March 18, 1956 – July 25, 2016
Stephan J. Baczynski, a federal prosecutor from Buffalo who also spent years as a special legal adviser to the Polish government, died July 25, 2016, in Buffalo General Hospital after a long battle with cancer. He was 60.
A lawyer who worked for 33 years at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Buffalo, Mr. Baczynski from 1995 to 2002 worked on special assignment to Poland, where he helped a new government emerging from Communist rule set up its own constitutionally based criminal justice system.
Friends remember him for his legal abilities, devotion to his family and his sense of humor. “He possessed an exceedingly sharp mind, which allowed him to distill complex legal issues to their simplest form,” recalled First Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy. “And a quick wit.”
Born and raised on Buffalo’s East Side, Mr. Baczynski graduated from the old Bishop Fallon High School. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University at Buffalo before earning his law degree from UB Law School at the age of 23.
After working for the Erie County Attorney’s office, Mr. Baczynski got hired as an assistant U.S. Attorney in 1982. He was assigned initially to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, where he handled major drug cases and worked closely with Frank J. Clark, Matthew J. Murphy III and other attorneys. Clark later became Erie County’s district attorney, and Murphy later became Niagara County’s DA, and after that, a county judge.
Mr. Baczynski handled many high-profile criminal cases, including “Operation Bluecoat,” an undercover FBI sting operation that sent six Buffalo police officers to prison in the late 1980s. Investigators caught some officers selling cocaine, in some cases from their patrol cars while in uniform and on duty.
The son of two Polish immigrants and the grandson of a Polish freedom fighter from World War II, Mr. Baczynski spoke fluent Polish and Russian. In 1995, he was selected to travel to Poland to act as a resident legal adviser to the Polish government and its law enforcement agencies in Warsaw.
The prosecutor spent much of the next eight years in Poland, and his family moved to Warsaw to be with him for part of that time.
“He received all kinds of awards and honors from the Polish government, including a Polish Cavalry sword that he got from the commander of the Polish Police,” recalled his son, Adam Baczynski.
Mr. Baczynski returned to his job in Buffalo in 2002, and spent most of the remainder of his career working on appeals cases for the Buffalo office. He retired in March of this year.
He enjoyed golf, good jokes, fantasy football and rooting for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres. In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 35 years, the former Catherine Parana; and two daughters, Sarah and Emily.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Stanislaus Church, 123 Townsend St., Buffalo.
– Dan Herbeck