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Judge who signed Phallen warrant describes how mistakes occurred

LOCKPORT – Cambria Town Justice Amel S. Jowdy Jr., who signed the search warrant for the home of accused sex torturer Iver J. Phallen, explained on the witness stand Monday how the wrong date got on the warrant.

The search of Phallen’s Lewiston home occurred Sept. 27, but the warrant is dated Sept. 29. That error, and an issue over the timing of the search, opened the door for defense attorney James W. Grable Jr. to challenge the legality of the search.

A defense victory in the current evidence-suppression hearing would significantly weaken the prosecution case against Phallen when the case goes to trial Sept. 8 in Niagara County Court.

In two indictments totaling 209 counts, Phallen, 67, is charged with torturing and sexually assaulting three women whom he brought to his home on Carriage Lane in Lewiston on separate dates last year. At least two of them were paid to have sex with him, police said.

However, the women allegedly got more than they bargained for, as they told investigators they were hanged from nooses, beaten, and hoisted in the air by a mechanical apparatus.

Jowdy, who has been a town justice for 19 years, admitted that he didn’t notice the erroneous date on the warrant he signed Sept. 27, but he testified, “First of all, I didn’t prepare that. It was prepared by the police agency.”

He opened Town Hall that Saturday night to meet with State Police Investigator Kelly J. Remington and Lewiston Police Sgt. Frank Previte, who brought him the text of a proposed warrant to sign.

Questioned Monday by Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma, Jowdy said the Sept. 29 dating did not mean he didn’t want the warrant executed until the 29th.

Jowdy noted that when he was called back to Town Hall after midnight to sign an amended warrant, he caught the error, crossing out Sept. 29 and writing Sept. 28. He said the warrant was amended to allow police to seize more items than the original warrant contained, not to retroactively correct the dating.

There was an issue over timing. The warrant Remington presented called for it to be executed at any hour of the day or night, but Jowdy said the investigator crossed that line out in his presence, leaving intact a requirement that the search must begin before 9 p.m. Sept. 27.

“We decided to strike it because they had the authorization at 8:55,” Jowdy said, referring to the time he signed the original warrant. “They had enough time to get in.” Although the form seeking the amended warrant, filled out by State Police Investigator John A. DiPasquale, says a search began at 9:02, several officers have testified that they entered before 9:00. DiPasquale also has testified that he was responsible for placing the erroneous Sept. 29 date on the warrant.

Monday, State Police Capt. Steven Nigrelli said he got the word at 8:58. He said he headed for the basement, where he found a yellow legal pad beside a computer.

On various pages of the pad, Nigrelli said, he saw headings such as “Next Targets,” over a listing of four women’s names, and lists of what appeared to be items Phallen needed, including towels, blindfolds, rubber balls, perfume and a “longer chain.”

There also was a note that said, “Prep 3 nooses,” as well as lists of sexual and dating websites and two pages with 53 “online handles of a female nature,” Nigrelli said.

Police also seized Phallen’s red Subaru, and State Police forensic investigator Robert Bachorski said he found in the car “a stainless steel box with electrical components” that could have been used to shock a victim, since it included protruding bare wires and a dial to adjust the voltage. He also found a 110-volt electric winch that could have been used to lift a victim, Bachorski said.

Investigator Brian Rautenstrauch said he checked Phallen’s nightstand and found a wallet containing a note with the name and phone number of one of the victims.