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The offbeat side of the news

Defensive posture

When you’re a defense attorney, you have to play defense, and you can’t be shy about it.

Niagara County Assistant Public Defender David E. Blackley demonstrated that in County Court this week when he appeared at the arraignment of Daniel E. Rivera of Buffalo, who was accused of taking part in an attempt to rob a Niagara Falls convenience store. Prosecutor Claudette S. Caldwell told Judge Matthew J. Murphy III that Rivera at first told police his name was Lamar Tatum.

“He lied about his name for 24 hours until he was fingerprinted,” Caldwell said.

Blackley wasn’t going to take that lying down.

“We object to her characterizing it as a lie when it could have been a misinterpretation,” he said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that,” Murphy replied.

“He might not have understood the question,” Blackley insisted.

An amused Murphy then noted that the direct question would have been, “What’s your name?”

Nice try.

Blackley then headed for another courtroom to stand beside Ernest L. Ruffin, who is in the judicial diversion program of court-supervised drug treatment, but is in jail “because of an argument over the phone,” Ruffin said.

“An argument over the phone where you sent 50 text messages over two hours, threatening to kill a former girlfriend,” Judge Sara Sheldon replied.

“We’re denying that, Your Honor,” Blackley said.

Hold the phone

People arriving for the Buffalo Poverty Workshop at the Central Library on Friday morning were treated to snacks, soft drinks and lots of coffee before heading into the auditorium for presentations on community policing, the growing refugee community and women who are homeless for years at a time.

Ahead of time, those attending received a page containing phone and email contact information for local, state and federal representatives who can make (or break) policy on transportation, language access and housing – topics that the audience was being immersed in by a team of well prepared antipoverty speakers.

There was a method to organizer Dale Zuchlewski’s system.

Two hours after the coffee started pouring, Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of WNY, announced that there would be a much-needed “rest” break. But, he said, it came with an assignment.

“This is where the advocacy comes in. I know you all have your phones, and we’re asking you to send some emails during the break,” he said.

Sensing the request might be treated lightly by those with more, let’s say urgent, needs, he added, “We’re actually not going to let you use the restrooms until you have sent some emails.”

Sweet, but not good enough

Care to guess where the lower-quality maple syrup from New York winds up?

Vermont, of all places.

So admitted Don Weaver, a guide at Attica’s Merle Maple Farm, during a Maple Weekend tour in which he explained the art of making the perfect maple syrup at his family’s fourth-generation farm. Weaver was referring to the less-preferred, end-of-the season syrup that tends to run darker and more bitter.

“When it’s not good enough for New York State, we send it to Vermont,” Weaver said.

In 55-gallon drums.

There, Weaver revealed, it becomes part of the miniscule percentage of real maple syrup that’s required for many popular brands to legally label their product – consisting mostly of other ingredients, like corn syrup – as “maple syrup.”

And, one needn’t look further than 100-year-old Florence Merle, matriarch of the maple farm, to see the benefits of pure 100 percent New York maple.

“Grandma Merle likes to say she’s ‘100 and six months old,’ ” quipped Weaver. “See what happens when you drink maple syrup?”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Thomas J. Prohaska, Melinda Miller and T.J. Pignataro. email: