The Buffalo Sabres' losing streak Thursday stretched into the streets outside Memorial Auditorium as prosecutors decided to drop ticket-scalping charges against 15 persons because of lack of evidence of price-gouging or fraud.
Erie County District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon said Buffalo police complaints filed on the arrests, which were made before last Sunday's game with the Boston Bruins, failed to show the tickets were stolen or were for games already played, or were being sold for more than their printed cost.
Dillon said he has advised the Sabres organization he is prepared to refile charges, including stolen property or fraud counts, against any of the 15 if the team can provide evidence of illegal price-gouging or trafficking.
The suspects arrested Sunday "were not professionals," and several were arrested and handed court-appearance tickets merely for asking if an undercover officer wanted to buy a ticket, Dillon said.
Ticket-scalping laws are designed "to punish those who scalp tickets by selling them for more than their face value," Dillon said.
Dillon said Sabres officials told him Thursday they had no evidence of price-gouging or trafficking in stolen or outdated tickets.
Dillon said Buffalo police, responding to requests from the Sabres, "acted reasonably" in issuing appearance tickets Sunday because the state's ticket-scalping law "technically" makes it a misdemeanor to offer to sell a previously purchased ticket on a city street.
"Technically, it's a misdemeanor to stand in front of your house to resell your own tickets to your next-door neighbor or your mother," Dillon said.
But a review of the law and a 1984 challenge of its constitutionality shows it is aimed at money-making schemes, Dillon said.
Dillon said he has instructed his City Court staff to tell City Judge Michael F. Pietruszka, as each of the 15 defendants shows up in court today for arraignment, that the case is being dismissed.
According to police, the Sabres and RJD Security, the business that handles security at the Aud, asked them to begin cracking down Sunday on scalpers.
Police said ticket-scalping is a non-criminal offense for first-time violators and a misdemeanor for subsequent arrests. But Dillon said a first-time offender is arrested on a misdemeanor charge.
Of the 15 arrested, one Canadian had to post $50 bail Sunday to leave the city. All the others received court-appearance tickets.
Dillon said the Sabres, under state law, have 90 days to offer new information for the charges to be refiled.