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Why cab driver's license issue is important

I've gotten several e-mails and phone calls from outraged readers who think The Buffalo News was fed information about Jan Radecki's past by Patrick Kane's attorney in an attempt to discredit the Buffalo cab driver. Radecki has accused the 20-year-old National Hockey League star and his cousin, James M. Kane, 21, of robbing and assaulting him.

   The paper is "blaming the victim," critics say, and playing into the hand of Paul Cambria Jr., Patrick Kane's high-profile defense attorney.

   Andrew lotempio for web Radecki's attorney, Andrew C. LoTempio (pictured right, Derek Gee/Buffalo News), said this to me on Wednesday: "It sounds to me like the newspaper is trying to villainize my client."

   These claims are untrue. We await court proceedings, including today's session before a grand jury, that will reveal what really happened in the cab early Sunday morning. Meanwhile, The News is investigating all aspects of the case. The stories about the license are just the first pieces of information to come to light.

   The stories about the cabbie's license, while calling into question Radecki's character, are not an attempt to make excuses for what the Kanes may have done in that cab. Keep in mind, though, that those are only allegations.

   Here's how some stories, including this one, develop in the newsroom:

   The News has amassed an internal database of public records. All reporters, editors and newsroom Library Director David Valenzuela regularly use the database when researching stories. The database includes information from voter registration, property and public payroll records. When possible, we go to the agencies and offices who maintain that information to corroborate what we've found.

   A search of our database yielded court records of Jan Radecki's past convictions, including one in Buffalo City Court for drunk driving. (See image below)

Radecki screen shot for web

   The newspaper also has access to a state Department of Motor Vehicles database, which a few members of staff can search for more information based on search results of public records.

   The DMV audits our searches periodically, and we have to substantiate the searches we've done. We can't just "go fishing" for a person's driving record. If we can't prove we were searching for a good reason, we lose our access.

   So the background on the cab driver came from our own research, not from Kane's lawyer.Paul cambria for web

   I asked Cambria (pictured right, Bill Wippert/Buffalo News) when I spoke to him earlier this week whether he knew about the cabbie's past. He said he did, but did not want to be the source of any of that information.

   In a story published today, and as a result of days of research, The News has found the DMV investigating possible fraud since Radecki applied for a new license under a different name and address after a drunk driving conviction in 1999.

   That could be criminal, Chautauqua County District Attorney David W. Foley told The News.

   LoTempio, his attorney, said his client is willing to do "whatever he needs to do to straighten it out."

   Allegations about lying to the DMV are relevant in this situation because they speak to a portion of Radecki's character. They raise questions about whether what he said happened in his cab last weekend are completely true.

   Think about it this way -- what if you were accused of a crime by someone with Radecki's background? Would you think this information was worth knowing then?

  -- Aaron Besecker


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