Dennis Delano, the renowned cold-case detective now running for State Senate, endorsed Diane LaVallee on Friday in her race for Erie County District Attorney and apologized for having once backed Democrat Ken Case.
Case was roundly supported by area police unions months ago when he jumped out early to challenge the unpopular incumbent, District Attorney Frank J. Clark. But when Case lost the primary, he endorsed its winner, Frank Sedita, a deputy district attorney whom Delano sees as an extension of the Clark regime.
"Ken wants me and everyone else who has supported him to support the man that Ken has always said was just another 'Frank Clark copy,' " Delano said Friday. "Well, I don't think the average taxpayer in this county can afford to be hustled by these guys again. The only candidate left standing who truly believes that the taxpayers deserve better is Diane LaVallee."
LaVallee finished last in that three-way Democratic primary. But the Republican Party gave her its line in the race. Delano is a Republican candidate, too.
LaVallee is a former assistant district attorney who went on to work for the state attorney general's office in Albany and now prosecutes cases for the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
As a Buffalo homicide detective, Delano was a member of the Bike Path Rapist Task Force and a member of the cold-case squad that reopened the 1992 homicide of Crystallynn Girard, 13, a death that Clark's office later declared was not a homicide but a cocaine overdose.
In each case, a wrongly imprisoned inmate was freed: Anthony Capozzi in the bike-path case and Lynn Dejac, the mother of Crystallynn.
While some officers have implied Delano commands a larger-than-deserved share of the spotlight created by those cases, Delano now is outpolling Senate Democrat William Stachowski of Lake View in the 58th District, which includes much of East and South Buffalo as well as southern Erie County.
Delano took a swipe at Sedita by saying he and Clark had subjected victims and police to "heavy-handedness" and "arrogance" for the past 12 years.
Responded Sedita: "I have never been arrogant or heavy-handed with crime victims, or their families. Those people went through horrible, horrible things."
Sedita said he was the prosecutor who, upon learning that Capozzi could be exonerated based on DNA samples stored at Erie County Medical Center, sought access to the samples and then swiftly moved to free Capozzi from prison.
As for the Crystallynn Girard case, Sedita said he was the one who, years after her death, ordered tests on certain blood samples from the crime scene and learned they pointed to Dennis Donohue, an old boyfriend of Dejac.
While Donohue had been given immunity for his grand jury testimony 16 years ago, Sedita prosecuted him in another case, the 1993 strangulation of Joan Giambra, and he was convicted of second-degree murder.