Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. Announces New Leadership Team

Modified: February 1, 2016 12:52pm

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Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. today announced a series of new appointments and promotions in the District Attorney’s office, among them Erie County’s first ever female First Assistant District Attorney and first female Chief of Homicide.

"Serving the people of Erie County as Acting District Attorney is a solemn responsibility and I pledge to work each and every day to make our county safer and more secure,” said Flaherty. "As a career prosecutor, I never expected to have my name on the door but my experience in the office will be critical in reshaping it to better serve the public interest. I look forward to working with our partners in government to help restore the people’s trust in the institutions that exist to serve their interests."

In preparation for the transition, Flaherty and his team have conducted a top to bottom review of the Office of District Attorney. Flaherty has interviewed members of the office staff, met with District Attorneys from other parts of the state, and researched best practices in offices around the country. A number of new initiatives will be announced in the weeks ahead, including a full review of closed cases in which the office has previously declined to act.

New initiatives include:

- The creation of the County’s first Public Integrity Unit to crack down on public corruption and help restore the people’s trust in government.

 - A stand-alone Narcotics Unit to fight the devastating heroin epidemic that is hurting far too many Erie County families.

 - A renewed effort to crack down on domestic violence, with zero tolerance for crime that rips apart families.

Today’s announcement also included the introduction of a new leadership team.

“In my nearly 20 year career in the Erie County District Attorney’s office, I’ve had the privilege of working with the finest and brightest professionals in the field. The breadth of experience and the caliber of professionalism the individuals announced today bring to this office continue to make the Erie County DA’s office one of the finest in the State,” said Acting District Attorney Michael Flaherty. “I welcome this new leadership team and look forward to continuing our efforts to make Erie County a safe and just place to live and work.”

Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. made the following appointments:

Donna A. Milling was named the first female First Assistant District Attorney and Chief Ethics Officer, who will serve as District Attorney in Flaherty’s absence. Mrs. Milling has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Erie County District Attorney’s office for 29 years. Since 2009, she served as Chief of the Appeals Bureau where she conducted legal research, oral argument, preparation of legal briefs to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York State Court of Appeals, United States District Court for the Western District of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, preparation of response to federal Writs of Habeas Corpus, Freedom of Information requests, post-verdict motions and pre-trial motions on Erie County’s first capital prosecution -- People v Jonathan Parker, 304 AD2d 146 (4th Dept. 2003), lv denied 100 NY2d 585. She also assisted in responding to a point filed in the capital appeals of People v James Cahill, 2 NY3d 14 (2003) and People v Darrel Harris, 98 NY2d 452 (2002).

Since 2011, she served as Senior Legal Counsel where she advised the District Attorney on legal issues. She also supervised a five attorney bureau responsible for assigning and editing attorneys’ work product; two to three attorneys assigned to the Training Bureau in the art of appellate advocacy; and SUNY at Buffalo extern law students assigned to the Appeals Bureau each semester.

Mrs. Milling previously served on the Erie County District Attorney’s Office Grand Jury Bureau from 1989-1990 where she analyzed and prepared cases for grand jury presentment. From 1987-1989 she served on the Buffalo City Court Bureau where she investigated and prosecuted misdemeanors, negotiated pleas, screened felony cases, managed high volume case load.

Mrs. Milling holds a Bachelor of Arts from Pace University and Juris Doctor Degree from the SUNY at Buffalo. She is a lecturer for the New York Prosecutors Training Institute. In 2014, she received the Prosecutor of the Year, Appellate Advocacy Award.

This award is the highest recognition given to a prosecutor from the New York Prosecutors Training Institute.

Christopher J. Belling was named Chief Trial Counsel. In this position Mr. Belling supervises all major trials conducted by Assistant District Attorneys in Erie County. He also maintains both an investigative and trial caseload of his own.

From 2007 to 2010 Mr. Belling was an attorney at the New York Prosecutors Training Institute Inc. (NYPTI) in Albany, New York. In that position Mr. Belling served as a consultant to the 62 District Attorneys in the State of New York and their staffs. He served as a consultant, Special Counsel to the District Attorney, or “Special District Attorney” in several New York counties, assisting the elected District Attorney trying murder cases in Chenango, Tioga, and St. Lawrence counties.

In the Erie County District Attorney’s Office from 1975 to 2007, and 2010 to the present, he has tried many high profile cases, including the prosecution of Jeffrey Basil for the homicide of Airman William Sager, Jr. at Molly’s Pub in 2014, the prosecution of Terrol Massey and Lynn Larkin for the murder for hire of Antoinette Larkin in 2006, and many other homicide cases. During his first 32 years at the Erie County District Attorney’s Office he served as Deputy District Attorney in charge of investigations and as Chief of the Homicide, City Court, Major Offense Prosecution and Felony Trial Bureaus at various times. Mr. Belling has prosecuted hundreds of cases, mostly homicides, before juries, during his career as a prosecutor.

Mr. Belling holds a Bachelor’s Degree and a Juris Doctor Degree from the SUNY at Buffalo. He has served on the faculty of the UB Law School and Medaille College and regularly teaches prosecutors from New York and other states for NYPTI and has served as faculty for the National College of District Attorneys at the National Advocacy Center at the University of South Carolina. He also trains police officers, forensic scientists, emergency medical service providers and medical and dental personnel in various forensic matters. He was one of the founders of and a regular presenter, at the Erie County District Attorney’s CLE Program.

Mr. Belling is a charter member of the Erie County Child Fatality Review Committee. He is a member of the Bar Association of Erie County and is past chair of the Criminal Law Committee.

Colleen Curtin Gable was named the first female Chief of Homicide. Mrs. Gable was hired in September 1992 by the legendary New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. She left New York County in November 1999 and was appointed an Assistant District Attorney in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office under DA Frank Clark. From there, Mrs. Gable prosecuted sexual assault, child abuse, and other felony cases, and has served as a supervisor in several bureaus. In 2009, Gable was assigned to the Homicide Bureau. In that capacity, she has handled many high-profile cases, including the horrific murder of Aasiya Zubair Hassan in Orchard Park.

Mrs. Gable is a graduate of Cornell University and Boston College Law School. In addition to New York State, she is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts and in

federal court in the Western District of New York. She is a lecturer for the New York State Prosecutors Training Institute and the Erie County Central Police Services Law Enforcement Academy.

Paul E. Bonanno was named Chief, Special Investigations Bureau/ Public Integrity Unit. Mr. Bonanno has served as Assistant District Attorney in Erie County since 2006. Previously, Mr. Bonanno served as Special Assistant District Attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to that he worked for six years in private practice in Boston.

Mr. Bonanno holds a Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Geneseo and a Juris Doctor Degree from Cornell Law School.

During Mr. Bonanno’s time at the District Attorney’s Office, he has been assigned as a Chief to the Financial Crimes Bureau and the Felony Trials Bureau. He prosecuted many homicide cases including assisting in the prosecution of Muzzammil Hassan, the horrific beheading murder of Aasiya Zubair Hassan in Orchard Park

Mara L. McCabe was named Chief, Buffalo City Court Bureau. Mrs. McCabe has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office for ten years. Mrs. McCabe obtained her Juris Doctorate degree from the SUNY at Buffalo in 2003 and her undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware. She has worked in the Buffalo City Court Bureau and Justice Courts Bureau, but has spent the balance of her career within the Felony Trials Bureau investigating and prosecuting violent and other felony offenses, and within the Special Victims Bureau handling the prosecution of sexual offenses and crimes against children. Mrs. McCabe has successfully served as co-counsel in the homicide prosecutions of Harrell Bonner, Kevin Allen and Rickie Scott and most recently in the burglary and robbery convictions of three men who forcibly entered St. Ambrose rectory in South Buffalo.

Justin T. Wallens was named Chief, Animal Cruelty Unit. Mr. Wallens is a career prosecutor who has served as an Assistant District Attorney in Erie County for the past 13 years. Mr. Wallens received both his undergraduate degree in biology, and his law degree from the SUNY at Buffalo.

Mr. Wallens has prosecuted a wide variety of cases including; homicides, hundreds of violent crimes, crimes against animals, domestic abuse, and financial crimes. Mr. Wallens has demonstrated his skill in the courtroom as a trial attorney, in Supreme and County Court, achieving many felony convictions after jury trials.

Mr. Wallens successfully convicted City of Buffalo Cell Block Officer Shanon Richardson of felony dogfighting and animal cruelty. Richardson was training pit bulls for the blood sport of dogfighting and was sentenced to three to eight years in state prison for his conduct. In another trial, Mr. Wallens convicted career felon Jonathan Archibald of assault for disfiguring his victim’s face with a box cutter. Mr. Wallens persuaded the court to make the rare finding, that due to his lengthy criminal history and current

conduct Archibald should be found a discretionary persistent offender. Archibald was taken off the street and sentenced to 12 years to life.

Mr. Wallens has worked with the Erie County SPCA extensively over the past two years assisting to reestablish a task force composed of local and state agencies to combat Erie County’s persistent dogfighting problem. These efforts have resulted in increased arrests and convictions with respect to dogfighting.

In his time as a prosecutor in the Special Investigations Bureau, Mr. Wallens successfully prosecuted numerous conmen including former attorney Stephen Wisniewski. After being disbarred as an attorney, Wisniewski turned to the contracting business where he swindled numerous customers out of their life savings. Wisniewski was convicted of Grand Larceny and sent to prison for his crimes.

Mr. Wallens supervised the Motor Vehicle Theft and Insurance Fraud Prosecution grant for nearly three years. He coordinated all law enforcement agencies in Erie County associated with this program to investigate and prosecute complex fraud and theft cases. He assisted to secure funding for the continuation of the award by assisting to write the grant proposal each year and by reporting results in person to the MVTIF Board in Albany. While in that position, he developed presentations and gave lectures at the New York State Prosecutors Training Institute on auto theft and fraud investigation.

Lynette M. Reda was named Chief, Domestic Violence Bureau. Ms. Reda attended College at University of Denver, American University in Washington D.C. then graduated from SUNY at Buffalo with a B. A. in Psychology. She attended Law School at Pepperdine in Malibu California; upon graduation was hired by the Los Angeles Public Defenders Office, in Downtown Los Angeles for 8 years, until she was appointed as an Assistant Erie County District Attorney in November 1994. She prosecuted multiple sexual assault cases, including: Dionte Cooper, a serial rapist in the Elmwood Village last Summer; Michael Kabiona (2014), Congolese political refugee who began raping a young victim over a 2 year period within months of entering the United States; Samuel Muscarella (2011) who brutally raped a young woman in Alden; and Trameil Green (2010), a serial rapist that raped three women on Buffalo’s West Side.

Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. made the following additional appointments:

Amy C. Hughes will continue to serve as Chief for Administration

Rosanne E. Johnson will continue to serve as Chief, Special Victims Bureau

Michael P. Felicetta was named Chief, Tactical Prosecution Unit

Michael J. Hillery was named Chief, Appeals Bureau

Paul J. Glascott will continue to serve as Chief, Felony Trials Bureau

Rachel L. Newton was named Chief, Felony Trial Bureau

John G. Schoemick was named Chief, Felony Trials Bureau

Kelley A. Omel will continue to serve as Chief, Vehicular Crimes Bureau

Patrick B. Shanahan was named Chief, Community Prosecution Unit

Brian P. McNamara will continue to serve as Chief, Justice Courts Bureau

Amy J. Goldstein will continue to serve as Chief, Grand Jury Bureau

Jeffrey T. Ricketts will continue to serve as Program Coordinator, Victim/Witness Assistance Bureau

Joseph Riga will continue to serve as Chief, Confidential Criminal Investigator.

Mark J. Vaughn will continue to serve as Deputy Chief, Confidential Criminal Investigator

Paul Parisi was named Director of Training

Tina E. Pilkey, will continue to serve as Director, Domestic Violence Survivor Services