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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.


Obituaries

July 17, 1927 – Feb. 2, 2018 Lajos "Louie" Rigler fled the Hungarian revolution with his wife and two children in 1956, only to be stopped by the Russians. But luck was on their side, and they eventually found their way out of Europe and landed in Riverside. In that working-class Buffalo neighborhood, Rigler made a life for himself and his family, becoming a self-made b…

A Cattaraugus County woman surrendered her five goats to the SPCA after being charged Friday with animal cruelty. Connie M. Lipka, 60, of Ashford is accused of failing to provide adequate food, clean water, sufficient shelter and necessary medical care for the goats, according to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office. The goats, located at Lipka's home at 5199 Folt…

Crime

More than eight years after it began, the federal crackdown on Buffalo's 10th Street Gang ended Thursday with another mandatory life sentence. Domenico Anastasio, 30, the last of 44 defendants to be sentenced, had previously been convicted for his role in the 2006 murders of Brandon McDonald and Darinell Young on Pennsylvania Avenue. Young and McDonald, innocent byst…

Crime

Ismael Lopez didn't fire any of the guns that killed two innocent bystanders 11 years ago. Nevertheless, he's going to prison for the rest of his life. Lopez, a member of the 10th Street Gang, was convicted of murder and conspiracy charges for his role is plotting and carrying out a shooting that targeted rival 7th Street Gang members but instead left two others dead. …

Crime

Christopher F. Venti says he was simply trying to help his family and, along the way, made a very big mistake. A mistake that resulted in three separate fraudulent investment schemes and a $7.7 million loss to the victims, here and across the world, who trusted the former Hamburg man. Venti, 49, now a Florida resident, was sentenced Tuesday to 46 months in federal pr…

Local News

Six former employees of William K's restaurant claim the owners failed to pay them a living wage, required them to work off the clock and failed to properly compensate them when they worked long shifts. The workers, who filed a federal court lawsuit Tuesday, also claim the owners, Molly and William Koessler, ignored several warnings by the City of Buffalo's Living Wage …

Crime

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions did away with the Obama-era, hands-off approach to recreational marijuana, he left the door open to a new federal crackdown on the drug. He also left the discretion for any stepped-up enforcement in the laps of his local prosecutors. In Western New York, where the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal, Sessions' high-profi…

Crime

To hear investigators talk, the case against Arafat M. Nagi began more than three years ago, fueled by a tip from a community member upset about Nagi's vocal support for violent jihad. Over time, it became clear the Lackawanna man had gone so far as to publicly pledge his allegiance to ISIS and on two separate occasions travel to Turkey in hopes of joining the terrorist…

Obituaries

Feb. 23, 1927 – Jan. 13, 2018 Dr. Bertram A. Portin was in his residency training when he developed what became a life-long interest in the surgical treatment of colon and rectal cancers, colitis and Crohn's disease. He found satisfaction in a specialty that enabled him to perform complex procedures while simultaneously forging long-term relationships with patients w…

Local News

On a winter day when temperatures spiked at a welcome 40 degrees, it was even warmer inside the Delaware Avenue gaming center where Nick Lane and Kevin Manne carried the mantle of Western New York into battle. Over the course of the day, Lane and Manne would attempt to do what the Bills and Sabres couldn't — flip, tilt and bang back their way to a championship. Even …

Crime

Ronald Caryl's use of the social networking site MeetMe.com is sending him to federal prison. Caryl, 25, of Silver Springs, appeared before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo this week and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce child pornography. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango said Caryl began using MeetMe.com in February of last year to communicate wit…

Crime

Only a handful of people know for sure what happened in Buffalo's Roosevelt Park on that cold December day eight years ago. Yes, Jabril Harper died, the victim of two gunshot wounds to the head. But the allegations of a murder-for-profit scheme have always gone unproven. After a nearly three-month trial in Buffalo federal court, a jury Thursday failed to reach a verd…

Crime

The trial of Corey R. Krug, the Buffalo police officer caught on videotape striking a man with his nightstick, is being put off until October. Krug, who was scheduled to go on trial early next month, asked for a delay because of conflicts in his attorney's schedule. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara rescheduled the trial for Oct. 23. The trial will center arou…

Dec. 4, 1920 – Jan. 13, 2018 Alphonse F. Leising died in a hospital he helped build nearly seven decades ago. He was in his 20s at the time, a carpenter, and his relationship with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Bailey Avenue didn't end then. Decades later, Mr. Leising, a World War II veteran, found himself a patient at the VA. He died there Saturday at the…

Crime

In Edward Garrett's eyes, the time, energy and money it took for him to get a pistol permit, were reasons enough to challenge the state law. The former chairman of the Erie County Libertarian Party got his answer this week: the 106-year old law stands. A federal judge dismissed the Libertarians' legal challenge and pointed to the pistol permit's role in ensuring that…