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Lewiston businessman pleads guilty to torturing women

LOCKPORT – Three times in 2014, Iver J. Phallen brought young women to his townhouse on Carriage Lane in Lewiston to have sex with him.

At least two of them were strippers from a Buffalo men’s club who accepted payment to go home with Phallen.

But when they arrived, the women discovered that there was more on Phallen’s mind than they bargained for.

Police said the women were hanged, choked, beaten and electrically shocked. At least two passed out and had seizures.

Friday, rather than go to trial next month on charges that could have brought him a life sentence several times over, the 68-year-old retired businessman made a deal.

He pleaded guilty to three felonies – two counts of first-degree assault and one count of second-degree assault – and agreed to serve 14 years in state prison, plus five years of post-release supervision.

Under the plea deal, Phallen admitted that he hanged all three of the women on different dates in 2014.

The attorneys – Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma and her colleague, Peter M. Wydysh, and defense attorney James W. Grable Jr. – declined to comment on how and why they worked out the plea bargain, citing a gag order Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon had imposed shortly after the case began.

Grable said he will speak after the sentence is officially imposed, which will occur at 9 a.m. Feb. 25.

That’s when Phallen will have an opportunity to speak, as will the women, two of whom were in the courtroom Friday afternoon to watch Phallen plead guilty.

They remained stoic as Phallen, standing up straight and speaking in a loud, clear voice, answered all of Sheldon’s yes-or-no questions, including whether he committed the crimes charged.

“Yes, I did,” he said. Asked three separate times for a plea, Phallen said with no apparent sign of embarrassment, “Guilty.” The first time around, he almost shouted the word.

When Sheldon asked if he was satisfied with Grable’s service, Phallen said, “Yes, I am.”

The only time he faltered was when the judge asked him to put his home address on the record. “I’m having trouble remembering,” he said.

Sloma had to remind him that he used to live at 817 Carriage Lane, Lewiston.

It was Phallen’s first appearance in court since he tried to stab himself to death in his Niagara County Jail cell on the day before Thanksgiving. He walked to the defense table in a halting, bowlegged way, perhaps in deference to the stab wound on his inner thigh. He also had cut himself on the arms.

The victims were escorted out of the courtroom by prosecutors and were not available to be interviewed.

Sheldon accepted the plea deal, worked out by the attorneys in the case in conferences that were expected to include an effort to winnow down the 209-count indictment against Phallen to something more manageable for a trial, which was supposed to begin Jan. 25.

Since Phallen didn’t plead guilty to any sex crimes, he won’t be a registered sex offender when he is released from prison. His time in the Niagara County Jail since his arrest nearly 15 months ago counts toward his sentence, and the soonest he would be eligible for parole is at age 79, after serving 85 percent of the 14 years.

Under the plea deal, Phallen admitted to intentionally causing serious physical injury to two of the victims by means of a dangerous instrument, that apparently being the apparatus from which they were hanged. The third count involved an admission to causing serious injury but left out the part about the dangerous instrument, although Sheldon on all three occasions specified that the means of assault was hanging.

Phallen told Sheldon that he has two postgraduate degrees and has never been in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. The only medication he takes is for cholesterol, Phallen said.

The women were assaulted on the nights of March 30-31, July 31 and Sept. 25-26, 2014. The last of the three reported the incident after Phallen drove her home, leading to his arrest and the search of his townhouse on Sept. 27, 2014.

At an early court appearance in the case, Grable said he intended to argue at trial that the women “were paid thousands of dollars” and “agreed ahead of time to engage in bondage, sadomasochism and prostitution.” During a hearing in March, Grable said the woman assaulted in September put on a pair of handcuffs “willingly.”

During the search of the home and Phallen’s car, police found a wide range of ropes, zip ties, hooks, a scalpel, darts, clamps and pliers, as well as a metal box with protruding bare wires, allegedly used to shock the victims. They also found a written list of four other women’s names, with the heading, “Next Targets.”

The September victim, then 24, filed a personal injury lawsuit against Phallen in State Supreme Court in August. She met Phallen at the Colonie Lounge in North Buffalo. When she approached police, she at first left out the part about taking money to have sex with Phallen, instead saying she went to his home to have ice cream. She later abandoned that story.

Phallen is the retired founder of Oden Corp., a Town of Tonawanda machine manufacturer. He is believed to be wealthy, having sold a house on the Lake Ontario shore in Youngstown for $323,500 in 2012. He and his wife, Phyllis, paid $190,000 for the Lewiston townhouse.

Police said Mrs. Phallen knew nothing of her husband’s interest in bondage and sadomasochism, nor was she aware of a large retirement account he had set up.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com