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Trial postponed in North Tonawanda firefighter arson case

LOCKPORT - The trial of Matthew W. Jurado, the North Tonawanda man accused of setting fire to the apartment of that city's only black firefighter, has been postponed indefinitely.

The trial had been set for April 24, but defense attorney A. Joseph Catalano told Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III Friday that he needs more time for an expert witness he hired to review the crime scene photos and arson reports.

Catalano said at a March 17 court appearance that he had hired arson investigator David A. Kubiak of Tonawanda as his expert, but Friday he said Kubiak hadn't seen the 250 photos yet because Catalano's attempts to email them had resulted in the pictures being "corrupted." He said Kubiak was to pick up a thumb drive containing the photos by Monday. Catalano received the photos in January.

Assistant District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann objected, but Murphy granted a postponement of the trial.

The judge told Catalano, "It's not your client's fault that you weren't as attentive to this issue as you should have been."

Murphy also has yet to rule on the admissibility of Jurado's confession to North Tonawanda police that he entered the Oliver Street apartment of Kenneth D. Walker on Aug. 3, poured lighter fluid on the couch and lit it. That happened two days after Walker received a threatening letter with racial overtones, but no one ever has been charged with sending it.

The sides will return to court April 28 for a progress report and to select a new trial date. Murphy warned the attorneys that his crowded court calendar could mean he might have to hand off the trial to a different judge.


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