Phil Fairbanks, The Buffalo News
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Phil Fairbanks

I cover federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veer off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs. As a product of the Watergate era, I value a newspaper's role as the community watchdog.


At one point in the music video, one of the party goers looks at a plate piled high with cash and laughs at the small serving. "Oh, we got more," he says with a smile. "We got a lot more." Jurors in a Buffalo murder trial got their first glimpse Monday at a rap music video that prosecutors say is proof of an organized street gang called the Schuele Boys. The gang,…

Robert Pritchett's victims sat in the first two rows of the courtroom Monday. They were there to hear a federal prosecutor call Pritchett a "monster" who deceived and manipulated underage girls into sexual activity. They were also there to see a judge sentence him to 30 years in federal prison. "It's been almost a year and I'm still struggling," one of the victims…

Justice can be slow. But for Adam Pritchard and Erie County, slow means waiting years. Thirteen years, to be exact. Pritchard, 37 at the time, filed a lawsuit in 2004 challenging the county's use of strip searches at its jails. His case, like hundreds of other civil suits in Buffalo federal court, remains unresolved years later. While Pritchard's case is the extre…

When the FBI began gathering proof that the Schuele Boys were an organized street gang, agents came across some unusual evidence – two rap music videos. Titled "Front Door" and "Dinner Table," the videos were produced by Gone Entertainment, a record label the Schuele Boys created to boldly tout the gang's triumphs, according to prosecutors. One of the videos shows …

Orchard Park town supervisor candidate Edward M. Shanahan was arrested three years ago after a Williamsville parking enforcement officer accused him of threatening to assault him, according to a police report. An Amherst Town court official said Friday the charges against Shanahan - harassment, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest - were dism…

Angry over President Trump's decision regarding young undocumented immigrants, protesters rallied late today outside the Buffalo offices of one of his political backers. The protest, organized by pro-immigration groups, focused on Trump's relationship with Delaware North Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs and the recent move by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the c…

When FBI agents searched Ari Elias Baum's Facebook page, they were looking for evidence of a terrorist in training. They already knew about Baum's posting of a photo depicting a couple dressed in military garb and holding weapons, with the caption, "Husband and wife fighting for Islam. The most beautiful photos I have ever seen." The FBI also knew about the Buffalo m…

Eager to reduce a growing backlog of lawsuits, federal court officials in Buffalo will be offering a settlement incentive in the coming months. The effort, known as “Settlement Week,” is targeted at older cases on the U.S. District Court docket and includes an offer of free mediation services for parties willing to explore a settlement. Launched by Chief U.S. Dis…

Prosecutors say they know who killed Dustin Ortiz Maldonado. They also have strong suspicions about who murdered his mother when she came looking for the killer a few weeks later. Christian O. Dalmau, a resident of the Bronx, was never charged with either murder, but he was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Buffalo to 10 years in prison for owning the gun that ki…

A decorated Buffalo police officer arrested Tuesday on misdemeanor assault charges allegedly tripped a defendant at Central Booking, and a cut on the defendant's forehead required five stitches to close, according to a Buffalo police source. Officer Joseph Hassett, 31, was charged with two counts of third-degree assault and one count each of official misconduct and seco…

Two years ago, a man in the Town of Concord overdosed and died, one of many to fall victim to fentanyl that year. No one was ever charged in the man's death. However, the investigation that followed led to the arrest of Dellsean Hamilton, described by investigators as one of the biggest heroin and fentanyl dealers in the region. Now 28, Hamilton, a Buffalo resident,…

In January, Noorullah Aminyar's lawyer predicted almost certain death if the former Afghan solider ever returned home. The warning came just weeks after Aminyar's brother was found dead in their village, a threatening note from the Taliban left next to his body. Eight months later, Aminyar is a free man, granted asylum by a Buffalo immigration court. "It's almost …

On hold for nearly nine months, the trial of two Buffalo police officers accused of using excessive force against four teenagers is moving forward and may reveal for the first time what was said in a secret hallway conversation between the defendants. The trial will begin in December, nearly a year after it was first postponed, and one of the key witnesses is expected t…

Like a good crime novel, the prosecution of Jose Ruben Gil and 15 others has all the elements to keep you reading. First, there's the link to the deadly El Chapo drug cartel in Mexico. Second is the way Gil, a former Mexican mayor, and his co-defendants allegedly shipped the drugs from California to Buffalo — in boxes labeled "sea cucumbers." And finally, there'…

July 14, 1931 - Aug. 17, 2017 Danny Neaverth's fans must feel like they knew his wife, Marie. After all, it wasn't uncommon for Neaverth 's wife of 59 years to pop up in conversation with one of his radio co-hosts, often as part of a joke poking fun at one or the other. Marie Neaverth died Thursday. She was 86. "She deserves a tribute and a salute," Neaverth sa…