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Video evidence is prime focus in protesters' trial; 3 Buffalo men in City Court

Both the prosecutor and a defense attorney said video evidence will prove their case Thursday in Buffalo City Court, where the trial began for three anti-war protesters who were arrested during a demonstration last year.

City Judge Joseph A. Fiorella is presiding over the trials of Nate Buckley, Jason A. Wilson and Elliot Zyglis, all of whom are in their 20s and live in Buffalo. They were arrested April 8, 2011, outside M&T Bank headquarters at Fountain Plaza on Main Street.

A jury of six will render the verdict for Buckley, who is being tried on misdemeanor charges of trespass, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. Fiorella will decide the fates of Wilson and Zyglis, who are standing trial on violation counts of trespass.

Their arrests followed a confrontation with Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police officers who were called to the scene after protesters allegedly refused a security officer's request to leave bank property.

Three videos were mentioned Thursday. One, recorded by a bank security camera, was introduced in conjunction with prosecution witness testimony.

Attorney Leigh E. Anderson, who's representing Buckley, also referred to a video that was posted on the Internet as well as another that contains audio.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Susan H. Sadinsky, chief of the City Court Bureau of the Erie County District Attorney's Office, said the prosecution will prove its case through video, photographs and the testimony of witnesses who were present.

Protesters converged near the bank at about 5:50 p.m. that day. Almost from the beginning, Sadinsky said, the video shows that some protesters went onto the ledge of a retaining wall on bank property. Sadinsky described what happened as first a bank security officer dealt with the protest and then NFTA officers responded -- the first of four arrived at 6:10 p.m. -- as well as their interactions with the estimated 50 protesters.

She said protesters ignored police orders to leave. Buckley "started chanting that the sidewalk was theirs," the prosecutor said.

Sadinsky said Buckley interfered with an officer's attempt to arrest a protester. "He did whatever he could to get himself in front of the officer," she said. When the protester being pursued eluded police, the officer turned his attention to Buckley, who resisted arrest, Sadinsky said. Instead of submitting to the officer, Buckley was "flailing around," she said.

Buckley eventually was pepper-sprayed by another officer.

Wilson was arrested when he tried to get past an officer to go to Buckley, the prosecutor said. Zyglis was "mouthing off" to officers as Buckley was being escorted to a police car, she said, and police decided to arrest him as well.

Anderson, in her opening, also referred to video evidence.

"I think what this trial comes down to is not what the police say, it's what the tapes show. The tapes show quite a different story than the story Miss Sadinsky told you.

"Keep your eye on who does what to Nate," Anderson told jurors. "Look at who is using the belligerent and aggressive body language. Look at who is being a peaceful noncombatant."

Attorney Jon R. Wilson, who's representing his brother, and Public Defender Rebecca Town, who's representing Zyglis, opted to forgo opening statements.

The three prosecution witnesses who testified Thursday all are connected to security at the bank.

David Mondry is the physical security manager for M&T. Jacqueline Jackson, the site supervisor, and her boss, Adam Rees, work for AlliedBarton Security Services, the firm contracted to provide security.

Their testimony included descriptions of the radio communications among them that day, the protocol for handling protests. "If the protest is occurring on bank property ask them one time to leave," Rees responded to a question from Sadinsky. If they don't, call 911, he said.

The three also were asked about their knowledge of the boundaries of M&T property.

Jackson had direct contact with protesters that day, and Rees witnessed some of what occurred after walking to the scene from his office. He subsequently signed the complaint for the trespass charges.

When court resumes this morning, Rees will return to the stand to continue being cross-examined by defense attorneys.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com