WBEN Seeks Reaction From Paul Cambria on Basil-Trial Murder Verdict

WBEN again sought out well-known Buffalo criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria for his opinion on the trial of Jeffrey Basil, the former manager of Molly’s Pub who caused the death of Air National Guardsman Bill Sager by pushing him down the bar’s stairs. Paul joined the radio show’s hosts to discuss the State Supreme Court’s jury’s verdict of second-degree murder and evidence tampering.

Click here for the full interview on the second-degree murder verdict for Jeffrey Basil.

The jury’s likely reasoning

Mr. Cambria said the jury was probably swayed by a combination of factors, including that Mr. Sager was “a military person [and] really wasn’t aggressive in any way according to the evidence.” He also speculated that the jury would have factored in “Basil actually moving him over to the staircase and then pushing him down.”

“Still,” Mr. Cambria continued, “I think there’s a major legal issue that has to be resolved by the appellate division on the sufficiency of the evidence to support intentional murder.”

Reactions from the legal community

Asked if his fellow lawyers in Western New York were stunned by the verdict, Mr. Cambria said, “I don’t know about stunned because . . . we all realize that juries do interesting things, but surprised I think is a good way to put it. That was the reaction yesterday up and down the halls in my law firm.”

“I said all along I didn’t think that anybody intended to kill anybody there,” Mr. Cambria noted about Mr. Basil’s likely motivation, speculating he “intended to do something to him and push him and figured that he’d get hurt.” He continued, “But to think that the stairway would be the way to cause a death seems a little bit out there.”

The defense’s reaction

After the jury’s verdict was read in court, Joel Daniels, Mr. Basil’s lead attorney, said he accepts the verdict but will file an appeal.

Mr. Cambria noted, “What good would it do to say negative things about juries? You’re going to have other juries going forward. You have to accept the system the way it is and take the next step.”

Scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, Mr. Basil faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

Mr. Cambria is recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent attorneys. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional law, First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense. He is a senior partner in the firm’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area.