Cattaraugus district attorney race heats up

By ERIC TICHY

Special to the OBSERVER

LITTLE VALLEY – A recent decision to dismiss felony drug charges in Cattaraugus County has shed light on an increasingly bitter race for district attorney.

Public Defender Mark Williams earlier this month released a decision by County Judge Ronald Ploetz that officially dismissed a 2010 indictment of Alecia Hafner. Williams, a Republican seeking the county district attorney post, criticized current District Attorney Lori P. Rieman for failure to bring Hafner to trial in a timely manner.

According to court records, Hafner allegedly made two drug sales in January 2009 before being indicted on two counts of fourth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and two counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

The U.S. Marshal Service located Hafner, 46, in Florida in February 2012.

However, Rieman, also a Republican seeking re-election, told investigators her office would only extradite if the suspect was located in a surrounding state due to a limited budget.

As a result, Hafner was not taken into custody at the time.

Williams, who later represented Hafner, contends that Rieman’s decision not to extradite was based on false claims.

“She had almost her entire budget for 2012 available to her at the time,” Williams said in a release. “She had $3,500 budgeted for extraditions in 2012. When she was called in February by the U.S. Marshals, she had the entire amount available to use.”

“Claiming she didn’t have any money available was just not true,” he said.

Hafner was arrested on Feb. 18 in Pennsylvania and eventually was brought back to the county. She was arraigned in New York, but claimed her rights to a speedy trial were violated due to the delay between her indictment and arrest.

Ploetz agreed in his decision to dismiss the indictment.

“In sum, the time between February 2012 and February 2013 is chargeable to the people as un-excused post-readiness delay,” Ploetz wrote. “This year-long delay exceeds the allowable six months under (law), and the case must be dismissed.”

Rieman insists she did not have the resources to extradite Hafner from the south.

“We already had a few extraditions that year,” Rieman said. “To bring someone from Florida would have cost as much as $3,000. … I did what I was able to do at the time, and I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”

Rieman noted that Williams has frequently criticized her office, and said the latest was a thinly veiled attempt to garner support for district attorney.

“He’s trying to make it seem that I’m incompetent,” she said. “He goes around bringing to light that this girl was arrested, the girl that he represented and was released. That’s not something I would be doing.”

In a follow-up press release last week, Williams challenged Rieman to three public debates prior to the primary election. The public defender claims Rieman has ignored his requests.

The Republican nomination for district attorney will be decided in the Sept. 10 primary election. No Democratic candidates have stepped forward.