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Retrial set after court overturns conviction

LOCKPORT -- An Oct. 29 retrial date was set Tuesday for Ryan S. Smith, the Niagara Falls man whose conviction in connection with two home invasions and a gas station robbery was overturned because DNA evidence was obtained by zapping him with a Taser.

Joseph Terranova, of Buffalo, accepted an appointment to serve as Smith's defense attorney. Smith was represented by Patrick M. Balkin, of Lockport, in his first trial in 2009. Smith, 24, was convicted on 24 counts stemming from crimes that occurred in 2006.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled, 4-1, in March that Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas should not have permitted the use of the DNA evidence obtained by Niagara Falls police, who fired a 50,000-volt electric stun gun at the handcuffed Smith when he refused to open his mouth for a DNA swab.


Felon possessing firearm sentenced to prison

A Buffalo man convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm was sentenced Tuesday to nine years and two months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Officers executed a search warrant on July 21, 2009, at a home on Balcum Street where Isaiah Glover, 30, was staying.

They discovered cocaine and drug paraphernalia in close proximity to a firearm. Glover was previously convicted of a felony, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola, who handled the case.

Buffalo police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case.


Man, 54, arraigned in 1994 murder

A 54-year-old man was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he murdered a woman whose body was found stuffed inside a nightstand in a backyard in 1994.

James Fountain faces second-degree murder charges in the stabbing death of 29-year-old Cynthia Epps, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III. Fountain faces up to 25 years to life if convicted.

The body of Epps, of Colfax Street, was found in the nightstand by the upstairs tenant at 142 Montana St., who noticed the nightstand in his backyard at about 9 a.m. June 30, 1994, and went outside to investigate, police said at the time.

The body was wrapped in a green blanket.

Epps apparently died from several stab wounds to her upper body, police said then.


Cocaine, marijuana found after Lancaster traffic stop

A Buffalo man who was stopped early Monday by Lancaster police later was arrested after a search of his vehicle found a large amount of cocaine and marijuana in two hidden compartments, town police reported.

Lancaster Officers R.W. Smith and Mark DiPirro stopped a vehicle on Transit Road, at Freeman Drive, at about 12:30 a.m. Monday because they recognized the vehicle from a previous incident and knew the vehicle's registration was suspended, according to Police Chief Gerald J. Gill Jr.

The officers noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle as they took Jermell T. Washington, 37, of Olympic Avenue, into custody.

They called for Trooper Sean Pierce, a K-9 officer with the State Police, to search the vehicle.

Pierce and his dog found a large quantity of cocaine, 5 1/2 ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and measuring equipment in the two hidden compartments within the rear seats.

Washington was arrested on numerous felony narcotics charges and is being held without bail in the Erie County Holding Center because of previous felony convictions, police said.

Lancaster Police Lt. Anthony Marrano and Officer Brian Firestone assisted with the arrest.


Guilty plea entered to tax evasion charge

A Buffalo man pleaded guilty to tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara on Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse said Michael Gerace, 49, maintained two separate sets of books and records for his business, Abbott Pizza in Buffalo.

Kresse said the two sets of books allowed Gerace to hide $500,000 in income over a three-year period and resulted in his failure to pay $176,000 in taxes.

The guilty plea was the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service.


Corrections officer charged in assault of girlfriend

FREDONIA -- A state corrections officer has been charged with third-degree assault and criminal obstruction of breathing for allegedly punching his live-in girlfriend in the face and covering her nose to prevent her from breathing at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, state police reported Tuesday.

William B. Prost, 52, of Stone Quarry Road, was arraigned in Sheridan Town Court and issued an appearance ticket for further court proceedings. His girlfriend was granted a court order of protection against him, troopers reported.

They did not say where the incident occurred.