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'Acting' DA Hits The Ground Running At Full Speed

Donna Milling, Michael Flaherty, Christopher Belling, DA, top assistants
'Acting' D.A. Hits The Ground Running at Full Speed

Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty has hit the ground running, and it is clear that he would like to take "acting" out of his title and win a full term on his own in November.

Flaherty signaled in his first week in office that he is a serious “acting" DA, reopening a hit-and-run case that Evans police have been pushing, naming the first female first assistant district attorney, and creating the county’s first Public Integrity Unit to, as he stated, "help restore the people’s trust in government."

In a sign of his commitment to set a new tone in the office, Flaherty will reopen the hit-and-run investigation into the death of Barry Moss in the Town of Evans in December of 2013, a case his predecessor, Frank Sedita, III, declined to prosecute on grounds the evidence was insufficient, a position that was criticized in many quarters, including by Evans police.

Moss was hit by an SUV owned by former bar owner Gabrielle Ballowe but she was never charged. Ballowe did settle a civil lawsuit filed against her by the daughters of the victim for an undisclosed amount.

Also in his first week, Flaherty tapped Appeals Bureau Chief Donna Milling as his first assistant and chief ethics officer. According to Flaherty, Milling will be the first woman to hold the position of first assistant district attorney in Erie County.

The acting DA also named veteran prosecutor Christopher Belling as chief trial counsel, a position where he will supervise all major trials in addition to maintaining a caseload of his own.

Other appointments include Colleen Curtin Gable as chief of homicide, Mara McCabe as chief of the City Court Bureau, and Paul Bonanno as head of the Public Integrity Unit.

Flaherty also named Justin Wallens to head the Animal Cruelty Unit and Lynette Reda as chief of the Domestic Violence Unit.

In a statement, Flaherty said "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."

Flaherty, 50, a graduate of Notre Dame and UB Law School, had served as Sedita’s first assistant for the last several years and has been in the office since 1999. He has let it be known that he will seek a full, four-year term in November. A Democratic primary fight with Erie County Judge Tim Franczyk, who has been expected to resign to run for DA against Flaherty, is now seen as unlikely as Franczyk reportedly has decided not to run for the office.

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