MAYVILLE -A well-placed source within Chautauqua County Government who spoke on the condition of anonymity told WNY News Now in September of 2017 that they can’t remember a time when the District Attorney’s Office mishandled several big cases in one calendar year.
The source provided to WNY News Now several examples of how law enforcement officers across the county are losing faith in Patrick Swanson’s ability to effectively prosecute high profile cases.
Since then, several police officers and officials have confirmed their discontent for the job the prosecutor’s office is doing.
The news of discontent with Swanson’s performance came less than a day after his office reached a plea deal with Keith Robbins, a Jamestown man who was charged in connection with the November 2016 shooting death of his estranged wife, Shari, in a parking lot near her job.
Robbins was originally arrested and charged with second-degree murder, but was plead down to first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced in December to 25 years in prison, but is eligible for parole in 2038. Robbins is currently held in Auburn Correctional Facility.
The source said Swanson’s woes started in 2016 after an alleged kidnapper was arrested in the North County.
Samuel Saeli was arrested by Fredonia Police and charged with kidnapping an autistic child from the Fredonia WalMart on Route 60.
“Patrick Swanson’s Assistant District Attorney was present when Saeli turned himself in for this kidnapping. His ADA was present when they scheduled the arraignment but didn’t show up for the arraignment, which happened within a few hours,” the source said.
According to the source, Saeli was released from Chautauqua County’s custody but was later picked up by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on an outstanding probation warrant.
“If his ADA would’ve been there, he (Saeli) would’ve never been let out of jail in the first place. His ADA didn’t show up and Swanson was nowhere to be found,” the source said.
The source said that Swanson tried to defend Saeli’s release by blaming the judge. “If the ADA would’ve been there, the judge would’ve had no choice,” said the source.
Saeli’s case resulted in a hung jury in September 2017. A new trial is scheduled to start this May, according to the Court Clerk’s Office.
WNYNewsNow has attempted to reach Swanson for comment in regards to the Saeli case, but he was unavailable. So far, in 2018, our organization has attempted to reach Swanson eleven times. Every time, we’ve been told he’s “unavailable”, not, “He’s in court.”
Our source pointed out that Swanson’s inability to prosecute high profile cases was on full display in August during the Traiquane Nance shooting trial.
“The victim was scheduled to come into the DA’s office during the first day of jury selection. At some he decided he needed to have a cigarette. He went outside and stood by the front door and questioned people as they were walking in asking if they were jurors and, if they said yes, he proceeded to tell them his version of the events of the case,” the source said.
“So one of the ADA’s finally realizes this guy hasn’t been back in a while and goes out looking for him,” they added.
Swanson indicated that the source’s information may have been wrong.
“The indication made to the court by a juror was that there was a conversation, and that’s something the court worries about,” Swanson said. “It was unfortunate that witness did that, but I spoke to that witness, and I don’t expect that to happen again.”
Swanson said it was possible that those jurors could be turned into witnesses, when asked by WNYNewsNow.
“Feasibly. If the defense lawyer would want to call them for trial, sure, it would be,” Swanson said. “I don’t suspect this particular witness would’ve said anything that would’ve been different from what he told us, but that was what the concern for the court was.”