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3 TEENS SPARED JAIL TIME FOR HAMBURG BLOW-DART ATTACK

Three teen-age blow-dart shooters were spared jail terms Thursday for the random wounding of another boy in Hamburg last summer, but they still face the likelihood of lawsuits, an attorney for the victim said.

Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico spared Christopher Szustak, Adam Birkmeyer and Nicholas Keller, all 18, jail terms on their guilty pleas to assault charges. Michael Rathbun, the Arcade resident they shot in the stomach with a blow-dart on Camp Road last June 24, said he was satisfied.

All three defendants apologized to Rathbun, 17, a Pioneer Central High junior. Samuel J. Capizzi, lawyer for Rathbun's family, said he still is actively "contemplating" lawsuits against them and a fourth youth. Szustak, of Blasdell, and Birkmeyer, of Hamburg, pleaded guilty a month ago to felony assault charges in the drive-by shooting and Keller, also a Hamburg resident, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge as an accomplice in the incident.

D'Amico granted all three youthful-offender status, which will spare them a criminal record, but ordered them to each pay Rathbun $112.50 as restitution for summer wages he lost. Prosecutor Paul S. Piotrowski said Michael Czosnyka, 17, of Hamburg, faces a Nov. 12 sentencing before acting State Supreme Court Justice Joseph T. McCarthy on his felony assault in the case.

Rathbun was hospitalized five days and needed surgery because of a six-inch dart rammed into his stomach, Piotrowski and Capizzi said.

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