Judge Orders Snowvember 911 Tapes Released

A judge has ordered New York State Police to turn over 911 tapes that may contain evidence related to the death of a man during the Snowvember storm. The victim’s family filed a lawsuit against the police and against Erie County regarding his death and the amount of time it took for patrols to find and assist him. WGRZ asked defense attorney Barry Covert for his legal analysis of the issue. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.

Tapes in Snowvember death to be released

After months of legal battles, WGRZ reports that a judge has ordered communication between State Police and Erie County 911 relating to the death of Donald Abate should be released. The county has previously fought the release of these tapes, saying the calls would “pose a security risk and a detriment to the law enforcement operations of the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.” According to WGRZ, Abate’s family already has calls from just the county 911 operators.

Patrols found man too late

Abate’s car got stuck in Alden on the first night of the Snowvember storm. According to WGRZ, he reported that he was in trouble at 3:55am and State Police were en route six hours later. The next entry in the dispatch log, made four hours after that, said, “Patrol will check back later.” Police say they did go back, but were unable to find Abate, who was discovered dead in his car the next day. WGRZ reports that Abate’s family also claims that AAA tried to respond to his calls for help, but that they were turned away by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and/or the State Police.

When asked to comment on AAA being turned around, Barry Covert told WGRZ that there is a valid argument for sending crews away. “Emergency vehicles were being told to turn around and get off the streets, it’s too dangerous for you to be out there. And you can absolutely see why if it’s a whiteout and that much snow is coming down.”

WGRZ reports that State Police have three weeks to comply and turn over the recordings.

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert, a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.