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Wilson man admits smoking pot before fatal Porter collision

A Wilson man said Friday that he was under the influence of marijuana when he caused a fatal crash last summer in Porter.

Michael A. Buchalski II

Michael A. Buchalski II, 22, of Randall Road, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and driving while impaired by drugs, in exchange for a two-year sentence - one year on each count - in the Niagara County Jail.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. scheduled sentencing for Aug. 11. The judge also revoked Buchalski's bail and sent him to jail immediately to begin serving his time for causing the death of Michael G. Willimott Jr., 38, of Niagara Falls.

Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said he cleared the plea bargain with Willimott's family.

"They're consenting to this disposition as a means getting some closure and putting this matter behind them," Brenner said.

Family members were in the courtroom but declined to be interviewed.

Buchalski was scheduled to go to trial Monday, when he would have faced a second-degree manslaughter charge that carries a 15-year maximum sentence.

Defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. said he had a chance at winning an acquittal.

"The (marijuana) levels were extremely low in his system," Faso said. "There was a chance he might walk away completely."

But Buchalski had admitted to a Niagara County sheriff's deputy that he had smoked pot about two hours before the July 22 crash, an admission Faso called "devastating."

Buchalski voluntarily gave a blood sample after being taken to Erie County Medical Center by Mercy Flight after the crash.

In a June 13 evidentiary hearing, Deputy Andrew D. Nemi testified that he talked to Buchalski at the scene of the wreck at Dickersonville and Youngstown-Wilson roads.

Nemi said Willimott's vehicle was westbound on Youngstown-Wilson Road and faced no traffic control device at the intersection. Buchalski's vehicle was northbound on Dickersonville Road and was approaching a stop sign.

"He approached the stop sign, attempted to stop and slid through," Nemi testified.

Accident reconstruction showed Buchalski was moving at about 45 mph when his vehicle T-boned Willimott's. The victim's passengers were his two children, ages 4 and 8.

Friday in court, Buchalski, wearing a dark gray suit, answered all of Kloch's yes-or-no questions in a firm, calm voice, and didn't react when Kloch ordered him to jail.

"I didn't expect that at all," Faso said later. "That's what the judge decided to do, so we'll abide by it."

Kloch said there had been research on the legality of the two-year sentence. Buchalski pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor, and normally when the two types of crimes occur in the same case, the sentences are supposed to be served simultaneously.

Brenner said it was "an iffy proposition," but Buchalski waived his right to appeal the sentence as part of the plea deal.

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