State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco on Friday entered the investigation into the death of Kevin King of Olean.
"I've pledged all the resources of my office," Vacco said after discussing the probe with Cattaraugus County legislators and officials behind closed doors for 45 minutes.
Vacco said he could not predict how long the investigation would take, "but I promise every effort will be made to work diligently."
He noted that District Attorney Michael P. Nevins, who requested Vacco's assistance Tuesday, is seeking a court order to exhume King's body for a second autopsy to be performed by Dr. Michael Baden, director of the New York State Police Forensic Sciences Unit in Albany.
"The district attorney has taken steps to exhume the body and secure the services of Dr. Baden," Vacco said.
"These are critical as a starting point. We will work with the King family and their investigator for any new information."
Nevins said County Judge Michael L. Nenno is expected to sign an order Monday afternoon to exhume King's body, which will be taken to Olean General Hospital for an autopsy by Baden.
King, 28, died Oct. 23 after witnesses say he was kicked and beaten during a fight outside a Town of Olean restaurant.
An autopsy indicated that King's death was the result of traumatic asphyxia, meaning that he could not breathe because of weight on his chest.
A grand jury reviewed the case and did not indict anyone in connection with the death, leading the King family to criticize the investigation by the sheriff and the district attorney.
Vacco explained that he and Assistant Attorney General Russell P. Buscaglia have been sworn in as assistants to Nevins, enabling them to investigate the case while the state continues to pay their expenses.
He said investigators from his office might not be involved in the probe unless evidence warrants. State police would not be involved, he said.
Buscaglia said he would be taking a copy of the King investigation file back to Albany for review.
Vacco stressed that there has been no proof of wrongdoing by police or prosecutors who have handled the case so far, despite criticism by King's family and friends.
"Everyone involved was true to their office and might not have performed correctly, but not to the level of negligence or corruption," he said.
"The system works best if a court of public opinion doesn't exert influence. The hand dealt to me may be the same hand dealt to Nevins."
Randy King, the victim's brother who criticized the investigation by the
sheriff and the district attorney, said he and his family are satisfied now that Vacco has become involved.
"We've been reassured by Vacco," he said.
The brother added that now that the family knows that Vacco "is involved and will take appropriate action to go beyond county officials," it no longer opposes exhuming the body for another autopsy.
Reporters and King family members and supporters were barred from Vacco's meeting with 15 county legislators, Nevins and other county officials.
County Legislature Chairman Don B. Winship, R-South Dayton, said the session was legitimate because "the King family may sue the county" over the investigation.
He said the legislators asked questions that "reflected on improprieties of the Sheriff's Department's employees" during the investigation. He did not elaborate.
After the meeting, Vacco said a request from county legislators two weeks ago that he enter the case was not binding, since he can do so only at the direction of the governor or a request from the district attorney.
Winship said "public outcry from around the county and not politics" was the reason Vacco was asked to intervene in the case.