By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Former United Way of Niagara executive Philip Buffone is back on probation after a State Supreme Court justice decided to modify the terms.
Buffone, who is serving three years of probation for misuse of an agency computer, had been charged with violating the terms of his sentence. He was accused of not fully participating in or not completing a sex offender treatment program.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch Sr. had ordered Buffone into the treatment program as part of his probation requirements.
Prosecutors said Buffone "got about halfway through the treatment and then reached a (requirement) that he either couldn’t or wouldn’t complete.” As a result, Buffone was dropped from the program.
At a hearing Wednesday, Buffone admitted that refusal and the probation violation.
Kloch could have re-sentenced Buffone to up to a year in jail, but instead restored him to probation and removed the requirement for sex offender treatment.
The one-time United Way vice president pleaded guilty in December 2011 to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a United Way computer, after having been indicted by a Niagara County grand jury on four counts of possessing a sexual performance by a child and four counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child.
Buffone steadfastly denied ever downloading child pornography.
“This has been a nightmare for myself and my family,” Buffone said at his sentencing. “I did not ever view, possess or download (child pornography).”
His refusal to admit to having downloaded child porn led to his dismissal from the sex offender treatment program. He has, however, recently admitted to using his United Way computer to view adult pornography.
Kloch indicated that he was satisfied with Buffone's treatment and did not believe he was a threat to the community as reasons for modifying the probation requirements.
While acknowledging there were issues relating to the evidence in the case, prosecutors had insisted that a forensic analysis of Buffone’s work computer showed that between April 2009 and March 2010, there were eight Google searches for “child pornography.”
His plea deal with prosecutors allowed Buffone not only to avoid a conviction on the child porn charges, but also to avoid having to register as a sex offender.
Buffone left his employment with the United Way in May 2010.