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State investigator in county jail review arrested at Bills game

An apparently drunken fan inside Ralph Wilson Stadium approached a deputized officer during Sunday's Bills-Dolphins game and asked the deputy to relay a message to Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard.

"Howard is a coward," the fan told the deputy, according to a Buffalo Bills arrest report. "Howard is a coward."

The punch line for deputies came when they asked the man for some identification as they placed him under arrest.

The man turned out to be one of the state Commission of Correction investigators involved in the scathing report that blasted the Sheriff's Office's actions in allowing Ralph "Bucky" Phillips to escape from the county jail last April.

Deputies on Sunday arrested Deane A. McGeary, 40, of Clifton Park, on a charge of criminal trespass, after claiming that he could not produce a ticket to the game and that he refused to leave the stadium.

The state Commission of Correction report lists McGeary as one of two staff members who conducted the investigation into the escape.

That report, released in August, concluded that the Erie County Correctional Facility was overcrowded and badly understaffed and that the Sheriff's Office was "willfully operating the facility in an unsafe manner."

The commission also accused the leadership of the Sheriff's Office of "negligently and wrongfully" causing a public-safety emergency by allowing Phillips to escape.

Erie County sheriff's officials said McGeary had been in the county correctional facility numerous times during the investigation of Phillips' escape.

"We always felt there was a lot of bias in that report," Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan said Tuesday. "Obviously, this incident shows his feeling toward the sheriff and our office."

The commission, an independent oversight organization that seeks to provide safe housing for inmates, declined to reply.

"We're not going to comment on it," counsel Michael Donegan said. "The employee was on his own time."

According to police reports, the incident began at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, when McGeary approached a security officer inside the stadium and asked to speak to an Erie County sheriff's deputy.

"At this time, the defendant had bloodshot eyes, was noticeably swaying and unsteady on his feet; his speech was slurred; and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanated from his person," a sheriff's police report states.

Deputies advised McGeary that he was going to be ejected because of his apparent intoxication, according to police reports. He then was asked to show his ticket, which he could not produce, the deputies stated. When McGeary repeatedly refused to leave the stadium, deputies arrested him on the criminal trespass charge, the report states.

"We've heard from several people working at the stadium that the guy wouldn't stop, that he kept talking about Sheriff Howard and his dislike for Erie County," said Brian Doyle, the sheriff's chief of administrative services.

Doyle said the incident suggests that the commission's report should be revisited.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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