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Eloff pleads not guilty to new federal charges in Molly’s Pub case

Robert E. Eloff, the Buffalo police officer working security on the night of the Molly’s Pub tragedy last year, appeared in federal court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to new charges.

The new allegations are different from the charges Eloff faced in April, when he was accused of using his position as a police officer to violate the civil rights of two victims.

The new grand jury indictment limits the charges against Eloff to one incident, not two, at Molly’s. Prosecutors say the second incident, mentioned in a previous criminal complaint, is still under investigation.

“Mr. Eloff, do you understand the charges against you?” U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott asked him at one point Thursday.

“Yes,” answered Eloff, 40, wearing glasses and a dark suit.

The new charges deal only with Eloff’s encounter with William C. Sager Jr., an Air National Guardsman, on May 11, 2014. Sager suffered a devastating brain injury when he was shoved down a flight of stairs by bar manager Jeffrey J. Basil and died 2½ months later.

Basil faces 15 to 21 years in prison when he is sentenced July 22.

The indictment against Eloff charges him with deprivation of rights under color of law and conspiracy to deprive an individual of rights under color of law. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of those charges.

Aaron F. Glazer, one of Eloff’s defense attorneys, declined to comment Thursday.

Eloff is currently suspended from the police force with pay.