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Friend of victim files lawsuit in Molly’s Pub case

Donald Hall was with William C. Sager Jr. at Molly’s Pub the night the bar’s manager pushed Sager down the stairs, causing a skull fracture that led to Sager’s death more than two months later.

When Hall saw his unconscious friend being carried out of the Main Street bar, he rushed outside to help Sager and find out how he was doing.

But an off-duty police officer working security that night at the bar ordered him off the property and later arrested him for trespassing.

Hall filed a lawsuit Monday, the first anniversary of the attack, against the City of Buffalo, the Police Department, Officer Robert E. Eloff, who arrested him, and Officer Michael R. Beavers, who filed the trespass charge based on Eloff’s statements.

The suit also names NHJB Inc., doing business as Molly’s Pub, and the company’s owners, Norman Habib and John Bradley.

Hall accuses the defendants of violating his civil rights, false arrest, assault and battery, negligent and reckless hiring, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. He seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit says Hall was standing near Sager when his friend was pushed down the stairs May 11, 2014. After he saw Eloff and others carry Sager outside, he rushed to the parking lot where he saw Sager on the ground propped up against the wall and surrounded by Eloff and another bar employee.

When Hall asked what had happened, Eloff ordered him to leave the parking lot and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t, according to the suit.

Hall moved to the sidewalk, but Eloff again ordered him to leave and threatened to arrest him.

When Hall asked for his name and badge number, Eloff pushed him, put him in handcuffs and told him he was under arrest, the suit says.

Eloff then placed him next to his friend in the parking lot.

When Hall demanded to know why he was under arrest, he was taken to Police Headquarters, where he was charged with third-degree criminal trespass.

The suit says Eloff made false statements to other police officers to support the unlawful arrest and charge against Hall. Based on Eloff’s statements, the suit says, Beavers filed the charge “without any reasonable or proper investigation.”

As a result of the arrest, which was reported in the media, Hall experienced “embarrassment, shame and emotional distress, in addition to the expenditure of personal funds to defend himself against the baseless allegations,” the suit says. The criminal charge was dismissed May 20, 2014.

Eloff has been suspended, pending an investigation by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division of his conduct that night at the bar.

He also has been charged by the FBI with violating Hall’s civil rights by arresting him and violating the rights of another Molly’s patron during an altercation earlier last year.

Jeffrey J. Basil, 36, of Amherst, the bar’s former manager, was convicted by a jury in January of second-degree murder in Sager’s death.

Hall was one of the key prosecution witnesses at the trial. State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang set aside the guilty verdict last week because of misconduct by a juror during jury selection.

Basil will face a new trial on the original murder and manslaughter charges if District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III does not appeal the judge’s ruling.

Sager’s family filed a wrongful-death and civil rights lawsuit last week against Basil, the bar’s owners and landlord, as well as the City of Buffalo, the Police Department and commissioner, the police union, Eloff and Officer Adam E. O’Shei, who also was off-duty and working security at the University Heights bar on the night of the attack.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com