North Tonawanda man found guilty in repeated assaults - The Buffalo News
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North Tonawanda man found guilty in repeated assaults

LOCKPORT – A North Tonawanda man could be sentenced to as long as 25 years in prison after being convicted Friday in connection with two assaults of a man in his home in that city.

Walter M. Edwards, 29, of Oliver Street, was found guilty on one count of first-degree burglary, but was acquitted of another.

He was found guilty of two counts of third-degree assault, but was acquitted of a third. And he was convicted of second-degree witness intimidation.

Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin told Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III that the jury had produced an inconsistent verdict. Murphy said Bergevin shouldn’t have waited to raise the point until after he had dismissed the jury, and invited Bergevin to file a motion objecting to the outcome.

In the meantime, Edwards was ordered held without bail to await sentencing Jan. 10.

The judge said he thought that intimidated witnesses produced some “fractured testimony” during the trial, which lasted a week.

Assistant District Attorney Theresa L. Prezioso was the prosecutor who said Edwards and another man, Joseph T. Fago, 19, of Sisson Drive, North Tonawanda, invaded the home of Daniel Benchik last Nov. 21 and broke his jaw.

They were accused of returning Dec. 10 and beating him up again because he called police about the first attack.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about three hours before deciding that Edwards was guilty of assault in the first incident, but not of burglary.

They found exactly the opposite in regard to the second attack: guilty of burglary and witness intimidation, not guilty of assaulting Benchik.

Bergevin said that was legally untenable, because inflicting an injury was a necessary element of first-degree burglary.

The jury did find Edwards guilty of a third-degree assault charge in the second invasion, but it was for the stabbing of another man who was in Benchik’s home, Santiago Bermudez.

Bermudez later died of a drug overdose, according to testimony.

Fago accepted a plea bargain earlier this month and testified against Edwards.


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