LOCKPORT – A Niagara County Sheriff's Office lieutenant and a captain face what Undersheriff Michael J. Filicetti called an "administrative action" over a case in which a patrol deputy was advised not to charge the daughter of a prominent local attorney with drunken driving.
Lt. Steve Broderick, who is also the Town of Lewiston supervisor, and Capt. Jill Herrington are the officers involved in the case, Filicetti confirmed Wednesday. He declined to characterize the steps taken against them as a disciplinary action, and he declined to reveal what the action was.
Broderick declined to comment Wednesday. Herrington could not be reached immediately to comment.
Rachel J. Winter, 21, was charged with reckless driving and failure to keep right – but not drunken driving – after a deputy pulled over her car in the City of Lockport at about 3 a.m. Nov. 24.
She is the daughter of Ronald J. Winter, a former Niagara County assistant district attorney who now serves as confidential law clerk to State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
According to an incident report, Deputy Timothy Caughel reported that he saw a blue Jeep without headlights on heading west on Lincoln Avenue.
He followed the vehicle and saw it cross the center line three times before it made a left turn onto Locust Street, at first turning into the wrong lane before crossing the center line to the right-hand side. Caughel then pulled the vehicle over and found Rachel Winter was the driver.
Filicetti told The Buffalo News that Caughel conducted field sobriety tests and intended to charge Rachel Winter with DWI. After calling her father, she refused to take the Breathalyzer test.
Caughel brought the woman to sheriff's headquarters. Filicetti said Ronald Winter also arrived there and talked to Broderick, Caughel's immediate supervisor.
Broderick told Caughel that he knew Ronald Winter and asked Caughel not to impose the DWI charge, according to Filicetti.
"It was based on personal relationships. We don't condone this," Filicetti said.
Ronald Winter said he would not comment on the matter until the charges are resolved.
As for Herrington, Broderick's superior officer on that shift, "Her role in this was very minimal," Filicetti said. "I felt she should have supervised the lieutenant a little more than she did when this happened."
Rachel Winter was charged with DWI in early March.
City judges in Lockport and North Tonawanda recused themselves, so the case ended up before Niagara Falls City Judge Robert P. Merino, who arraigned Rachel Winter March 28. She pleaded not guilty to DWI, reckless driving and failure to keep right.
Defense attorney Theresa L. Prezioso said Wednesday that she intends to file motions to dismiss the charges. The motions will be argued before Merino on May 16. She declined to discuss details of the case.
Key evidence in the internal investigation included Caughel's bodycam video, which showed the traffic stop, the sobriety tests, the phone call to Ronald Winter and the conversation between Broderick and Caughel. Filicetti said the Sheriff's Office would not release the tape.
When she took office Jan. 1, District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, a former prosecutorial colleague of Ronald Winter's, recused herself from the case, and Orleans County District Attorney A Joseph V. Cardone was named as a special prosecutor.
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