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BUFFALO MAN PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN SHOOTING

A reputed Buffalo gang member pleaded not guilty in Niagara County Court Friday to charges of shooting a man in the hip in Niagara Falls Nov. 29.

Felix M. Cuevas, 18, of Utica Street, pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree weapons possession.

He is accused of shooting Antwon Wilson in the hip on Fourth Street during what police said was a robbery in which a gold chain was stolen from around Wilson's neck.

However, the robbery allegations were not taken before the grand jury, court papers said. Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Antholzner said the grand jury proceeded without Wilson's cooperation.

Buffalo police have said Cuevas was a member of the Gangster Killer Bloods, a violent street gang. The same night as the Wilson shooting, three other Bloods allegedly participated in a Pierce Avenue home invasion that ended with a shootout with Niagara Falls police.

One of the gang members, Jamar J. Mack, 21, was shot to death by Officer Robert Gee, while another officer, Charles Fink, was wounded in the shoulder by a shotgun blast.

The two other alleged Bloods have been captured and indicted on attempted murder charges. They are Robert Smith II and David McKithen, both Buffalo 17-year-olds.

Also Friday, testimony began in the Otes G. Rodriguez attempted murder trial, although jury selection doesn't start until Monday.

Over defense objections, Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. allowed videotaped testimony from Niagara Falls Police Officer Karl Brusino, who was among the arresting officers and who read Rodriguez his rights. Brusino can't appear at trial because he leaves today for a month of Army Reserve duty.

Rodriguez, 81, of Main Street, Niagara Falls, is charged with trying to kill Emma Chapman May 5 in her office on Main Street in Niagara Falls by dousing her with gasoline and shooting a flare gun to start a fire, which was quickly extinguished.

Rodriguez's attorney, Assistant Public Defender A. Joseph Catalano, complained about an alleged conflict of interest.

A prosecution witness, Crystal Scantlin, turned out to have retained another part-time public defender, Lawrence G. Stuart, to represent her in a child custody case. Stuart, who works in Niagara Falls City Court, represented Rodriguez at his preliminary hearing.

However, Broderick refused to reassign the case, saying the conflict wasn't material.

Meanwhile, Broderick scheduled a tentative June 27 trial date for James L. Ward, 30, of no fixed address.

He is charged with the murder of Isabella "Renee" Cox, whom police said was beaten to death with a hammer June 14 in a basement on South Avenue in Niagara Falls. Her decomposing corpse was found 12 days later in a nearby back yard.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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