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Buffalo, you are not alone

Some news from elsewhere. And why it sounds familiar:

- Pavement to Parks Allison Arieff/The New York Times
   Last Friday, cities and towns throughout the world celebrated Park(ing) Day, an event created to bring awareness to the importance of using and enjoying public space.

- Why not turn vacant lots into gardens? Donn Esmonde/The Buffalo News
   Buffalo’s full-bore demolition policy has left in its wake thousands of vacant lots. Next to many of them are homeowners like [Roxanne] Chase, who would gladly turn an eyesore into a lawn for kids to play on or a garden to brighten the street.

- Jail conditions violate rights of prisoners, feds say Laura Maggi/The New Orleans Times-Picayune
   Conditions at the Orleans Parish jail "violate the constitutional rights of inmates," according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice released Tuesday that focused on inmate safety and mental health care....
   Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who runs the jail, lambasted the report, saying it doesn't reflect the current reality at the complex or take into account difficulties his agency has faced since Hurricane Katrina. "This report is a terribly dated, fundamentally flawed work done by people who obviously have little appreciation of the tasks facing a city in recovery from the greatest national disaster in this country's history," Gusman said in a statement.

- State sues county over jail conditions Matthew Spina/The Buffalo News
   The State Commission of Correction charged in a lawsuit Tuesday that the Erie County Holding Center consistently violates state standards and that jail managers have failed to correct the problems, despite their claims. ...
   "This lawsuit is a blatant political attack in an election year to cast negative aspersions on the good work done by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office,” said [Sheriff Timothy] Howard, the Republican incumbent.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Kane comes to court, tracked by cameras

About an hour before Patrick Kane's 2 p.m. arraignment, news cameras were stationed on Delaware Avenue outside Buffalo City Court waiting for him to arrive.

   When the 20-year-old Chicago Blackhawk did, along with his attorney and parents, the cameras and reporters followed them through the metal detectors and up to the seventh floor of the courthouse. But they were stopped just outside Chief Judge Thomas P. Amodeo's courtroom door.

   Per the request of defense attorneys, cameras were kept out of the court proceeding.

   Both Patrick T. Kane and his cousin, James M. Kane, 21, pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree assault and theft of services, both misdemeanors, and harassment, a violation, during a five-minute arraignment.

   After today's court appearance, Patrick Kane addressed reporters outside the courthouse. Listen to his statement here.

Kane arraignment FOR WEB

   Above: Kane is pictured after giving his statement to reporters. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

   An Erie County grand jury convened last week indicted the Kane cousins on the above charges, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita said Wednesday.

  -Here's the story on the latest developments.

   The Kanes are accused of beating 62-year-old cab driver Jan Radecki, leaving him with a broken nose and broken glasses.

   Patrick Kane, a South Buffalo native, participated in orientation camp for the U.S. Olympic team earlier this week.

   James Kane initially hired Daniel Barry Jr., an attorney who works in the Buffalo Legal Aid Bureau, shortly after his arrest. When he came to court today, he was represented by prominent Buffalo defense attorney Joel L. Daniels.

   Patrick Kane's attorney is Paul J. Cambria Jr., another high-profile Buffalo attorney.

   --Aaron Besecker

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

Missed opportunity for a safer Buffalo


   WASHINGTON -- So the score is Rochester $5.8 million, Buffalo 0.

   That's how much the two nearby cities got in federal stimulus grant money
for the hiring of new police officers -- and it might just be because Buffalo
didn't apply for the grant.

   The city didn't apply because it had existing police vacancies, and thus
wasn't eligible to apply.

   Those vacancies occurred because it could not find enough minority police
candidates, which it must do under a federal court case dating back to
1978.

   Yes, 31 years later, Buffalo -- which was found to have discriminated in its
hiring of police and firefighters in the 1970s -- is still under court order on
its hiring practices.

   Which is enough to make you wonder: Will this lawsuit never end?

   -- Jerry Zremski

Avenue House: A lot for a young woman to handle alone

         Ed Collingwood has lived across the street from Avenue House for 30 years. He has seen the teenage boys who stay there grow a bit colder and more daring over the past several months.

   In the wake of the killing of group home worker Renee Greco at the house Monday night, Collingwood wonders whether the 24-year-old woman should have been left alone with the boys.

   He recalled knocking on the door of Avenue House one Saturday morning last winter to complain about loud music coming from the group home. Greco answered.

   Collingwood said he complained about the music and Greco replied, "I tried. I can't handle them."

   "I said, "Then call the police.' She said, "Could you call them?'‚" Collingwood recalled. "That's when I had an indication that these young women they hired couldn't handle it. ... I thought I should tell someone."

   He didn't, he said, adding, "I feel kind of guilty."

   Greco's brother, as well as a close friend of the slain Buffalo woman, told The Buffalo News on Wednesday that Greco was feeling too much tension in the job and planned to quit soon.

   She was aware of the dangers, but thought she was doing something meaningful in helping to try to turn around the lives of those in her charge.

   "She handled it, but it's kind of nerve-wracking when you have between four, five or six teenage boys, some 18 or 19 years old. You never know," said Lisa Fullone, a close friend of Greco's since high school.

    Officials at New Directions Youth & Family Services have closed Avenue House as they take a closer look at what happened Monday night to try to determine whether any procedures could be improved. They also want to give the staff and residents some time to mourn Greco's death, an official with the agency said.

— Thomas J. Prohaska and Denise Jewell Gee

13 dead women are just part of domestic violence toll

   The fact that 13 local women have been killed since November in domestic violence incidents is shocking enough. But that figure doesn't tell the whole story.

   For every abuse victim that's killed, others are seriously injured.

   In February, Niagara Falls resident Stephanie Turk was shot by her ex-boyfriend, who is accused of later engaging in a shootout with police that left him and two police officers seriously wounded.

   Turk was lucky to survive.

   On May 30, North Tonawanda resident Renee Hickey was shot eight times by Timothy R. Hance, 48.

   Hickey once had an order of protection against Hance.

   Hance subsequently committed suicide.

   But miraculously, Hickey lived.

   In countless other cases, women and sometimes men end up beaten, bruised and broken, but their abusers escape with misdemeanors and violations.

   Advocates for domestic violence victims say much has been done, but much more work remains.

   The key to ending this kind of violence is out there. Enough people just have to be committed to the solution.

   -- Sandra Tan

   Read the full story.

Youthful indiscretion or terroristic threat?

   The New York Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union says that school and police officials completely overreacted  when they arrested and charged an 11-year-old middle schooler with "making a terroristic threat" by creating a hit list on a school computer of students and teachers she said she wanted to kill.

   They contend the sixth-grader should be subject to school discipline and should get the professional help she needs to deal with her emotions and anger, but she shouldn't be criminalized as a terrorist threat.

   Police officials respond that any school threats involving harm to other students can't be taken lightly in a post-Columbine world. They also said this girl isn't being "criminalized." She's heading to Family Court, a non-punitive court that will make sure she gets the help she needs.

   Are police and school officials overreacting or responding appropriately?


  — Sandra Tan

Raw emotions at hit-and-run sentencing

   It was a scene that few who attended ever will forget.

   For an hour and a half straight, a State Supreme Court courtroom was the scene of heartfelt pleas and memories of five family members intimately touched by one tragedy, the hit-and-run accident that took the life of 19-year-old Meghan Sorbera last October.

   These recollections and pleas came straight from the heart, from three members of Meghan's family, plus the defendant, John P. Duffy, and his wife. All five struggled with their emotions, some breaking down as they tried to convey how deeply they felt.

   In what had to be a first, even the judge, Justice John L. Michalski, pointed out that he was concerned his emotions might get the most of him.

   For one day, anyway, courtroom procedures and the long arm of the law gave way to raw, deep pain, on a day when there were no winners.

   Just a sad day for everyone.

   -- Gene Warner

Read the full story.

The tragedy of collegiate binge drinking

   When Arman Partamian died, his blood-alcohol content was 0.55 percent -- just shy of seven times the legal limit for driving.

   Experts say a normal, healthy person who is not an alcoholic would slip into a coma at 0.40 percent; 0.50 percent is considered lethal.

   Before Partamian died, he was seen drinking heavily for three days in a row. On the night before his death, he and two other "pledges" to an unsanctioned fraternity-type social club were seen jumping around a bonfire. They were obviously already intoxicated and were vomiting. But members of the "Pigs" social club were seen forcing the young men to keep drinking full bottles of alcohol.

   Partamian, a 19-year-old from Flushing, was found dead the next morning in an upstairs room of the club. And on Tuesday, three young men were charged with criminally negligent homicide and other crimes.

   There is no question that college students drink, even though they're under 21. There's probably little that can be done to stop that.

   But then there's dangerous binge drinking like the sort Partamian engaged in.

   What can be done to stop such self-destructive behavior?

   Many college try to educate their students about the dangers.

   Some institutions have suggested lowering the drinking age to take away the mystique of underage drinking.

   Livingston County District Attorney Thomas E. Moran is considering going after fraternity parties where unlimited alcohol is served for $5 per cup for tax evasion.

   Will any of this work?

   Do you have any suggestions?

   -- Maki Becker

Read the full story.

Burden of proof steep in collision on slope


    The ski season ended March 4 for Kissing Bridge ski instructor Carl Hensler, who suffered multiple, serious injuries when another skier collided with him.

    Now Dominic Galasso of Lancaster has been charged with reckless endangerment, initiating what's believed to be New York's first criminal proceeding arising from such circumstances.

   Do you consider Galasso's behavior to be criminal?

 
 -- Janice L. Habuda

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