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BAIL REDUCED; LANDLORD RELEASED

Joy A. Drati, the California landlord jailed for housing violations on some of his 59 Buffalo properties, was released from custody Tuesday after his lawyer convinced a state judge that his $124,750 bail was excessive.

Drati was freed after State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia lowered the bail to $25,000.

Buscaglia dramatically modified an order from City Housing Judge Henry J. Nowak that had kept Drati behind bars the past month. He ruled after a hearing in which attorney Harvey F. Siegel argued that the original bail set by Nowak was unconstitutionally excessive.

Drati was freed after posting the lower bail. He is due back in Housing Court on Nov. 8.

Buscaglia modified Nowak's order after Drati's father, Bishop Enock Lee Drati of Uganda's Anglican Church, and Lauretta and Carl Hicks of Buffalo's Infinite Options company agreed to help Drati, of San Pablo, Calif., with his local management problems.

Lauretta Hicks said Drati's legal problems with the city were the result of his "not having a management company to look over" his Buffalo properties and the fact that some local residents who had vowed to help him took advantage of him instead.

During the bail hearing, Peter Savage, the city attorney handling the Housing Court case, told Buscaglia the stiff bail had been set after Nowak dismissed a number of Drati's motions last month and made him liable for the expected court-ordered demolition of most of his city holdings.

Nowak set the high bail because Drati has "no ties to the City of Buffalo and was deemed an increased risk of flight," which would leave city taxpayers paying the costs of demolition of his holdings, Savage argued.

In issuing the bail modification order, Buscaglia noted Drati has no criminal record and has always showed up for Housing Court sessions.

While in the Erie County Correctional Facility, Drati had sought phone privileges to allow him to conduct business and have his properties repaired.

But that plan fell apart when jail officials twice refused to accept phone cards that were brought to the facility on Drati's behalf, Siegel said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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