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COCHRAN MAY ENTER FATALITY CASE IN AMHERST

Famed attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. is expected to enter the case of one of the teenagers killed while walking on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst last month.

Cochran's office was contacted by the family of Christopher Rogalski in anticipation of filing a lawsuit over the 16-year-old's death.

Robert H. Perk, a local lawyer who joined Cochran in suing the owners of the Walden Galleria on behalf of Cynthia N. Wiggins, was in Amherst Town Court on Tuesday for proceedings involving the driver in the Amherst accident.

The traffic charges against Jeffrey W. Kramer, 26, of Glenhaven Drive, were postponed for 45 days to allow police to conclude their investigation into the Jan. 14 accident, which resulted in the deaths of three teenagers.

During the court proceedings, Town Justice Mark G. Farrell noted that Kramer was cited twice in the past 18 months for traffic infractions and warned Kramer to be on his best behavior until his return appearance April 10.

State Department of Motor Vehicles records show that Kramer was cited on June 28 for disobeying a traffic device and on Sept. 15 for not wearing a seat belt.

"Unfortunately, we all know this incident resulted in the deaths of three people, so we take this very seriously in this court," Farrell said Tuesday.

Perk, speaking on his and Cochran's behalf, declined to comment on whether they intend to be involved in any legal action resulting from the accident.

But The Buffalo News has confirmed Perk's and Cochran's expected involvement at the request of the Rogalski family.

It's likely any civil action will focus on the condition of the snow-clogged sidewalks along the boulevard that evening.

Pedestrian safety also was a factor in the case brought after Wiggins was killed after she stepped off a bus and tried to cross Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga in 1996.

No civil suit has yet been filed in connection with the Amherst accident by families of any of the teenagers involved.

Kramer was driving north on Niagara Falls Boulevard the evening of Jan. 14 when, Amherst police say, he lost control of his car, spun two or three times and struck four teenagers.

The teens, walking south, were in the road because the sidewalks on both sides of the boulevard were blocked with snow and ice, according to investigators.

Christopher Rogalski and Amy DiNatale, also 16, died that night. Charlene Sewar, 16, of Lockport, who had been in critical condition in Erie County Medical Center, died Sunday.

James McCabe, 17, of Amherst, was treated in ECMC and released.

Following the accident, Amherst officials drew criticism for not vigorously enforcing the town laws that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice.

A week later, town officials announced they would begin to ticket property owners who don't keep their sidewalks clear.

Kramer is charged with driving at an imprudent speed, failure to use due care and having improperly tinted windows. He has pleaded not guilty.

Town Prosecutor John L. Michalski said Tuesday he hasn't decided whether to offer Kramer a plea bargain.

James McCabe has 90 days from the date of the accident to notify Amherst or any other municipality that he intends to sue them. The families of the three teens who died as a result of the accident have 90 days from the date a survivor is named as administrator of their respective estates.

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