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Phallen sex-torture trial postponed until Jan. 25

LOCKPORT – The evidence-suppression hearing in the Iver J. Phallen sex-torture case, which has been going on sporadically since March 15, finally ended Tuesday, but Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon postponed the start of the trial from Sept. 8 to Jan. 25.

Court officials said the two sides will be submitting written arguments about the legality of the police search of Phallen’s home after the Lewiston businessman’s arrest, but the time needed to prepare a transcript of the marathon hearing will delay the preparation of those papers. Sheldon scheduled oral arguments for Oct. 8.

After the subsequent decision on which evidence is admissible, the sides will address the question of paring down the two indictments, totaling 209 counts, to a more manageable number to present to a jury. Sheldon had let the two sides know months ago she wanted a shorter list of charges for the trial.

Defense attorney James W. Grable Jr. said at a Jan. 26 court appearance that he thought the number of charges could be reduced to 12 without deleting the most-serious accusations with the longest potential prison sentences.

Prosecutors Holly E. Sloma and Peter M. Wydysh said at the time that in spite of the length of the indictments, they had already deleted charges they could have sought from the grand jury.

Phallen, 67, who is being held in Niagara County Jail without bail, faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted on the charges of sexually assaulting and beating three local women, at least two of whom had taken money to have sex with him.

Police said they found what they described as a torture chamber in Phallen’s Carriage Lane home, where women allegedly were beaten, electrically shocked, hanged from nooses and tied to hoists.

A Sept. 27 search of Phallen’s townhouse and his car after the arrest disclosed a wide variety of ropes, chains, clamps, plastic ties and other objects that could have been used as instruments of torture, as well as written evidence that included a list of women titled “Next Targets.”

There also was a laptop computer that was found turned on without a screensaver, revealing an email inbox that yielded other potential evidence.

Grable spent the hearing attempting to show that the police violated terms of the warrant by entering the house after a 9 p.m. deadline set in the warrant and by seizing materials the warrant did not cover.

The warrant also bore the wrong date when it was signed by Cambria Town Justice Amel S. Jowdy Jr., who testified Monday that he didn’t notice the erroneous date of Sept. 29 when he signed it on the night of Sept. 27. The date was placed in the draft warrant by State Police Investigator John A. DiPasquale.

An amended warrant that allowed the seizure of evidence not listed in the first warrant was signed by Jowdy about 3½ hours after the first one.