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Timing is an issue in Lauber charges Police officials silent on merit

Police officials aren't commenting on the merits of the disciplinary charges brought against a homicide detective for talking to The Buffalo News, but they are addressing the timing of the charges.

The departmental charges against Detective Mark J. Lauber were drafted Sept. 3, and the detective was told about them the following week, Police Department spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said Thursday.

Lauber was told to go to the department's Professional Standards office to pick up a copy of the charges, DeGeorge said.

Lauber didn't do that, DeGeorge said, until this Tuesday.

After Lauber signed the documents, a copy of the charges was filed with the Police Benevolent Association.

DeGeorge explained the time sequence in response to comments by PBA President Robert P. Meegan Jr. that appeared in an article in Thursday's News.

Meegan questioned why the union didn't receive the charges until Wednesday -- a day after the mayoral primary -- when they were drafted Sept. 3.

He noted that the union supported Mayor Byron W. Brown's opponent, Michael P. Kearns, in the primary.

"I think everyone can draw their own conclusion [on why] the charges were served on the morning after the primary, even though they were typed up Sept. 3," Meegan told The News.

After hearing of DeGeorge's statement that it was Lauber's decision not to pick up the charges until Tuesday, Meegan responded that he stands by his comments.

The Professional Standards unit typically serves papers to officers and could have served Lauber with papers anytime it wanted, Meegan said, adding that the unit often goes to various station houses to serve papers upon officers.

Lauber is being brought up on department charges for talking to a News reporter in April about previous crimes committed by a teenager accused of brutally assaulting a Williamsville South High School classmate.

If found guilty, disciplinary action could range from a reprimand to suspension.

By talking with a reporter, the department brass charges, Lauber disobeyed Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson's March 6, 2007, order that no member of the force below the rank of deputy commissioner talk to reporters.

In addition, the department charged, talking with the media about Curtis Byers' previous crimes in Buffalo endangered Byers' chances of getting a fair trial in the high school attack. The victim of that attack required reconstructive surgery of his face.

Lauber was one of several police and firefighters -- including Fire Commissioner Michael S. Lombardo -- who told The News about Byers' past crimes.

The teenager set an arson fire that almost cost a Buffalo firefighter his life in 2007 and was involved in a Buffalo armed robbery that year. He was sentenced to community service in one instance and probation in another.

Following his April arrest, Byers was jailed for violating his probation. The assault case against Byers is expected to be back in court next week.
News Staff Reporter Lou Michel contributed to this report.

e-mail: sschulman@buffnews.com

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