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City Hallways (Feb. 3): Will Terry Robinson's 30-year journey lead to a mayoral campaign?

Potential mayoral candidate has unique resume

After learning Terry Robinson was at a mayoral forum earlier this week, I called him Thursday to talk about it.

Robinson is a 62-year-old registered Democrat who sits on the city's Preservation Board.

He's thinking about running for mayor. No decision yet made, Robinson said.

"I am not knocking Byron Brown as mayor," Robinson said. "I see a lot of progress. I think he works hard."

Then came the "but."

"If I'm going to run, I'm a candidate with a cause," Robinson said. "The issue that needs to be addressed in the City of Buffalo - the really big thing - is the institutionalization of the inequities that are going on. The renaissance is passing half of the population."

"Broadway, Fillmore, Lovejoy, Black Rock. Neighborhoods first. They need to be priorities," he said.

For those who aren't familiar with Robinson,  he - most recently - made news as the guy who stood by Joe Mascia when the ousted BMHA tenant commissioner was brought up on charges related to a tape-recorded rant against some of Buffalo's African-American leaders.

Robinson - who is African-American - has known Mascia for more than a decade, going back to the days when Robinson worked for the BMHA. Mascia's the guy BMHA tenants go to for help, Robinson said. He's not a racist. Mascia was set up by his political opponents, Robinson said.

Robinson also is a onetime student council president at the Calasanctius High School for the gifted, who earned a scholarship to Princeton University.

He went to Princeton, but left after a few semesters and joined the Marine Corps. He later became a Buffalo police officer.

Robinson was working out of the old Precinct 12 on the city's East Side back in 1989.

He was off duty on Oct. 22 when he walked into Pete's Sake, on Fillmore, near Main, to get a hot dog in the early morning hours, around 3 a.m..

Another Buffalo police officer was working security at Pete's Sake that night.

The security officer had just ran out of the restaurant to deal with an incident on the street when Robinson arrived.

"A car backed into another car and smashed  it," Robinson recalled.

The officer was tussling with the driver. Several other people also got out of the car, Robinson said.

Robinson went over to help. He got involved in the tussle.

"All four of us were rolling on the ground," Robinson recalled.

At some point, the other off-duty officer was able to pin one of the men, Anthony Williams, 20, to the back of a vehicle. "He's putting on cuffs," Robinson said.

Robinson pulled out a handgun he was carrying.

"Everybody back. Don't move," he recalls saying.

The gun went off. Williams was shot just above the right ear, and died a few days later.

Robinson says he didn't fire the gun.

"All of a sudden, he comes up off the car," Robinson said of Williams. "His head hits the gun. The gun discharges."

The gun trigger accidentally cocked while he was tussling on the ground, so went off when Williams' head hit the gun, Robinson said.

Robinson's attorney attempted to make that argument during the trial, although some of the related testimony was ruled as speculative by the judge, and therefore not heard by the jury.

Robinson was convicted of manslaughter for reckless conduct in the death. The judge later criticized him for pulling out the gun in the first place.

He served almost 10 years in prison - maintaining his innocence the entire time.

"I never admitted guilt," Robinson said. "I've protected my innocence."

Lovejoy Councilman feeling better

As I was walking into City Hall this morning, at about 8:45 a.m., Lovejoy Councilman Rich Fontana was walking into the building, too.

It was first time Fontana has been back to work in over a month.

He was having breathing problems in mid-December. Turned out he had blot clots in his lungs that had to be removed.

He was hospitalized, then spent a week in rehab before returning home, where he continued to recuperate.

"I'm feeling good," Fontana said this morning.

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