Niagara County DWI Controversy

Police body camera footage released on Friday shows new information in the case of a seemingly routine traffic stop that occurred in November of 2016. The recording appears to show local attorney Robert Winter asking if there was anything that could be done regarding the stop and subsequent arrest of his 21-year-old daughter Rachel. Criminal defense attorney Barry Covert spoke to WGRZ about the case. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.

Call recorded on police body camera

According to WGRZ, Rachel Winter was pulled over on Thanksgiving morning in 2016 after an officer noticed that she was driving over the center lane without her headlights on. A conversation between the officer and Robert Winter, who is the former Chief Homicide Prosecutor in Niagara County and the current clerk to New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Kloch, was captured on the officer’s body camera microphone. In the conversation, Mr. Winter identified himself and his former position in the DA’s office and asked, “Is there any way to not have this happen? Is there anything we can do?”

WGRZ asked Mr. Covert if this seemed like Winter was attempting to use his influence and position in the court system in order to get the charges against his daughter dismissed. “No, I think that’s just a normal conversation,” Mr. Covert said. “First of all, he’s an 18-year district attorney of the highest integrity and now he works in the court system. He’s not going to do anything that he thinks is improper.”

Charges dismissed

WGRZ reports that Rachel Winter was charged with reckless driving and, in April 2017, she was charged with DWI. Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case and decided to dismiss the charges after multiple experts reviewed the body camera video and found the evidence inconclusive regarding whether or not Winter was legally intoxicated. Cardone says that he made the decision based on this evidence and not based on Winter’s family connections. Mr. Covert told WGRZ that considering the circumstances of the call is important and that Winter’s daughter called him asking for advice about whether to take the chemical test.

Mr. Covert explained to WGRZ that Mr. Winter “didn’t demand anything. He didn’t impose himself on the officer. He just simply said, ‘Has she really already been charged? I don’t agree with that. Is there something we can do about it?’ And it turns out he was correct.”

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He 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.