Seven Days In The Erie Can

It’s not that the crime with which William Payne is charged will make him particularly sympathetic, even with the usual caveat that the guy is innocent because he has yet to be proven guilty.  Yes, we all adore the innocent, but the $25,000 bail was good enough to keep him coming back for more.

That is, until the assistant district attorney claimed he tried to run her down.  From the Buffalo News:

The Erie County assistant district attorney prosecuting Payne had claimed that he drove within a couple feet of her following the first day of his rape trial.

[Judge Kenneth] Case revoked Payne’s bail and declared a mistrial last Tuesday after prospective jurors waiting to be screened for possible selection in Payne’s rape trial overheard discussions at the Erie County Courthouse that the assistant district attorney was involved in some sort of traffic incident on Monday evening.

The assistant prosecutor said she had gotten a clear look at the driver’s face and identified him as Payne.

Lock him up! Revoke his bail! Protect the prosecutor! Scuttle the trial!!!  After all, she got a “clear look at the driver’s face,” and it was PAYNE!!!

Except it wasn’t.

Defense attorney Joseph A. Agro provided County Judge Kenneth F. Case with still photographs from Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority surveillance cameras showing the 48-year-old Payne utilizing public transportation at different points on his way home from court to the East Side.

Photographs and surveillance video from cameras at the intersection where the alleged incident occurred at West Eagle Street and Delaware Avenue, Agro argued, proved that his client could not possibly be the man behind the wheel of a dark sedan the prosecutor said nearly struck her.

Oops. But the good news is that it only took seven days of Payne’s life to figure out that he had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any car driving too close to the baby prosecutor.

“I told them this guy does not have a driver’s license and has an NFTA bus pass. But my client sat for seven days at the Erie County Holding Center,” Agro said. “We think the next time an accusation like that is going to be made, they should get it right and not leave it up to us to get it right. This guy’s liberty was taken from him for seven days.”

But hey, this wasn’t some bum off the street making the accusation which would be duly investigated. Eventually. This was a prosecutor, and the last thing we can tolerate is a baby prosecutor getting rattled.  Of course, there is no way to know whether the incident happened at all, or whether it was just your basic car came closer to the prosecutrix than she would have preferred.  Just like the Dersh, who would have demanded Payne be indicted for attempted murder before the sun set.

So who was this assistant who was so very certain that the attempt to run her down was perpetrated by the perpetrator? Well, that’s hard to say:

The Buffalo News has withheld the name of the assistant prosecutor at the request of the District Attorney’s Office because they were fearful for her safety.

Defense lawyers in Buffalo should keep this in mind, and request that they similarly withhold the names of defendants because they’re fearful for her safety.  Then again, it’s a little unclear why she would be fearful, given that her fantasy attack by the defendant was just that, a fantasy.

But what it was not was intentional, as Judge Case concluded:

The judge, in restoring bail, said he did not believe the assistant district attorney intentionally sought to blame Payne for the incident, but rather it was the result of a case of mistaken identity.

Mistaken identity can happen, you know. It tends to happen most when there is video.  And ironically, there was video in this case.

Agro said his client is glad to be free, but questioned the assistant prosecutor’s account of what happened at the intersection after he watched the courthouse surveillance video several times.

“In my humble estimation, the car was nowhere near the assistant DA,” Agro said.

That’s one seriously mistaken prosecutor, they have up there in Buffalo. No wonder she’s fearful.  And so what if she misidentified by mistake the face of the defendant she was prosecuting, a face she could “clearly see,”  even if it was during an incident that didn’t really happen.  It only cost William Payne seven days sitting in the Erie County jail.

H/T Our hinterlands correspondent, Kathleen Casey

16 thoughts on “Seven Days In The Erie Can

  1. Brett Middleton

    It must be a horrible way to live, trembling in fear, looking over your shoulder, seeing boogeymen everywhere. It’s ! tried to run me down! is under my bed! is in my closet! was on the wing of the plane trying to tear up the engine! I saw it clearly!

    You, sir, are just a mean bully for making fun of people with anxiety disorders. I’m sure seven days in the Erie can would qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

    1. Brett Middleton

      Hmmm. Comment software doesn’t seem to like angle brackets, so that got a bit mangled. Please insert “Defendant” at appropriate points in the above.

  2. Kathleen Casey

    But it was the word of a Special Victim prosecutor, now a Special Victim, against William Payne, rape defendant. Who ever would have thought a Special Victim could be mistaken? Or could be a fraud?

    “Roseanne Johnson, chief of the Erie County District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, did not object when Case restored bail for Payne. Last week, she had requested the bail revocation after interviewing the assistant prosecutor who works in her bureau.”

  3. Mike Paar

    Such a blatant case and yet Judge Case appears to be part-and-parcel to this misconduct. At least he’s not “in fear for his safety” and allowed his name to be made public.

  4. Patrick Maupin

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this man before you hired a look-alike (after, of course, making sure he had an iron-clad alibi) to come close enough to me to prove that he could run me down any time he wants to.

    We need to send a strong message that this is not the direction the intimidation is supposed to flow in this country.

    Thank you.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        No, I’m just part of the secret cabal that has figured out that the best way to convince the populace to accept Minority Report-style 24/7 surveillance is to generate enough publicity showing how surveillance can actually protect members of the public from the government.

        We don’t want to move too fast, or people will get suspicious. It has to just be occasional actions of a prosecutor here; a cop there. The pressure will build inexorably to keep adding cameras until the NSA complains that their hard drives are full.

  5. John Barleycorn

    There far too many people in official positions within the state of New Your that need to get behind the controls of real honest to goodness heavy machinery and get an up close and personal look at the damage hydraulics can do when in the hands of the carless, wicked and/ or reckless.

    WTF gives with the Tonka Truck Syndrome out there in the Empire State anyway?

    Perhaps we can start out the festivities with The Dersh showing anonymous prosecutors how to gently engage the blade of a D-9 dozer or use the thumb on and excavator to get a good grip before the rip and swivel.

  6. Charlesmorrison

    The good news is that this particular prosecutor will now scrupulously filter out weak cases based solely on a shaky eyewitness ID. And she is probably right now enlightening the rest of her office as to potential spuriousness of such evidence. Or, perhaps an intraoffice memo was circulated requesting all ADAs thoroughly re-review their current cases built entirely on IDs to truly fulfill their role as ministers of justice.

    I mean, now that they know that not all victim/witness IDs are infallible (especially under stressful circumstances), such measures seem prudent.

  7. Eric L. Mayer

    The other day, I made inflammatory comments on a blog called “Simple Justice.” That afternoon, I was almost run-over by a middle-aged blogger driving a Healey.

    Photos from surveillance cameras showed that the car in question was actually a Mazda Miata.

    Upon this discovery, officials sympathized. “Anyone could have mistaken the two.”

  8. ExCop-LawStudent

    Where was Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm, Leader of the Resistance, and Defender of the Innocent? Surely he could have prevailed against this Miscarriage of Justice!

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