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The Retrial of Nate Buckley

Nate Buckley is subdued by NFTA police during an peace march on April 8, 2011. (photo by Christina Cooke)

The Erie County District Attorney’s office, so shy of resources that it routinely refuses to pursue election law violations, on Tuesday returned to court to prosecute Nate Buckley, the antiwar protester who was pepper-sprayed by NFTA police after they’d restrained him during a demonstration on Main Street last April. A cellphone video of the incident, which has generated more than 125,000 views on YouTube, showed a couple NFTA officers who, in the estimation of several Buffalo cops we consulted, badly mishandled the situation.

Buckley and two other protesters were charged with a brace of misdemeanors and violations—trespassing and resisting arrest, essentially. Two defendants eventually were acquitted; Buckley, the only one of the three to have been clubbed and pepper-sprayed, refused a deal. His trial began last month, then ended abruptly when a juror passed a note to Judge Joseph Fiorella, asking for the judge’s help on an unrelated DWI case. Fiorella declared a mistrial.

The DA’s office has chosen to retry the case, a decision that will cost taxpayers collectively and Buckley individually: His attorney through the first 15 months, Leigh Anderson, has been replaced by Daire Irwin. Neither is charging Buckley much, but Buckley’s supporters guess he’ll have to raise $5,000 just to for transcripts and fees.

On Tuesday, the DA offered Buckley the same plea deal that was offered last summer. Buckley turned it down again. An online petition (at asking the DA, the NFTA, and M&T Bank (on whose proerty the incident took place) to drop the charges against Buckley so far has garnered 579 signatures.

Correction: This article originally incorrectly stated Buckley's two co-defendants took a plea deal, though they were actually acquitted. The correction has been made to the text above.

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