A Cheektowaga judge did what a Buffalo judge refused to do – raised bail on a suspected major opiate dealer.
The accused dealer quickly made bail and was free within two hours Monday, but the town judge’s bail decision was vastly different than the city judge.
Town Judge Paul Piotrowski increased Dellsean Hamilton’s $300 bail to $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond for his alleged possession of 145 bags of heroin dating to last March in Cheektowaga.
When Hamilton was arrested again earlier this month in Buffalo and accused of possessing 2,100 bags of heroin and fentanyl, City Court Judge Betty Calvo-Torres refused to increase Hamilton’s bail from $20,000 to $250,000 after prosecutors sought the higher amount.
But Hamilton was brought back into Cheektowaga court after the second arrest, and Piotrowski cited the danger of the alleged crime and the threat to public safety in light of the ongoing opiate epidemic that is causing dozens of deaths in Erie Coounty alone.
In addition, the town judge noted Hamilton has two prior felony drug convictions and was arrested on felony charges in Buffalo while his drug case remains pending in Cheektowaga.
Even with the higher bail in Cheektowaga, Hamilton, 26, of Buffalo, managed to quickly regain his freedom after he was booked Monday at the Erie County Holding Center.
A week ago, an Erie County prosecutor tried to persuade Calvo-Torres to raise Hamilton’s bail, but the judge scolded the assistant district attorney for offering “hearsay” evidence of drug overdoses, including a death, allegedly connected to opiates sold by Hamilton.
Erie County Sheriff’s and city narcotics detectives arrested Hamilton at his Dash Street home in South Buffalo July 15 after carrying out search warrants there and at an East Side stash house where they confiscated the 2,100 bags of opiates, $12,000 in cash, a shotgun and two rifles, plus a money-counting machine. At his July 16 arraignment, Hamilton’s lawyer, Michael L. D’Amico Jr., recommended $10,000 bail on the most serious felony charges for a total of $20,000.
Assistant District Attorney Meredith M. Mohun, according to a court transcript provided by the judge’s staff, made no recommendation on the bail amount. District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III later explained that Calvo-Torres does not permit his staff to make bail recommendations in her courtroom.
Calvo-Torres, at last week’s bail hearing, said the purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant returns to court and that Hamilton had made good on his appearance. The effort to raise the bail, Sedita said, reflected concern of Hamilton being a flight risk, given the lengthy prison sentence he would face if convicted, up to 15 years.
Assistant District Attorney James R. Gardner, at the hearing, had also cited “the safety of the community” in seeking the higher bail. Hamilton has waived his right to a felony hearing and prosecutors are moving forward with presenting evidence to a grand jury for review against Hamilton.
After his bail was raised Monday in Cheektowaga, Hamilton was booked at the downtown holding center at 3:39 p.m., and after posting bail, released at 5:26 p.m., according to Scott E. Zylka, a sheriff’s spokesman.
Assistant District Attorney Danielle E. Smith had asked the town judge to remand Hamilton to jail. The judge then responded by increasing the bail.
Hamilton has been charged with criminal possession of a narcotic with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance, and unlawful possession of marijuana by Cheektowaga Police Officer Bradford B. Hebeler. The officer had arrested him on March 25 for possessing of 145 bags of heroin and a small amount of marijuana, according to Assistant Police Chief James J. Speyer Jr. The $300 bail had originally been set by Town Justice Dennis T. Gorski. Hamilton is currently awaiting trial on the town drug charges.
News Staff Reporter Janice L. Habuda contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org