Buffalo criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria was invited by radio personality Tom Bauerle to discuss a number of legal aspects involved in the trial of Jeffrey Basil, the former manager of Molly’s Pub in Buffalo. Click here for the full interview.
Jurors will consider intent
Mr. Bauerle noted that the jury in the trial of Mr. Basil, who caused the death of Bill Sager by pushing him down the bar’s stairs, has to decide between second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment.
Mr. Cambria commented that the lead defense attorney, Joel Daniels, “started off by saying that nobody intended to kill anybody, which would be murder, and I think that makes sense and is logical.” He continued about the defense’s strategy, “Manslaughter in the first degree requires intent, and that’s the reason Joel has been harping on the alcohol.”
While intoxication is not a defense per se, it can be used to reduce the level of mental culpability. Reduced culpability generally means lesser charges. In this situation, as culpability is reduced, “you go from murder, 25 to life, to manslaughter, 25 years, to reckless manslaughter, which could be even less than that. Criminally negligent homicide is four years.”
The jury also has to deliberate on other charges, such as tampering with evidence.
Does hiding surveillance tapes show intent?
Mr. Bauerle asked what effect Mr. Basil’s alleged attempt to dispose of the videotaped recordings of the altercation would have on the jury.
“First of all, it’s going to be used to prove the crime of destruction of evidence,” Mr. Cambria noted, adding that the prosecution would also say that it “proves a consciousness that he did something wrong . . . that it really is an admission of guilt.”
What the jury will decide
Responding to a comment from Mr. Cambria that no one could say that Mr. Basil intended to kill Mr. Sager, Mr. Bauerle disagreed. “My understanding is Sager did not touch anything [after he was launched down the stairs] on the ground until his head hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs, and that is corroborated by the massive amount of injuries to the skull.”
“Right,” Mr. Cambria responded, “but did Basil come over and say ‘I’m going to kill this guy so I’ll launch him down the stairs,’ or was it ‘I’m gonna do something to this guy?’”
Mr. Cambria, a member of Lipsitz Green’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, also advises clients on constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense.