviously, I have to accept and respect the verdict of the jury."

William Tedford, who defended Bell out of the Public Defender's Office, said he felt they had a strong justification case.

"I think there were a lot of issues, but if you focus on the justification issue, even though you have other issues, and come to some kind of consensus on that -- not that it makes the other issues moot -- it does expedite the discussion some," Tedford said.

Tedford said it was also always part of the defense's case that the level of intoxication for Baker contributed to the outcome of the incident.

"I also think we presented enough evidence that my client lacked the intent, with only one punch, to cause serious physical harm," Tedford said. "It was highly unforeseeable that would cause the extent of the harm it did, and I think the jury realized that."

Friedman said he did find out from the jury that they found the video evidence presented very useful.

The video, recorded with audio, showed Bell minutes after the confrontation and captured most of his statements to police. The jury also saw video of Bell being interviewed at the police station, and though Bell sometimes contradicted himself on details, he repeatedly said he didn't think he hit Baker all that hard.

Friedman argued in his closing remarks that the video showed a man trying to cover his tracks, but neglecting to mention a key element of the justification defense -- that he felt threatened.

Regardless of the outcome, I think it's a very valuable tool," Friedman said. "As I said to them (the jury), for one thing, it's so much more helpful than just having the cold words written down. To see the person and how they're acting and what they're saying and how they're saying things. When they take a written statement from somebody, obviously, they don't take down everything they say. It's not really practical. It is helpful. I was glad to have it. Despite the outcome, I still think it was a good thing to have."

In his close, Tedford put much of the blame for the incident on Baker. Asked if he had anything to say to the family, Tedford answered, "Mr. Bell and I are both very sympathetic to his injuries and of course we're very apologetic for what he and the family are going through. I know Mr. Bell and I both strongly believe and agree with the verdict, but his injuries are extremely unfortunate and we've very apologetic."

Tedford said his client, who has been in jail for seven months, was thrilled with the verdict.

"I think he's excited to get home and see his dog and have a home-cooked meal," Tedford said.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Prosecution and defense present their arguments to jury in Shane Bell case

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Shane M. Bell

The first thing District Attorney Lawrence Friedman told the jurors when he stepped up to offer his closing arguments in the Shane Bell felony assault case is that there is at least one thing he and defense attorney William Tedford agree on.

And that is what the jurors must decide during their deliberations, which started this afternoon.

First, did Shane Bell cause serious physical injury to Scott Baker the night of Aug. 25 outside The Harvester bar on Harvester Avenue, Batavia. Second, did Bell intend to cause serious physical injury to Baker. Three, was Bell justified in hitting Baker because he felt Baker posed a threat.

And that is pretty much all Tedford and Friedman agree on. Their closing arguments offered up differing interpretations on every aspect of the case.

On the question of the seriousness of the injuries, Tedford questioned whether it was Bell's punch that caused Baker to go into a coma. 

He said Dr. Gregory T. Bennett testified that he "couldn't tell you which injury caused the coma. Was it the back of the head, the front? He couldn't tell you for sure if it was both. That, ladies and gentleman is reasonable doubt."

Friedman took a different view, first citing the anticipated jury instructions that the law would require them to find that Bell's actions were a contributory cause, an action that forged a link, brought about the injury or set in motion a chain of events that caused the injury.

A defense witness, Friedman noted, Curtis Gallagher, said that Bell threw a strong, straight jab with a follow through. Recorded evidence presented at trial showed Bell offering contradictory statements about how he hit Baker. Sometimes he said he used a fist, sometimes he said it was an open-handed slap.

Baker suffered a facial fracture and broken nose. 

When he was hit, according to the testimony of both Gallagher and his girlfriend, Joslyn Hyland, who was called by the prosecution, he fell straight back, straight as a board, hitting his head on the pavement.

The straight, hard jab is more likely the truth of how Bell hit Baker, Friedman said.

"He hit him hard enough to cause serious, traumatic brain injury," Friedman said.

The only intent Shane Bell had the night of Aug. 25, Tedford said, was to find his keys and leave the Harvester.

He had seen Baker dancing with his girlfriend, and told police it didn't bother him. Baker had tried to pick a fight with him, Tedford said, and Bell ignored him. Baker threatened him, Tedford said, and Bell did nothing.

"Baker threatens him first," Tedford said. "He became the initial aggressor."

It was only after all of this, when Bell was trying to leave, and Baker followed him across the street and grabbed him, did Bell turn and hit Baker.

Tedford recounted a statement Bell made to police.

"I don't know what Scott Baker is going to do. I don't know him that well. I just wanted to get out of there. I didn't mean to knock him out. I hope he's OK."

Bell's actions after he hit Baker, Tedford said, shows a man with no intent to seriously injure anybody. Bell, he said, moved Baker out of harm's way, out of the darkened roadway, and onto grass. He tried to revive him. He was nothing but cooperative with police.

"It was Scott Baker's choice to go across the street," Tedford said. "Per what Mr. Friedman told you during jury selection, people should be accountable and responsible for their own choices." 

Witnesses said Bell told Baker, "You better be coming over here to smoke a bowl with me or you're going to get knocked out."

That wasn't a threat, Tedford said, it's the way the kind of people who frequent The Harvester would try to defuse a situation.

"That is a warning to the initial aggressor," Tedford said. "If you continue to put me in this situation, if you continue to threaten me, if you continue to follow me across the street, I'm going to be left with no other alternative except to defend myself."

Friedman had a very different take on the statement. 

That statement was made twice, Friedman said. First, as an invitation to actually smoke some marijuana and then followed by the threat of hitting Baker if he had any other intention than smoking a bowl.

"It was an attempt to lure Baker across the street, away from the people who were with him in order to knock him out," Friedman said.

Friedman took issue with the defense contention that Baker posed a threat to Bell.

"They portray him as a bumbling drunk at the same time they want you to believe that this same Scott Baker posed a serious threat to Shane Bell that night," Freidman said.

Friedman recalled statements by Bell to police such as, "I wasn't in a mood to play," and about his experience with kickboxing and that he's "f--'d people up" in the past.

"When the defendant punched Scott Baker the way he did, he knew the nature of the consequences of that punch, and that exactly what he knew would happen did happen," Friedman said. "Scott Baker suffered a serious physical injury just as the defendant intended."

All of the evidence, Tedford said, points to his client being justified in hitting Baker. Baker had taunted him, threatened him, danced with his wife and tried to follow him to his car.

Once that evidence has been established, Tedford said, it's up to the prosecution to prove a self-defense justification doesn't exist, and Tedford said he didn't believe the people had made that case.

If Baker threatened Bell, Friedman said, why did Bell not once mention the threats to police during the taped interviews.

"He never once said he heard Scott Baker say a word about a knife," Friedman said. "He never said he heard Scott Baker say anything about murdering him, stabbing him, kicking his ass. Don't you think that's one thing, if he was thinking about saving his own skin, he would have told police?"

If he didn't hear those threats, Friedman said, then how are they relevant to a self-defense claim? If he did hear them and didn't mention them, then he must have taken them as empty threats, not as something he felt he needed to defend himself against. 

"I would submit to you that by the defendant's own words you hear on those recordings, he clearly was not afraid of Scott Baker," Friedman said. 

The defense, Friedman said, contends that Baker could have walked away, well, so could have Shane Bell. But he didn't. If he felt threatened, he could have called the police. But he didn't. 

"Of course he didn't, because there was no real threat," Friedman said.

Bell was angry, Friedman said. He was angry because he couldn't find his keys. He was angry because Baker had danced with his girlfriend. He was angry because his girlfriend had left. And he took it out on Baker, Friedman said.

"Baker is the person who suffered the consequences of the defendant's pent-up anger," Friedman said. 

He was still angry, Friedman said, when he saw Gallagher and Hyland sitting in a nearby truck and he walked up to them and said, "Someone took my keys. They are f--king with me. You didn't see shit."  

That, Friedman said, was the statement of a man with a guilty conscious, who knew he had done wrong, who knew he had intentionally hit another person hard enough to knock him out.

"He knew he was wrong. He knew he wasn't justified. He knew he didn't want any witnesses."

The case is now in the hands of the jury.

Previously:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm

College Village security guard accused of stealing undergarments and swimsuits

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, College Village, crime

A security guard at College Village has been arrested by State Police for allegedly entering apartments and stealing undergarments and swimsuits.

Matthew P. Lenhard, 28, of Corfu, has been charged with six counts of burglary, 2nd, a Class C felony, and one count of criminal possession of stolen property, 5th.

The NYSP criminal investigation unit took up the case after receiving a complaint through Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

State Police say several pieces of garments were recovered at Lenhard's residence in Corfu.

The press release contains the following statement attributed to the director of College Village: "We are assuring students that safety is our top priority. We are encouraging students to bring any concerns they might have to members of our staff, or to discuss safety issues with our staff."

Lenhard was arraigned in Batavia Town Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Joe Gerace remembers the time he met Ralph Wilson

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, buffalo bills

Joe Gerace will always have a warm place in his heart for Ralph Wilson, the founding owner of the Buffalo Bills who died yesterday at age 95.

One of Gerace's most memorable moments as a Bills fan was a trip to Cleveland for a Bills vs. Browns game in 2007. There was a reception the night before the game and Wilson was there.

Gerace said he walked up to Wilson and put his arm around him and asked, "Mr. Wilson, can I get my picture taken with you?"

Wilson agreed readily, and then chatted with Gerace a bit and asked him where he was from.  Wilson then invited Robert Royal and Trent Edwards over for pictures with Gerace.

A few seasons later, Gerace was at a game in Buffalo and he saw Wilson riding on a golf cart through a tunnel.

"He hollers to me, "'Hey, Batavia!' That made me feel good. He was a nice man. They can say what the want to say want about Mr. Wilson, but he was a down-to-earth gentleman."

He added, "He did a lot of good for Buffalo and the community and it's a big loss."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Photo: Short, heavy snowfall hits Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Jackson Street, weather

Batavia got hit by a short but heavy snowstorm about midday that left about a quarter inch of snow on the ground.

View on Jackson Street.

Perhaps, this is the last winter storm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 11:55 am

Doctor testifies in Bell case that victim's coma result of traumatic brain injury

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime
Shane M. Bell

Scott Baker was hit hard enough the night of Aug. 25 that he suffered fractured bones in his face and a broken nose, a doctor testified today in the trial of Shane Bell in Genesee County Court.

Baker also hit his head on the pavement, which caused a small amount of bleeding in his brain.

The two traumas must be taken together said Dr. Gregory T. Bennett, clinical director of ECMC Neurology, as the cause of Baker's subsequent coma.

"We know it's all linked," Bennett said. "It's shock waves that go through the tissue."

When Baker arrived at ECMC, after being initially treated at UMMC, both hemispheres of his brain were "silent," Bennett said. "That is what causes a coma."

Bell is charged with felony assault. The jury is being asked to determine whether Bell intended to cause serious physical injury to Baker during an altercation outside the The Harvester bar on Harvester Avenue.

The 51-year-old Baker remains in nursing home care seven months after the incident. Bennett said it is impossible to predict whether he will ever recover. As a person over 30 years old, his chances of recovery from significant brain trauma are much less than it would be for a child.

"There is a significant risk that a person who is in a deep coma will never recover," Bennett said.

For the first week after the injury, there is significant risk of death, Bennett said.

When Baker was first admitted in the emergency room at UMMC, there was almost enough alcohol in his system to cause a coma. The level was 282 parts per deciliter. A person could potentially be in a coma at 300 parts per deciliter. A level between 150 and 250 could cause lethargy.

While Bennett said he didn't see the UMMC report when Baker was admitted to the trauma unit at ECMC, he said doctors knew he had been in a fight at night outside a bar, so it was assumed he had been drinking.

Since there's a risk associated with a brain pressure monitor, Bennett said doctors won't start the monitor on a person with a head injury who may have been drinking. Bennett said he decided to observe Baker for six hours to see if he would come out of the coma on his own before attaching the monitor.

Baker was still in a coma after an hour, so the monitor was attached.

There was no surgery that could be performed to deal with the brain trauma, Bennett said. His facial fracture was "non-displaced," meaning the bone would heal on its own without surgery. The broken nose did not require surgery, but splits were used to align the cartilage so it would heal correctly.

Bennett, during cross-examination, testified about the damage alcohol can do to the human brain.

"It's never therapeutic," Bennett said.

Even red wine's benefits for heart health is so minimal, that he never recommends it for a person with any level of heart disease. There are medications that are hundreds of times more effective in care.

Any amount of alcohol consumption over time cause damage to brain tissue. It causes atrophy.

A person who has brain atrophy from alcohol has even less of a chance of recovery from brain trauma, Bennett said.

Baker had no brain atrophy, Bennett said.

After Bennett's testimony, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the prosecution rests its case.

With the jury out of the room, defense attorney William Tedford made a motion to dismiss the case, saying that the people had failed to prove Bell intended to cause serious physical injury to Baker and that there is sufficient evidence that Bell reacted in self defense when he hit Baker.

Friedman disagreed with both assertions.

"Mr. Tedford has just given his summation," Friedman said. "Those are issues for the jury to decide."

Judge Tom Moran, substituting for Robert Noonan, who is hearing a case in Monroe County, said he would reserve his decision.

The morning testimony came from defense witness Robert Tedford, a City of Batavia firefighter and medic, who treated Baker at the scene and rode in the ambulance with him to UMMC.

Robert Tedford is the older brother of attorney William Tedford.

Robert Tedford testified that when he arrived on scene, a black male was cradling Baker, crying, and saying, "I can't believe they did this to you. Hold on. Don't go to the light."

The man delayed the attempt by medics to begin treatment on Baker.

Robert Tedford testified that there was an odor of alcohol around Baker, which was particularly pronounced inside the ambulance. He also testified that just smelling an alcoholic beverage gives him no indication how much alcohol the patient might have consumed.

The second defense witness was Curtis Gallagher, who initially testified that Baker "tried to grab" Bell and that he touched Baker. Under cross-examination by Friedman, he admitted that in previous statements, he did not mention seeing, with certainty, Baker touch Bell.

"I couldn't tell if he touched him on his shoulder," Gallagher said. "He put his hands up like he was going to."

He also confirmed prior testimony that when Bell started to cross the street, he told Baker, "You better be coming over here to smoke a bowl with me or you're going to get knocked out."

During his direct testimony, Gallagher only said, "You better be coming over here to smoke a bowl," and tried to testify that he believed Bell was implying consequences if that wasn't the case.

More than once, Judge Moran needed to remind Gallagher not to inject his opinion into his testimony.

Gallagher initially testified that he heard Baker say he had a knife and was going to stab Bell, but under cross, Gallagher said he only heard Baker say he had a knife at home and that he would go get it.

During cross, Friedman asked numerous questions about Gallagher's prior criminal record, which includes two felony convictions for the sale of drugs.

After Gallagher's testimony, the defense rested.

Atfter the jury left the court room, the attorneys and the judge discussed jury instructions. Friedman argued that there wasn't sufficient evidence presented for the jury to be instructed on justification (self-defense). Tedford argued that it's a low standard for the defense and that the evidence should be considered in the light most favorable to the defense. Moran agreed with Tedford.

The attorneys will present closing arguments after lunch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

Possible semi-truck fire reported on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, thruway

Bluish smoke is coming from the back of a tractor that is in the westbound lane of the Thruway in the area of mile marker 393.

The trailer is hauling gasoline.

Town of Batavia fire dispatched.

UPDATE 7:36 a.m.: A chief is in the area. "Unfounded so far."

UPDATE 7:41 a.m.: The chief located the truck and spoke with the driver. The driver had checked it out. There was no heat nor fire, just a little smoke coming from the axle.

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