The two Wilson High School coaches who faced charges that were later dropped in the baseball hazing case have filed notice they intend to sue the City of Lockport and one of its police officers for allegedly contributing to their arrest.
Coaches Thomas J. Baia and William M. Atlas assert in a notice of claim served on the city Wednesday that Officer Michael Stover “contributed to the unlawful arrest, detention, prosecution and/or malicious prosecution.”
The coaches were charged by state police with endangering the welfare of a child, on the theory that they could or should have stopped alleged assaults on junior varsity players by varsity players on the team bus twice in April 2008.
The case originally was described by state police as aggravated sexual abuse, but the Niagara County district attorney’s office later dropped that felony charge.
Three varsity players were arrested. In July, two were acquitted in a nonjury trial before Wilson Town Judge George R. Berger that was closed to the public because of the players’ ages. The third pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was granted youthful offender status.
The charges against the coaches were dropped July 6, the day their trial was to have begun. District Attorney Michael J. Violante, as well as Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco, who prosecuted the case, never explained that decision.
A spokesman for the two coaches said Stover gave a deposition in the case.
“Mike Stover had a problem with a deposition,” said Mike Paul, spokesman for Atlas and Baia. He wouldn’t say to whom Stover gave a deposition or why he would have been involved in the case.
But The Buffalo News learned that Stover is the boyfriend of a woman whose son allegedly was the victim of hazing on the Wilson baseball team in 2007, the year before the coaches were charged.
The prosecution tried to introduce evidence of alleged hazing incidents on the Wilson baseball team before 2008, but Berger refused to allow it.
“I think Mike was involved to some degree as a witness,” Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said. “Whatever his involvement was, it was as a civilian, not as an employee of the Police Department.”
Zucco, the prosecutor, at first declined comment on whether Stover was involved, but he did respond when told of the notice of claim.
“That’s ridiculous. A lot of people were witnesses in the case,” he said. “If they’re going to sue them all, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Eggert said he was “flabbergasted” by the notice of claim because his department played no role in the hazing case.
Paul said that although the State Police led the investigation, other police agencies were involved in the case in its early stages.
If so, Eggert said, Lockport wasn’t among them. “We have no investigative interest in this,” he said. “We supplied no investigative support. We were never invited, consulted, anything.”
Lockport Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano also denied Lockport police played any role in the Wilson hazing investigation.
Stover could not be reached for comment Thursday.
If I were a gambling man, I’d say these two coaches should be thrilled that they are no longer implicated in this case and simply turn and run away. I’ll wager if an investigation were to take place, we’d find that these two adult men could have certainly stopped the sexual assault on a child. I’ll bet further that investigations would surely turn up what is hinted at in this article…that several incidents have taken place under the “leadership” of this coaching staff.
It is shameful that our current judicial system warrants quick settlements in the place of true justice. It is even more sickening that it allows for mindless, arrogant a-holes like these coaches not only to relinquish any responsibility for their actions, but to turn around and sue those who are simply looking for the truth.
When does this BS end?
Coach Tony. Sorry, but you are way off on this one! The Wilson coaches are totally innocent here. Law enforcement is the problem in this case and as more facts come out in the future, that will be made clear. Some times cops and D.A.s jump to conclusions with bias and without proper evidence and damage reputations and lives in the process. As a result, law enforcement, like us all, must deal with the consequences of their actions. Sad you jump to a quick and incorrect conclusion without knowing the facts.
I think we all need to remember that someone being found “not guilty” doesn’t mean that person is “innocent”
While I agree that no one should rush to judgment without all the facts, I am quite clear of at least one fact: A kid died under the supervision, or lack thereof, of this coach and he didn’t even have the common decency to apologize nor to take even the slightest bit of responsibility for his actions. Can anyone even remotely argue that this kid being pushed in that level of heat by the coach had NOTHING to do with his death?
C’mon…are you serious?
If anything in this case, the coach received the benefit from the inadequacies of the judicial system. I would wager that not one person involved in this case believes that the coach was “innocent”. It’s simply a case where enough doubt was cast to allow this deadbeat to walk away scott free and the poor parents of this kid are going to be forever left with an empty feeling inside because of this coward’s refusal to take accountability for his part in this kid’s death.
I think we all need to remember that anyone can accuse any one of anything at any time and just because you are accused of something doesn’t mean it is the truth. Fact of the matter is, in this case there is NO history of hazing AND there was NO proof an any physical injury AT ALL. No coach received the benefit of anything and you are WAY off the mark. Why do you think the coaches are going back at the people that tried to frame them? To make sure it doesn’t happen to others in the future. They certainly could walk away from this and their lives might get back to normal, but the are sticking their necks out and letting guys like you hide behind your keyboards and judge them without the facts to benefit the next guy who is about to be accused of something they didn’t do. I say BRAVO to them!
And no one died here. You are getting your cases completely confused!
you are absolutely right that I was thinking of another scenario. However, you are not correct when you say there was no history of hazing. I will quote from the article
“The prosecution tried to introduce evidence of alleged hazing incidents on the Wilson baseball team before 2008, but Berger refused to allow it.”
Refusing to allow the evidence doesn’t mean there is none. I’m not saying whether or not there was but where there’s smoke there’s fire.
besides, one of the accused boys pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and that’s where my anger comes from. no true justice was done here andit’s a shame.
My apologies for confusing two seperate issues here.
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