Former bar owner Gabriele P. Ballowe is considering taking a guilty plea in connection with the 2013 hit-and-run accident that took the life of Evans handyman Barry T. Moss.
A plea deal was offered on Monday during discussions with the Erie County District Attorney's office, Ballowe's attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, told The Buffalo News.
"The trial had been scheduled to begin today, but there has been a plea disposition offered, and I will discuss it with my client," Eoannou said. "This case has been hanging over people for almost three years now. I think everyone is looking forward to closure."
Parties in the case are scheduled to meet next week with State Supreme Court Judge Christopher Burns, and Ballowe will "definitely" make a decision before then about whether to plead guilty to criminal charges rather than face trial, Eoannou said. He said he could not reveal what plea deal has been offered to his client. After a lengthy and highly controversial investigation, Ballowe was arrested in June on felony charges of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident.
Moss was struck and fatally injured by a sport utility vehicle as he walked or rode his bicycle along Route 5 in Evans late on the night of Dec. 22, 2013. The driver left the scene, leaving Moss to die by the side of the road. Evans Police repeatedly stated they had strong evidence that Ballowe, former owner of a waterfront bar, was the driver who hit Moss, but former District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III repeatedly said he did not think police had enough evidence to prosecute Ballowe.
A grand jury voted to indict Ballowe on felony charges in May 2014, but The News reported that Sedita sent one of his top aides into the grand jury room to convince grand jurors to change their vote. That action greatly upset police and members of Moss's family, who felt the grand jury's initial vote should have been allowed to stand.
In January 2015, an administrative law judge from the state Department of Motor Vehicles revoked Ballowe's driver's license, after holding a non-criminal hearing and ruling that he found "abundant evidence" that Ballowe was driving and was under the strong influence of alcohol when her vehicle struck Moss.
When Sedita was elevated to a state judgeship in late 2015, his job was taken over by Michael Flaherty, his former top assistant, and Flaherty vowed to take a fresh look at the case. Ballowe was charged on June 21.
Ballowe, who was 49 at the time of the accident, has refused to discuss the events of that night with police or the news media. She pleaded not guilty after her arrest.
Eoannou and prosecutor Thomas Finnerty met with Judge Burns in his chambers late this morning. Finnerty and Flaherty could not be reached for comment after the meeting.