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Officers accused of excessive force claim teens were motivated by money

Seven years have passed since the arrest of four teenagers led to allegations of excessive force by Buffalo Police.

During that time, two of the teens sued the city and won settlements of $65,000 and $10,000 a piece.

Now, on the eve of a criminal trial involving two of the officers there that night, the defense made it clear Monday they intend to point to those settlements to suggest the teens were motivated, then and now, by money.

"They've hopped on that horse and they're going to ride that horse," defense attorney Rodney O. Personius said of the four teens.

The first hint of a defense strategy came on the eve of the federal court trial of Raymond Krug and Joseph Wendel, the two officers accused of shooting one of the four teens with a BB gun while the young man sat handcuffed in the car.

The two officers were indicted by a grand jury in 2014 along with a third officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge last week and agreed to testify against Krug and Wendel.

Kwiatkowski, as part of his plea deal, also admitted using excessive force on the four teens during their arrest on Treehaven Road seven years ago.

Prosecutors, in their response Monday, dismissed the defense's suggestion that the teens, even now – years after settling their civil suit – are motivated by money.

"They already got paid," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten.

All four teens, now in their 20s, are expected to testify at the trial before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, now scheduled to start Dec. 12.

Defense lawyer Terrence M. Connors said he intends to challenge Kwiatkowski's credibility in the wake of his guilty plea and newfound status as a key government witness.

Connors referred to a "long list of disciplinary issues" involving the retired lieutenant.

Prosecutors are likely to counter with Kwiatkowski's own admissions and his belief that Krug and Wendel were ready to point the finger at him. Krug and Wendel are still on the force and are currently suspended with pay.

The criminal prosecution of the three officers began after two of the teens sued the city in 2010. Court records indicate one of the boys, Donald J. Silmon, received a $65,000 settlement while the other one, Jeffrey E. Campbell II, received $10,000.

Arrested in what police called a drive-by BB gun shooting, the teenagers were accused of firing into a crowd at Main and Custer streets and striking at least two people with pellets on May 31, 2009.

The four teens, all residents of University Heights, were charged with felony assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon and eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of harassment. They were each sentenced to a conditional discharge and community service.

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