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NIAGARA POLICE & COURTS

Damage placed at $15,000 in Pierce Avenue blaze

NIAGARA FALLS -- Damage was estimated at $15,000 from a fire that struck a two-story, vacant Pierce Avenue home Friday afternoon.

Firefighters were called to 1121 Pierce at 1:48 p.m. and brought the blaze under control in about a half an hour. The fire started in the rear of the property, fire officials said. The cause remains under investigation.

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Bail unchanged for suspect tied to elderly man's beating

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza refused to reduce bail Friday for a man accused of beating an elderly man, leaving him blind in one eye, but also hinted she may dismiss charges against his co-defendant.

Sperrazza denied a defense request to lower the $25,000 bail on Matthew P. Vaughn, 21, of Military Road, Town of Niagara. He has pleaded not guilty to the Oct. 13 attack on the 67-year-old man at his home. Defense attorney James J. Faso withdrew a motion to dismiss the charges against Vaughn.

"This was one of the most vicious, unprovoked assaults I've ever read about," the judge said. Sperrazza raised the bail from $3,000 on April 7 after learning Vaughn had been arrested April 1 in a separate assault case in which he allegedly knocked out one of the victim's teeth and broke another.

But Sperrazza said, "I'm still not prepared to sign off on the grand jury minutes with respect to [Michael G.] Barber." Barber, 29, of Fourth Street, Niagara Falls, also was indicted in the Oct. 13 attack.

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Falls man sentenced in gun possession case

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man involved in a gun possession case was sentenced Friday to three years' probation and 40 days in the Niagara County work program by Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Robert L. Howard, 19, of Fourth Street, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was in a sport utility vehicle from where an assault rifle was fired on 19th Street in Niagara Falls June 7, police said. Three other men also pleaded guilty in the case.

In another sentencing by Sperrazza Friday, Chonte D. Holland, 23, of Niagara Falls, drew a year in the County Jail for violating his probation on a 2009 cocaine possession conviction.

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Mom pays restitution for son's store break-in

LOCKPORT -- Niagara Falls burglar Steve J. Primerano was sentenced to a year in jail Wednesday as his mother paid more than $2,600 in restitution.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza imposed the sentence on Primerano, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted third-degree burglary for the Feb. 15, 2010, break-in at Consumers Beverage on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Falls. Primerano stole a large quantity of cigarettes for himself and for resale.

His mother, who lives in Florida, paid Consumers Beverage $1,282 for the damage and the Sheriff's Office $1,362 for the cost of extraditing him from Florida.

Primerano was living in Niagara Falls at the time of the theft but left for Miami after being bailed out.

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June 13 deadline set in data center appeal

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court has ordered the Amherst woman who sued Verizon Communications over its data center project to file her appeal paperwork by June 13.

If Mary Ann Rizzo's papers aren't sent to the Rochester court by then, the appeal will be dismissed, said her attorney, Arthur J. Giacalone.

Verizon and the Town of Somerset won the lawsuit Rizzo filed to challenge the approval process for its proposed $4 billion data center. Verizon announced March 17 that it was not going to build the project, but Giacalone has refused to drop the appeal because Verizon won't put the cancellation in writing.

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Robbers strike twice on Niagara Falls streets

NIAGARA FALLS -- Separate strong-armed robberies on Falls Street and Niagara Avenue occurred about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said a 46-year-old woman was robbed by two men of her purse in the 1900 block of Falls. The victim, who tried to hang on to the purse, was dragged through the mud by one of the robbers.

A 13-year-old boy in the 1800 block of Niagara Avenue was jumped by other juveniles who made off with a half-gallon of iced tea that he had just purchased and a pack of cigarettes.

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Collision with curb leads to drug charges

LOCKPORT -- A Washburn Street man whose vehicle hit a curb several times faces a bevy of charges after he was arrested in the driveway of his home shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

Justin D. Phillips, 22, pleaded not guilty in City Court Wednesday to driving while intoxicated, driving while ability impaired by drugs, failure to keep right, unlawful possession of marijuana and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Police said Phillips had a film container with marijuana, 1 1/2 Oxycontin pills and that he had been at a party where marijuana was smoked.

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