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Activist on housing not guilty of harassing Judge reserves decision on trespassing charge

Harvey A. Garrett Jr., a well-known neighborhood activist facing Buffalo Housing Court problems after a dispute with city officials, was found not guilty Tuesday of harassing one of his neighbors in the Richmond Avenue area.

After a brief nonjury trial, City Judge Debra L. Givens found Garrett, 39, not guilty of misdemeanor harassment. However, the judge reserved decision until next month on a companion misdemeanor trespass charge, saying she was assessing prosecution evidence on that count.

Gary Keohane, a state prison guard, accused Garrett of harassment as well as trespassing last July 30 on his Essex Street property, around the corner from Garrett's Richmond Avenue property. Garrett denied the accusations, saying he was simply mowing lawn on city-owned property.

Garrett also faces City Court proceedings on alleged property ordinance violations filed by the city's Department of Permit and Inspection Services. Those violations were filed one day after he complained in a Buffalo News article about an alleged backlog of cases in Housing Court.

City inspectors have rejected Garrett's contention that their action against him was linked to his public criticism of their work.

Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak, who recruited Garrett to serve as one of his volunteer Housing Court liaisons, recused himself from that case.

Tuesday, David S. Widenor, Garrett's attorney, said he feels confident that Givens will determine that there is also insufficient evidence to support Keohane's trespass accusations. Widenor said Garrett was sprucing up what was "clearly public property" near the duplex Keohane owns in the 100 block of Essex.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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