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Attorney testifies in Ridgeway case

When Niagara Falls police were hunting for murder suspect Javon M. Ridgeway in September, defense attorney James J. Faso was one of the people they turned to for help.

At an evidence-suppression hearing Friday in Niagara County Court, Faso testified that he talked to Detective Capt. Ernest Palmer and at least four other detectives, all of whom urged him to help them track down Ridgeway.

He also said he took a phone call from a prosecutor who was worried that information she gave Faso in another case might have provided Ridgeway with a motive to kill his estranged girlfriend, Lanerra M. Streeter. Faso testified he never relayed the information to Ridgeway.

Faso was called to the stand by Assistant Public Defenders Christopher A. Privateer and Alan Roscetti, who are trying to have Ridgeway's confession ruled inadmissible at his trial, scheduled for May 21.

The grounds for their argument is that police knew Faso was representing Ridgeway on a previous domestic violence indictment in which Streeter was the alleged victim. Thus, they say, detectives should have called Faso before they questioned Ridgeway following his Sept. 21 arrest.

Ridgeway, 26, of 16th Street, was the subject of a manhunt after Streeter, 25, was shot to death in her Niagara Falls home Sept. 9. Another woman in the apartment -- Nichole Nabors, Streeter's cousin -- was seriously wounded, but survived.

At a Jan. 17 session of the suppression hearing, retired Niagara Falls Detective Carl Berak testified, "[Ridgeway] was trying to convince Lanerra with money not to go to court. . . . She said she thought she was pregnant. He asked by whom and she said she didn't know."

Berak said Ridgeway told him that moments later, "[Streeter] was drinking and she was lying on the floor. He went over and he shot her twice in the head. He said he just lost it. Nichole jumped up from the couch. He said he aimed the gun at Nichole Nabors and shot her, and then he left."

Faso testified Friday that while Ridgeway was at large, Berak told him, "You're his lawyer. You should know where he is."

Faso said he tried to reach Ridgeway by cell phone, but failed to do so.

Faso testified that Assistant District Attorney Lisa M. Baerhe, who was prosecuting Ridgeway on a domestic violence indictment, called him to ask if Faso had shown Ridgeway the grand jury minutes in that case. Those minutes showed Streeter was testifying against Ridgeway.

"I had received it, but I hadn't shown it to [Ridgeway]. He missed an appointment with me," Faso said.

At Niagara Falls City Court a few days later, Faso said he was accosted by Terrence X. Jones, a Niagara Falls man whose County Court trial on cocaine dealing charges had ended in a hung jury a few days previously. Faso said Jones asked him if finding Ridgeway would help him with his own case.

Faso said he went straight to Palmer's office and relayed the proposition. He said Palmer called First Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Lundquist, and Faso quoted Palmer as saying Lundquist told him, "If he could find Ridgeway, we'd make the indictment go away or at least reduce it to a misdemeanor."

Jones called Faso a few days later and said he just missed seeing Ridgeway. "That was the last I heard from Terrence Jones," Faso said. Jones was convicted of a drug felony at a second trial and is awaiting sentencing.

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III told Judicial Hearing Officer Ronald H. Tills, "This is new information." He said he wants to recall Palmer, who previously testified, and the hearing was extended until 1 p.m. Monday.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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