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College student from NT named in suit over alcohol death

A Geneseo State College student from North Tonawanda has been named in a $2.5 million lawsuit over an alcohol poisoning death of another student earlier this year.

According to a story published today by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Adam C. Brownstein of North Tonawanda is one of eight defendants in a civil suit filed by the father of the deceased student, 19-year-old Arman Partamian.

More from the story by Staff Writer Bennett J. Loudon:

Partamian, who lived in a dorm at SUNY Geneseo, was found dead in a bed at 4359 Lower Court St. in the town of Geneseo. The address is the headquarters of the Pigs, an outlawed off-campus fraternity. The blood-alcohol content in various parts of his body ranged from 0.39 to 0.55 [percent].

As part of an initiation process, Partamian and two other pledges were forced to play drinking games and consume excessive amounts of alcohol over several days, according to the suit.

A Williamsville man had faced a charge of criminally negligent homicide, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, according to the D&C's story.

--Aaron Besecker

A killing at Avenue House gives rise to more widespread concerns

   Facing opposition from city and state lawmakers and after the slaying of counselor Renee Greco of Buffalo, New Directions Youth and Family Services does not plan to reopen Avenue House, at 437 East Ave. in the City of Lockport, where the killing occurred, an agency official told The Buffalo News for a story in today's editions.

   Lawmakers also have vowed to push for a closer examination of how all state juvenile facilities are operated, and some are incensed that more secure facilities have been slated to close, including two in Cattaraugus County.

   State Sen. Catherine Young, R-Olean, said Tuesday that lawmakers met Monday in Albany with officials from the state Office of Children and Family Services. Those officials promised an internal investigation.

   Young has called for a broader look into juvenile services across the state, one she'd like to see include State Senate hearings. She says she is "not confident [OCFS] will be forthcoming," and cited "a real lack of accountability."

   Staffing, an increase in violence among youths, and juveniles who flee facilities for troubled youths were all cited as problems at the first meeting between lawmakers and the state agency, Young said.

   "This is just the tip of the iceberg," she added.

   Meanwhile, two boys, Anthony J. Allen, 18, and Robert J. Thousand, 17, both of Rochester, are charged with Greco's murder.

-- Nancy A. Fischer

Sex offender case prompts Falls to take stock

   Not in our neighborhoods.

   That's what Niagara Falls City Council members had to say Monday about a recent decision to place another registered sex offender in a boarding house a few blocks from Niagara Street School.

   The City Council unanimously approved a resolution stating it "absolutely opposes the placing of sex offenders from one community into another, especially so close to an elementary school."

   It will send the resolution to State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., who ruled last month that a convicted sex offender, James A. McKinney, should live at the Midtown Inn boarding house in Niagara Falls when he is released from prison rather than with his mother in her North Tonawanda home.

   A story in today's Niagara & Region section reports on the Council's concerns. Another story by News Niagara Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska last month explains how Kloch came to his decision.

   McKinney will not be the first registered sex offender in the boarding house. Records provided by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office show there are already 11 registered sex offenders living in the building. A total of 39 live within one mile of Niagara Street School.

   The numbers have alarmed city and school officials, and the Niagara Falls Board of Education plans to form a task force to address the issue.

   -- Denise Jewell Gee

Taser ruling shocks defense lawyer

   Is it OK to use a Taser to shock a criminal suspect into giving a DNA sample?

   Yes, says Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza, as long as the police don't overdo it.

   In a 16-page ruling released Wednesday, Sperrazza said the Niagara Falls police did nothing wrong Sept, 29 in using the 50,000-volt electronic stun gun on Ryan S. Smith, 21, who didn't want to open his mouth for a buccal swab, a glorified Q-Tip, to be used to rub some cells off the inside of his cheek for a DNA sample.

   Smith objected that he had already given such a sample the previous month. That was where the case gets complicated.

   Note that if Smith is guilty, he's a pretty bad guy. He's charged with shooting a man in the groin after invading his ex-girlfriend's home, tying up her two children and forcing her to take her to the home of the man he shot. He's also charged with the shotgun-point robbery of a Niagara Falls gas station. DNA was found at both crime scenes.

   The August sample was supposed to go to the Niagara County Sheriff's Department forensic lab, but the Falls police erroneously mailed it to the State Police lab. Workers there opened the package and contaminated it, which is why another sample was sought.

   Sperrazza signed a second court order for a DNA sample without telling the defense. Normally, such orders are issued after giving the defense a chance to object. But Sperrazza wrote in her ruling that since Smith hadn't objected to the first sample, she didn't think he would object to the second.

   Smith did object, reportedly telling officers, "I ain't giving it up. You're going to have to tase me."

   Which they did, after consulting with a prosecutor, who either told them to use "the minimum force necessary" (according to police testimony at last month's court hearing) or "any means necessary" (according to a police report written the day of the incident).

   Smith was ordered to take his shirt off, handcuffed and made to sit on the floor, to minimize the risk that he could fall and hurt himself after being shocked.

   From there, it's a question of who you believe.

   Smith either was "tortured into unconsciousness" (according to court papers filed by his civil lawyer in an attempt to sue the City of Niagara Falls) or "complained of no injury and none was observed" (according to the police incident report).

   And then, after zapping him with 50,000 volts for one and a half to two seconds (according to testimony by the officer who pulled the trigger) or as long as four seconds (according to the Taser's readout) and obtaining the sample, the Niagara Falls police arrested Smith and charged him with contempt of court.

   Sperrazza said the police should have arrested him first and brought him to court to be warned that court orders must be obeyed.

   But even so, she said it's all right to use a Taser on a suspect as long as it's not done "maliciously, or to an excessive extent, or with resulting injury. The court is convinced by the evidence presented that the exact opposite of those factors was present in this case."

   Did the police handle this correctly? Did the judge make the right call?

-- Thomas J. Prohaska

Read the full story in today's Buffalo News here.

Manageable bail in attempted murder case raises concern

   North Tonawanda residents are talking about a story in The Buffalo News today about a city judge's decision to free on bail a woman accused of trying to stab her daughter last month.

   Elizabeth N. Budziszewski, 50, of Robinson Street, will not return home, but will wear an ankle bracelet monitoring her movements while she lives with a friend elsewhere in North Tonawanda.

   The victim of the stabbing, Budziszewski's daughter, Marianna E. Shucraft, 28, lives next door to her mother and now has a court order of protection against her.

   A caller to the newsroom this morning wondered if those handling the criminal case have a clear handle on how dangerous Budziszewski might be. He pointed out that residents don't know where Budziszewski will be staying, whether she'll abide by the terms of her conditional release and whether parents like him should be concerned for the safety of their loved ones.

   Budziszewski is accused of wrapping her daughter in plastic wrap March 18 and stabbing her three times in the chest with a hunting knife.

   City Judge William R. Lewis previously had denied bail but Thursday he set it at $10,000 bond.

   Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou told The News that will cost $800 with a bail bondsman. The judge said Budziszewski must obtain a drug abuse evaluation, which could lead to her admission to an inpatient treatment center. Eoannou said Budziszewski has issues with prescription drugs.

   Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said she intends to have the case moved to Niagara County Court as soon as possible, which would allow the bail issue to be revisited by a county judge.

   "We wanted it to remain at no bail because we have the case scheduled for grand jury Tuesday," Wojtaszek said.