Family members and African-American activists from Buffalo protested Thursday against what they viewed as low bail granted to a white man who admitted killing a black teenager in Niagara Falls on Dec. 10.
Attorneys for both sides said the $20,000 bail resulted from a deal in which Christopher M. Faieta agreed to give a detailed confession about killing Mickael K. Banks, 19, in exchange for a bail he could post and an opportunity for drug treatment.
About 30 relatives and members of the Stop the Violence Coalition grumbled angrily as Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. continued bail during a brief pretrial hearing Thursday.
"No justice, no peace," the group chanted outside the courtroom before sheriff's deputies herded them out of the building.
"This man is walking. The DA says it's OK," Michael K. Banks Sr., the victim's father, said before court convened. "I don't understand how justice is done up here in Lockport."
Broderick had ordered Faieta into an inpatient drug-treatment program as a condition of bail. Defense attorney Michael J. Violante, the Niagara County public defender, who was retained in the case, told Broderick that Faieta had completed the 28-day program at Buffalo's Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center in 27 days and was released to his home and outpatient drug-treatment sessions at Niagara Falls' Horizon Health Services.
After court, Banks Sr. and a few other relatives had a lengthy meeting with First Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Lundquist, after which Banks declined to comment. He could be heard shouting as he left the office, "There's no monitor! That's house arrest?"
Arlee "Joop" Daniels, of Buffalo's Neighborhood Crusaders, said of the bail, "I think it has to do with him being white and his family having connections."
"I categorically reject that," said District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, who promised to set up a meeting with the Stop the Violence Coalition today. Broderick set the trial for July 5. An April 25 hearing is planned on the admissibility of Faieta's statement.
Faieta was arrested Dec. 14 and indicted Jan. 4 on charges of second-degree murder, evidence tampering and weapons possession.
Two friends of Faieta's in Wellsville told police Faieta had told them he had killed a man, but Murphy said that this testimony left the case far from clinched.
Lundquist said the deal was necessary because "we didn't know who the victim was, where the body was or the circumstances of the case. We did not negotiate in regard to the potential charges, which is done in several other jurisdictions."
"There was consideration because [Faieta] told them where the body was and other things that may be of some value to the family, although they might not realize it now. That was the quid pro quo," said Violante's co-counsel, Robert Viola.
Faieta, who said he beat Banks with the butt of a pellet rifle and strangled him with an amplifier cord, disclosed that he drove the body to Wilson, intending to dump it into Lake Ontario, but could not find a suitable spot. He then took the body to southern Erie County and dropped it off the Route 219 bridge into Cattaraugus Creek, where State Police divers found it Feb. 14.
Niagara Falls police detectives said that Faieta and Banks were smoking crack cocaine at Faieta's home and that a quarrel erupted when Faieta wanted more crack but Banks would not give it to him because Faieta already owed him money for drugs.