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M&T Emails Shed Light on Nate Buckley Arrest and Trial

NFTA police subdue Nate Buckley on April 8, 2011. (photo by Christina Cooke.)

Senior M&T Bank executives were expressing previously undisclosed interest and concern shortly after a publicly disputed incident in downtown Buffalo last year, according to documents obtained by Artvoice. A political demonstration outside the bank’s center on Main Street south of Chippewa Street on April 8, 2011, led to three arrests, two criminal trials, and two acquittals in Buffalo City Court this year.

Nate Buckley, a 26-year-old participant in the demonstration, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of trespass, governmental obstruction, and resisting arrest. Buckley’s case, before Judge Joseph Fiorella, is the highest-profile matter in the city courts in years. It has generated extensive news media coverage. (Two other young men arrested that day on more minor charges have already been acquitted by Judge Fiorella this year.)

In public, the M&T administration has maintained silence about the demonstration and the trials, but several documents leave an impression of heavy initial bank involvement and subsequently intense interest and concerns. The documents—emails—were turned up by Buckley’s lawyers during a trial that was halted by Judge Fiorella in June after one juror’s serious misconduct.

One email, dated April 14, 2011, was sent by David Mondry, an M&T vice president and corporate physical security manager, to several bank executives, including Keith Belanger, senior vice president for corporate services. Belanger is also chair of Buffalo Place, which maintains the transit mall along Main Street, and has formal arrangements with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police, three of whose officers made the arrests on April 8, 2011. In his April 14 communication, Mondry notes that a story in Artvoice that week about Buckley’s arrest contained “a flat-out lie.” Buckley told Artvoice that “a bank employee” (actually a security firm employee) told demonstrators to get off bank property and that they complied “but not quickly enough [for her] apparently because she called the police.”

Mondry sent other bank executives a compressed chronology of events to counter this “lie,” “as per recorded [M&T Bank] communications lines” He observes that the protestors’ presence was first noticed by at least one bank security person at “17:53 hours” (5:53pm) At 17:57, he writes, Mondry told a security guard to advise this group “that they are on private property” and to leave. At 17:58 “Mondry advised [the security employee] to contact 911. At 18:00, Mondry writes, he advised security to “contact NFTA for back-up support.”

These selections and others in Mondry’s page-long chronology suggest some bank executives’ anxiety, and possibly alarm, at the arrival of the approximately 50 marchers, who were peaceful until the arrival of the NFTA police officers, and, Buckley and others say afterwards as well.

Nothing in Mondry’s internally circulated message indicates otherwise. It can also be read as giving additional credibility to Buckley’s Artvoice comment. In Mondry’s reconstruction there is only a one to two-minute lapse from notification to the crowd to leave what is purported to be bank property—the plaza, steps and retaining wall just north of M & T’s Gold-dome building—and Mondry’s call for the police. At 18:23, Mondry asks security if “building lock down is necessary” and is told “no, focus and crowd have moved onto Main Street.”

Mondry ended this e-mail assertively: “Bottom Line: the protestors were on bank property for 20 minutes after being requested to leave. Protestors finally moved off bank property only after Buckley was arrested.”

Mondry’s timeline never indicates what time that arrest was made, nor that Buckley was first confronted by transit officers on the public sidewalk along Main Street, not on bank property. Michael Kuzma, with Daire Brian Irwin, counsel for Buckley, dismissed Mondry’s assertion: “That simply isn’t true.”

Also unaddressed is why bank officers called for the NFTA police rather than the Buffalo Police Department. Two Buffalo police officers have told Artvoice that their department might have handled the situation differently, with no arrests resulting. (Phone messages to Mondry’s office seeking comment Tuesday and Wednesday were not answered.)

Also, Mondry’s heading for the email refers to 12 attachments, probably photographs, having to do with a marcher being beaten and “maced” by NFTA police. Belanger wrote back to Mondry the same day: “I notice that none of the pics have the protestors on the red brick [of the bank’s plaza]—they are on the city sidewalk.” The defense team is seeking those attachments.

Other bank emails in defense hands show that Mondry was communicating with George Gast, NFTA police chief, during these events on April 8.

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