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Phil Fairbanks

Phil Fairbanks covers federal courts and criminal justice issues and occasionally veers off into the world of refugees, human traffickers and streets gangs.


Crime

Donald J. Silmon doesn't deny owning a BB gun. He also doesn't deny being at the wheel of a car when his boyhood friend fired into a crowd of people in Buffalo. Silmon, a key witness in the trial of two police officers accused of using excessive force, found himself Friday in the position of having to explain his own actions that May night nine years ago. Under cr…

Local News

West Seneca native Aimee Molloy, author of a New York Times best seller, will return to her hometown for a speaking event Saturday. Molloy, who now lives in Brooklyn, will appear at the West Seneca Public Library and Community Center, 1300 Union Road, at 1 p.m to talk about her latest novel, "The Perfect Mother," a Times best-seller this year. The book, hailed by Par…

Crime

Donald Silmon, the man who claims a Buffalo police officer shot him with a BB gun when he was a teenager, failed to appear for his second day of testimony Thursday. Prosecutors would not comment on why Silmon was absent, but one courthouse source said he may have become ill after Wednesday's court appearance. Silmon is one of the key witness in the prosecution of Det…

Crime

Two years ago, Arthur Jordan's Facebook posts made headlines. They appeared in the midst of a series of police shootings involving African-American men across the country, and it was clear Jordan, a 24-year old black man from Buffalo, wanted to speak out. His messages, posted on Facebook in May of 2016, included one with the threat, "Let’s Start Killin Police Lets Se…

Buffalo

On a rainy summer day nine years later, Donald J. Silmon sat in a downtown courtroom and recounted the night a Buffalo police officer grabbed him by the neck, choked him and slammed him head first onto the hood of a car. It was a night, Silmon told a federal court jury Wednesday, that ended with another police officer shooting him in the leg with a BB gun, and a third o…

Buffalo

Even now, nine years later, the accounts differ on what happened to Donald J. Silmon while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a Buffalo police car. Did Detective Raymond Krug shoot the teenager with a BB gun? And did Officer Joseph Wendel egg Krug on? Now in his 20s, Silmon will be the key witness in a civil rights trial that centers around allegations that Kru…

Featured

Just two days after President Trump described the country as the laughing stock of the world because of what he considers weak immigration laws, seven federal judges gathered Thursday in a Buffalo courtroom to celebrate the region's rich immigrant history. There was no mention of the immigration debate raging across the country, but the judges, appearing together for th…

Crime

A voicemail message promising an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" led to the arrest Wednesday of a Grand Island man. Carlos Bayon, 63, is accused of making threats against two out-of-state congressmen, one in Louisiana, the other in Washington, and prosecutors believe his motive may be rooted in the national debate over immigration. U.S. Attorney James P. Kenned…

Local News

Like thousands of other moms, Julie Fletcher gave her kids ginger ale for an upset stomach. Even then, the soothing effects of ginger root were well-known. Years later, the Allegany County mom says she discovered that, despite advertising to the contrary, there is very little ginger in Canada Dry's ginger ale. Instead, she found carbonated water and high fructose …

Crime

On a warm summer morning in the Fruit Belt, the pleas for help just kept on coming. But there was one, from a woman who knew the grandmother and grandson killed on Grape Street earlier this month, that caused people to stop and listen. "The night she was shot, everyone turned into Stevie Wonder," the woman said looking out at the packed house inside First Centennial …

Crime

A few months ago, Clare Bronfman was the accuser, the victim. Today, the Seagram's liquor heir is in federal custody facing criminal charges. Bronfman, a key witness in the original prosecution of Niagara Falls developer Frank Parlato Jr., was arrested Tuesday and charged with taking part in a criminal conspiracy that involved sex trafficking, identity theft and mone…

Crime

With all the talk about false testimony and wrongful convictions, Aaron Jackson thinks people are forgetting about the real victim from that bloody night 27 years ago. He understands why Valentino Dixon wants an early release from prison – "inmates do what he's doing everyday" – but says his brother Torriano is the one people need to remember. Only 17 at the time, To…

Featured

On a warm summer day two decades after he retired, Gerald Noznisky sat with hundreds of other Bethlehem Steel retirees, wondering if their work at the steel-making giant will lead to illness, even death. More than 200 of them came to Lucarelli's Banquet Hall in Lackawanna this week, some armed with questions about their cancer or other illness, others just wondering wha…

Crime

NEW YORK – Defense lawyer Paul Shechtman says there is one thing he and prosecutors in the Buffalo Billion trial can agree on – Kevin Schuler's testimony was clear and irrefutable. Well, almost. Using Schuler's own words, testimony from his time on the witness stand, Shechtman suggested Tuesday that the former LPCiminelli executive was more of a witness for his clien…