LOCKPORT - Witnesses against murder suspect Anthony N. Adams are being threatened, a prosecutor told Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza on Wednesday.
Adams, 16, was arraigned on an 18-count indictment accusing him of the Aug. 20 shooting death of Niagara Falls cab driver Thomas Zacher, and three other cabbie robberies in the three weeks prior to the Zacher homicide. He pleaded not guilty.
Assistant District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said, "There have been a number of informants who have come forward to say there have been threats to witnesses in this case."
She told the judge that calls had been placed from the Niagara County Jail, where Adams is being held, to the home of a witness.
"Informants from the jail say hits have been placed on the witnesses," Hoffman reported.
"[Adams] has gang affiliation," Second Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma explained after court.
Court-appointed defense attorney James A. Perry said he hadn't been able to check out the reports of threats yet. Hoffmann said after court that a hearing would have to be held to determine the admissibility of jailhouse informants' statements against Adams.
Adams, of Cleveland Avenue, is charged with firing a shot into the back of the head of Zacher, 55, of 18th Street, in an early-morning incident on Linwood Avenue.
At first, police thought Zacher, whose cab struck a parked car, had been hurt in the traffic accident - until X-rays at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center found the bullet. Zacher died later in the day in Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo.
Zacher apparently was not robbed, police said at the time, but Hoffman said Adams also is charged in three cab robberies in Niagara Falls on July 30, Aug. 16 and Aug. 18. They occurred on 14th Street and La- Salle and Weston avenues, police reports said. In one of the robberies, the driver was shot in the ankle.
Two co-defendants have been indicted in the other robberies. They are Devell D. Carter, 16, of Jordan Gardens, and a 15-year-old who is expected to be tried as an adult, and whose name has not yet been released.
Adams is charged with two counts each of second-degree murder, second-degree assault and first-degree criminal use of a firearm; three counts of attempted first-degree robbery; seven counts of first-degree robbery; and single counts of second- degree criminal use of a firearm and fourth-degree conspiracy.
Sperrazza set bail of $100,000 cash or $200,000 property for Adams, who had been held without bail since his first appearance in Niagara Falls City Court.
Perry said, "I think he's entitled to reasonable bail. He's only 16. He has no criminal record as far as I'm aware. The family is indigent, so as a practical matter, any bail would have to be a bond."
Hoffman also requested a court order for a DNA sample from the inside of Adams' cheek. "There was an item left behind on the first cab robbery that might have some DNA on it," she said.
Perry opposed the request, and Sperrazza set arguments on the matter for Nov. 27. A pretrial conference was set for Dec. 20, and the trial was tentatively set for March 3.