Share this article

print logo

Davis plans to seek plea deal Former city lawmaker has Tuesday court date

Former Common Council member Brian C. Davis, whose long-awaited embezzlement trial is only two months away, is asking to talk with federal prosecutors about a plea deal.

Davis' lawyer acknowledged the possibility of a change in her client's plea -- he has maintained his innocence since Day One -- in a recent court document. The former lawmaker, who represented the Ellicott District for seven years, also is scheduled to appear before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny on Tuesday for what court records describe as a "change of plea."

Kimberly A. Schechter, an assistant federal public defender, declined to comment on her talks with prosecutors, but in court papers confirmed the possibility of a deal.

"Mr. Davis has asked me to explore possible plea options with the government," she said in her papers.

If Davis does make a deal with the government, he almost certainly would be asked to cooperate with the government's ongoing investigations at City Hall.

The investigations, led by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office, are centered around the millions of dollars in federal aid that flow each year to City Hall.

At the top of the list is money that comes to Buffalo from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The allegation in Davis' case is that he embezzled money from the city while serving on the Council. Davis was indicted by a grand jury on four felony charges of stealing government funds.

Prosecutors claim Davis handed out federal aid to local community groups and then demanded some of the money returned to him and his friends.

He's accused, according to court papers, of stealing "more than $48,000."

If Davis takes a plea in the case, it would be the latest stain on a political career that seemed destined for a better fate when he was first elected in 2002.

He represented the Ellicott District, which includes much of downtown as well as parts of Allentown and the East Side, for seven years and saw the district become a hotbed of residential and health care development during his time in office.

From the day he was charged, Davis promised to fight the allegations against him and on numerous occasions has indicated his defense strategy was to go to trial.

Jury selection in the federal court case is scheduled to begin July 23. Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito Jr., the prosecutor handling the Davis case, would not comment Friday, but Schechter indicated in her court papers that Ippolito was open to discussions about a plea.

One of Davis' motivations in taking a plea is a more lenient sentence. He would face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the charges currently against him, although federal guidelines would likely result in a much shorter sentence.

The government's indictment of Davis is not his only run-in with the law. He left office two years ago after pleading guilty to pocketing campaign contributions and filing false financial-disclosure reports with the state.

"My conduct was unacceptable, and I do want to apologize," Davis said at the time.

His misdemeanor conviction followed a 2009 Buffalo News investigation that found Davis had a history of not paying his bills or taxes. It also found his claim to a degree from Trinity College was untrue.

Davis also was implicated in the One Sunset scandal when it was discovered he had written a bad check to cover the rent at the now-shuttered Gates Circle restaurant and bar.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com