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Jury gets building-site assault case

A Niagara County jury will decide if the former vice president of a Lewiston construction company intentionally tried to run over a subcontractor he did not want working on his property, or if the sun was in his eyes as he swerved toward the man, but did not strike him.

That is the conflicting testimony jurors will consider next week after a weeklong trial that concluded Friday in County Court.

Benjamin Sicoli Sr., 79, of North Ridge Road, Lewiston, the former vice president of Sicoli-Massaro construction company, is charged with one count of felony second-degree assault, three counts of third-degree assault, and one count of reckless endangerment. He is accused of driving his sport utility vehicle onto a construction site on July 16, 2007, and intentionally hitting 46-year-old Thomas M. Rall, of Grand Island.

Rall was taken from the construction site at the 700 block of North Ridge Road by Mercy Flight and complained of medical problems related to the incident.

Sicoli could face up to seven years in state prison if he is convicted on the felony charge alone. Sicoli took the stand in his own defense on Friday, and testified he had just driven onto his own development property. He said the sun was in his eyes as he drove onto the lot, and that Rall jumped out in front of him.

He told the jury that he swerved to avoid Rall, but denied hitting him.

Rall, a subcontractor for H&M plumbing, was questioned on the stand earlier in the week by Sicoli's attorney, James Roscetti, who suggested Rall may be confused and unsure about what happened that day, and was talking on the phone rather than paying attention.

Rall said he was "unsure" many times on the stand, but then described the moment he saw the SUV. "[Sicoli] ran [some oak] stakes over and then he cut over and ran me over. He looked right at me and accelerated," Rall said.

Rall said he rolled off the hood of the SUV and his foot was run over by the rear of Sicoli's vehicle. But Roscetti said Rall testified earlier, in a civil lawsuit, that he had fractured his leg and suggested that Rall had lied. Rall said that it was "severely sprained."

Rall also told the jury that he heard Sicoli "screaming" after the accident and saying, "I told you something like this would happen."

Roscetti suggested that if everyone was around him and he was in such pain, and that the two men had met only once before, Rall couldn't have heard what he thought he heard.
Daniel Dinsmore, who was driving a bulldozer for H&M that day, said he witnessed the crash incident and also heard the statement.

"Sicoli said '[Rall's] just faking. I told Chuck [a supervisor] that if you keep working here something like this will happen,' " Dinsmore said.

Rall told the jury that Sicoli had confronted him in 2006, trapping his truck inand ripping out his stakes, when he was installing a water line. But he said the work was on the town right of way and he had been ordered by the town to complete it.

"A year later, he hit me with his car," Rall said.

Jurors will begin Monday to deliberate.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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