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.


Crime

Forced to leave football because of injuries, former Buffalo Bills running back Sean Doctor decided on a career as a firefighter and later, as owner of an asbestos abatement company. Nearly 30 years later, Doctor faces a year of probation because of a felony conviction related to his work on an asbestos clean up at Roosevelt Park in Buffalo. Doctor, who was prosecute…

Matthew Smith didn't fire the guns that killed Brandon McDonnell and Darinell Young, but a jury found the 10th Street gang member partly responsible for the murders. More than a decade later, a federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Smith to life in prison. The mandatory sentence came nearly three years after Smith and three other 10th Street gang members were convicted …

When Diane Cleversley's mother died, her Social Security checks kept coming. And for 15 years, Cleversley kept the money. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara on Tuesday sentenced Cleversley to a year of home confinement for her theft of $176,405 in Social Security benefits. Now 68, the Williamsville woman told Arcara she was "disgraced" and "humiliated," and regret…

Local News

Frank Parlato, the Buffalo real estate developer and publisher, found himself in court recently trying to explain why he claimed to be in Albany when he wasn't there. Parlato left frustrated after the federal judge overseeing his criminal prosecution rejected the government's efforts to revoke his bail and send him to jail. Even though the outcome favored Parlato, he w…

Crime

Upstate New York immigration arrests 2016-2017 Criminal immigration violators            1,069 Non-criminal immigration violators      399 Total:   1,468 2015-2016     Criminal immigration violators.          1,013 Non-criminal immigration violators.    160 Total :  1,173   Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement    

Crime

New deportation cases, 2016-2017 Batavia Immigration Court: Non-criminal immigration violators *    958 Criminal immigration violators**            112 Total                                                                  1,070 Buffalo Immigration Court: Non-criminal immigration violators     383 Criminal immigration viol…

Crime

Even before Donald Trump took office, immigration advocates warned of a crackdown on the region's more than 5,000 undocumented immigrants. A year later, immigration arrests here and across upstate are up 25 percent, and advocates say there's a growing fear in the immigrant community that they are at risk of hearing that knock at the door. To hear Thomas Feeley talk,…

Buffalo

The Buffalo School District has won another round in its legal fight with two school administrators fired for lacking state certification. In the latest ruling, U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. dismissed the breach of contract and defamation suit brought by Faith Morrison Alexander, a former chief of school leadership for the district. Last month, Geraci also …

Local News

Craig E. Lehner became the 51st Buffalo police officer to die on duty or from injuries suffered while on duty when he drowned Oct. 13 during a police dive team training exercise in the Niagara River. The following are the officers whose death preceded Lehner's drowning, along with their date of death and the circumstances.   Officer Craig E. Lehner Oct. 13,…

For nearly 40 years, state and federal officials looked into cleaning up radioactive hot spots in Lewiston and Niagara Falls. The owners of those contaminated properties, frustrated by years of inaction, are now suing in federal court in Buffalo. The new suit, filed just a week after Sen. Charles Schumer raised questions about the clean-up delays, identifies three al…

Crime

When the leadership of the Kingsmen Motorcyle Club was indicted and eventually jailed, Brian Witkowski found himself leading the club's New York State chapter. The promotion, according to prosecutors, was a reward for Witkowski's loyalty to former Kingsmen President David Pirk and Witkowski's lies to federal agents about Pirk's role in the execution-style killings of f…

Local News

Over the course of a century and a half, 52 members of the Buffalo Police Department have died while on duty or because of an incident while on duty, including Police Officer Craig E. Lehner, whose body was recovered Tuesday afternoon from the Niagara River. The following are the 10 officers whose death preceded the disappearance Friday of Lehner, a member of the depart…

Aaron Hicks became the latest Schuele Boys member to face prison time when a jury found him guilty last week of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The verdict came just weeks after another jury found Schuele Boys member Roderick Arrington guilty of murder. Investigated by the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force, Hicks was accused of taking part in the street gang's drug o…

Local News

Black water. Raging water. Ice-covered water. The city's rivers and lake can be at their worst when Buffalo's Underwater Recovery Team is called into action. On alert 24 hours a day, the team is one of the busiest special squads in the Police Department and can be called upon to investigate drownings, help with boats in distress or search for lost evidence. "It's …

Crime

Albert Victory, the man who went to prison for killing a New York City police officer and then sued over his botched parole, received a $50,000 cash settlement from the state. The settlement, disclosed in court papers Wednesday, ends Victory's 15-year legal battle over a state parole board that granted his request for freedom and then, under pressure from then-Gov. Geor…