Long Story Short: Law and disorder

5/21/18



Illustration by JP Thimot

It was a big week for law and order in Buffalo. Here are some true crime stories in descending order of importance.

 

We three Kingsmen

Three motorcycle club members were found guilty on multiple counts of murder and racketeering. National Kingsmen president, David Pirk, was convicted of ordering Andre Jenkins to execute two rival members behind the gang’s North Tonawanda clubhouse. Timothy Enix was found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy involving weapons and drugs. Jenkins was convicted of murder (for the second time, this time in federal court). Pirk was the kingpin of an outlaw syndicate involving drugs, guns, and sundry violence. He ratcheted-up Kingsmen crime involvement, pushing to make it a “one-percent” club. The expression refers to the small fraction of biker clubs that operate as criminal organizations, while the other ninety-nine percent are law-abiding citizens who only look scary. Multiple 2016 raids on Kingsmen clubhouses in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport turned up a stash of weapons, serving as a warning to Buffalo citizens to be careful when they stray outside city limits!

 

Pirk and Jenkins will serve life sentences. Enix faces at least thirty years in prison. Seventeen more regional club officers and members have been indicted on a variety of criminal charges. "With this verdict, the ringleaders of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club have been exposed as the killers, drug dealers, mysogynists, and gun-toting thugs they really are," said United States Attorney James Kennedy.

 

Bad omen for Ciminelli

LPCiminelli vice president Kevin Schuler changed his plea to guilty in wire fraud and conspiracy charges in a Manhattan federal court. Schuler was charged with bribing the state consultant overseeing the “Buffalo Billion” to ensure the company would receive “preferred developer” status for the $750 million-dollar RiverBend factory. More serious charges were dismissed, and Schuler is now cooperating with federal prosecutors. Company President Louis Ciminelli and LPCiminelli official Michael Laipple are also accused “Buffalo Billion” conspirators. Their trial is set for June 11, and Schuler could testify in those trials. Ciminelli’s lawyer says they’re not worried.  Which means they’re worried. According to the New York Post, the Buffalo Billion has generated “a whole mountain of corruption." Time will tell if Louis Ciminelli is king of the mountain.

 

Never post a threat—and then confirm it

Buffalo resident Arthur Jordan pled guilty to making threats against police on Facebook.  “Let’s Start Killin Police Lets See How Dey Like It,” went the offending message. Most people would stand a chance of beating such a charge. They might claim that the post wasn’t meant as a serious threat, that they were just blowing off steam. But when Jordan was arrested, he had an illegal hand gun in his possession (for which he has already been convicted). Then prosecutors say Jordan admitted that he thought killing police just might land him on national TV. Unfortunately, as too often happens, arresting officers conducted an illegal search and then maced and punched Jordan while he was handcuffed. So, much of the prosecutor’s evidence was thrown out by two judges. But still, you don’t do yourself any good by telling authorities, “I would have been all over the news if I would’ve done what I was thinking about” which is what Jordan said, according to court papers, “I should have waited at the door for y’all.”

 

Something about Mary

Finally, eighteen-year-old Kalil Colbert of Buffalo was charged with third-degree criminal mischief, first-degree aggravated harassment, and second-degree aggravated harassment for beating a statue of Mary (mom of Jesus) with a baseball bat, outside an East Side Catholic church. Then he is alleged to have left an anti-Catholic note in the parking lot—making the statue assault a hate crime. Apparently, Colbert thinks Catholics should stop worshiping Mary, and focus instead on God (as he presumably does). The note referred to Catholicism as a “man-made religion.”  Wait, aren’t they all?

 

 

The Pegulas buy a house

You may be wondering how Kim Pegula can serve as president of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres while living in Boca Raton, Florida, now that she’s replaced Russ Brandon in that roll. Well, she can’t, actually, so the Pegulas bought a fifty-seven-acre estate in Aurora (the town that includes East Aurora). And because Americans are obsessed with the lifestyles of the rich and famous, this was big news locally.

 

The single-family Mill Road mansion the couple purchased cost a cool $2.5 million dollars. It’s an 11,159-square-foot house with five bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus a patio, and attached four-car garage. And trees, lots of trees, as you can see from this aerial view of the Pegulas’ new house. Zillow “zestimated” the house at $3,005,311 dollars, so the Pegulas shaved a half-mil off that price. The previous owner, Richard E. Garman, who made his fortune as the owner of Buffalo Crushed Stone, died last summer at age eighty-six, in the very home the Pegulas now own.

 

In addition to their Bills/Sabres ownership, Kim and Terry Pegula have a variety of other businesses, including a country music recording label, a sports representation company, and several smaller sports teams. They developed hockey-themed HarborCenter and are currently converting the former Hi-Temp Fabrication building into a mixed-use complex that will include Labatt USA headquarters and the John Labatt House brewpub. They’re truly local heroes.

 

Terry Pegula made the bulk of his fortune drilling for oil and gas, a business he sold for $4.7 billion dollars eight years ago.

 

The other Pegula story

Buffalo’s weekly newspaper, The Public, reports that Terry Pegula has been back in the fracking business for three years, with a new company called JKLM Energy. The wells are located near Coudersport, Pennsylvania, and apparently, they’ve racked-up “more violations of state regulations per active well than any operator in the state in recent years,” according to sources quoted by The Public. And the second worst offender wasn’t even close. Watchdog groups say this is pretty typical for Pegula’s fracking businesses, which have a regulatory record described as “mediocre at best.”

 

The article also makes clear that Pegula has fans in Coudersport. He’s a major employer, pays substantial taxes, and donates generously to charity. But the list of violations is long. One incident resulted in drinking-well-water contamination, and a big fine. The Iroquois Confederacy is also keeping an eye on JKLM activities. In the Public article, Nicholas Snow, chief Iroquois federal marshal had this ominous warning for Pegula: “If you continue your very irresponsible behavior with these very dangerous chemicals and threaten the future generations of not only our people, but your own people, we will be waiting for you.”

 

The takeaway:

The Pegulas make great sports team owners and community investors. But Terry Pegula’s record for following state environmental protection regulations seems pretty shaky. Winning sports teams trump environmental damage as a legacy any day. And speaking of Trump, if Pegula had not outbid the Donald to buy the Buffalo Bills, we might all be wearing “Make Buffalo Great Again” hats. So, the Pegulas retain hero status, but let’s hope Terry can get his fracking act together.

 

 

School news

Budgets

It was budget voting time for school districts throughout Western New York last Tuesday, and nearly all Niagara and Erie county district budgets passed. Eden Central, which was seeking to go over its tax cap, was the only exception. Schools wanting to raise taxes beyond two-percent, must gain sixty-percent approval. Eden can now put another budget up for a vote or accept a zero-increase contingency budget. If they lose a second time, the contingency budget kicks in. Imagine if every aspect of the government had to run its budget by the public for approval, and people had to vote whether to raise their own taxes. School budget votes are another way the government keeps impoverished districts underfunded, while assuring that affluent districts have all they need. 

 

Kaleida out

In a close vote last Wednesday, the Buffalo Board of Education replaced Kaleida school nurses with a new provider, Supplemental Health Care. The move was characterized by Kaleida’s chief of staff, Michael Hughes, as a cost-cutting measure. But Buffalo Superintendent Kriner Cash says it’s not about money; the new provider is a “seasoned organization” that will do a fine job. Thirteen bids were considered, but Kaleida wasn’t among them, because their bid was submitted sixteen minutes late. Members of the public and Kaleida nurses made impassioned pleas to retain the status quo. But it was to no avail.

 

Another one bites the dust

Buffalo board member Catherine Flanagan-Priore didn’t like the decision to part ways with Kaleida after thirteen years. Though she replaced ousted board member Carl Paladino just nine months ago, she abruptly resigned last week after a contentious board meeting in which the contract for Supplemental Health Care was approved. Flanagan-Priore, a Kaleida employee, recused herself from the nursing contract discussion and vote, but came prepared with a resignation letter. Flanagan-Priore had a variety of concerns over how the district had handled the mater. But it’s hard not to suspect that some sour grapes were involved. Now the remaining board members will have to select a new Park District board member by June 16. And the process of bringing someone new up to speed will begin again.

 

 

Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

 

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