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Witness details how vandalism ruined his business

Keith Kent and David Cain Jr. had a falling out over a proposed $40,000 lumber deal back in 1999.

After that, Kent's Orleans County lumber company was hit by two major vandalism attacks that put him out of business for weeks.

Now, Kent is trying to help federal prosecutors send Cain to federal prison.

Kent, of Knowlesville, testified Wednesday as the 21st prosecution witness in the federal racketeering trial of Cain and two of Cain's relatives. The witness said the vandalism cost him tens of thousands of dollars in lost work and equipment repair costs.

More than two years after the attacks, Kent testified, Cain jumped on the running board of his truck, stuck his head inside the cab and began screaming at him.

"You [expletive]. I thought I taught you a lesson," Kent quoted Cain as yelling. "I'm going to put you in the hospital!"

Cain and his associates are accused of threatening, bullying, setting fires and vandalizing the properties of rivals in an effort to dominate the logging and tree-trimming businesses of rural Orleans and Niagara counties. They deny the allegations, saying they are the targets of lying government witnesses.

Kent said vandals twice hit his business, Jordan River Logging, after he turned down an offer to buy some lumber from Cain for $40,000.

The witness said a $13,000 pickup truck was stolen and set afire, at least 40 expensive tires on his vehicles were slashed, and truck engines and radiators were damaged. Kent also said a 25,000-pound vehicle used for dragging logs out of the woods was flipped over on its side and heavily damaged.

He also told jurors that a bulldozer was driven toward his home, but it ran out of gas before it got there.

Kent also said thousands of dollars worth of tools and logging equipment, including seven chain saws, were stolen from his business.

"Did it impact your ability to compete with David Cain Jr.?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce asked Kent.

"Yes," Kent said.

Government agents and witnesses allege that Cain ordered the vandalism, which occurred at Kent's business and work sites in March 2000 and January 2001.

One of Cain's attorneys, Daniel J. Henry Jr., got Kent to admit that he didn't witness the vandalism and can't say for certain who was behind it. "I have a pretty good idea who did it," Kent said.

Jurors have heard testimony from several alleged henchmen of Cain's, who claim Cain told them to vandalize the businesses of Kent and other rivals. Defense attorneys say the witnesses are lying to get advantageous plea deals.

Defendants in the case are Cain, 37, and his brother, Christopher Cain, 34, both of Somerset, and their cousin, James Soha, 31, of Lockport. They were charged last year after a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.

The hard-fought trial began Oct. 18 before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.ocm

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