Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou plans to attack the indictment – 30 months in the making – against Gabriele Ballowe in the hit-and-run death of Evans handyman Barry T. Moss.
“The one thing I can tell you is that we’re going to attack the validity of this indictment. No question,” Eoannou said.
That is the same strategy he would employ, said fellow defense lawyer Paul J. Cambria Jr.
“You have to attack the indictment,” Cambria said. “The prosecution says they have new evidence, and you have to find out what this so-called new evidence is and try to show that this is evidence they could have had before.”
Since December 2013, Eoannou has represented Ballowe, the former Angola bar owner police identified early in their investigation as the prime suspect in Moss’ death. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office and Evans police charged Ballowe with four felony crimes, including vehicular manslaughter. She pleaded not guilty.
In a highly unusual scenario, a grand jury voted to indict Ballowe in May 2014. Then, The Buffalo News reported that former District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III sent an aide to convince grand jurors to rescind the indictment. After Sedita was elevated to state judge in January of this year, his successor, acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr., started a new grand jury investigation and obtained an indictment against Ballowe.
“That’s a scenario I’ve never heard before in 37 years as a lawyer,” defense attorney Joseph J. Terranova said.
Attorney Florina Altshiler, a former sex crimes prosecutor, agreed.
“This is exceptionally rare,” she said. “In a situation like this, you can only present the case to a second grand jury if you have significant new evidence – evidence that you could not have gotten before it was presented to the first grand jury.”
Eoannou has represented Ballowe since shortly after Moss was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver early on the morning of Dec. 22, 2013. He has spoken with a News reporter about the case more than a dozen times since then, but has never confirmed that his client was driving the sport utility vehicle that hit Moss.
On several occasions, including last week, Eoannou said that he believes that the death of Moss was a “tragic accident” that involved no criminal conduct by the driver.
“There was a bicycle involved, and the person driving might think they hit a road barrier, a road sign or something else metallic,” Eoannou said during an interview in May 2014.
“We conducted our own investigation and found that no criminal activity occurred.”
While Ballowe has been criticized by some people in Evans for refusing to talk with police, Eoannou said his client was acting on his advice. “It was my legal advice, and she was acting within her rights,” the attorney said.
The last six years have been very intense ones for Eoannou.
From 2010 until late last year, he represented Beth Lynne Hoskins, the former horse owner from Aurora who fought a long, bitter court battle with the SPCA over animal-cruelty charges. She ultimately spent 60 days in jail for a probation violation and was ordered to pay a civil judgment of $52,000.
For several months last year, Eoannou represented the young Buffalo-area woman who filed a controversial rape complaint against hockey superstar Patrick Kane. After a very high-profile investigation, prosecutors decided not to charge Kane for lack of evidence.
“I don’t dodge difficult cases. I never have,” Eoannou said.
“I’m not afraid to represent an unpopular client. I represent people who are in need of a criminal defense attorney.”
Terranova said high-profile cases “just seem to find Tom.”
“They’re difficult cases – all cases with a lot of baggage,” Terranova said. “They’re really challenging, but Tom is an extremely capable lawyer who gets good results for most of his clients.”