By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A hearing on whether a statement made by a suspect in South End shooting can be used at his trial came to an abrupt end on Tuesday when the the man's defense attorney asked to be taken off the case.
Defense attorney Matthew Pynn asked Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III to allow him to step down from representing Paul Buck. Pynn said his client had lost confidence in him after Murphy criticized his handling of the case.
At an earlier hearing, the judge had raised concerns about Pynn's questioning of a Falls police detective. Murphy said he felt Pynn, an assistant public defender, might be open to a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel if Buck were to be convicted on pending charges of first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment.
Murphy granted Pynn's request to leave the case. He'll be replaced by defense attorney Dominic Saraceno, a lawyer in the county's Conflcts Office.
The change in lawyers means a trial for Buck, 23, and his co-defendants Jacob Taggart, 23, and Marlyn Rubin, 20, will be delayed until Jan. 28. Jury selection in the case had been set to begin Dec. 17.
Murphy's ruling on whether Buck's statement to police can be used at his trial is also holding up a request by Rubin's attorney for a separate trial for his client. All three suspects are currently set to be tried together, however, Rubin's lawyer has argued to Murphy that his client should not be tried along with Buck and Taggart because Buck spoke with police.
Prosecutors claim that nothing Buck said to investigators would impact Rubin's defense.
All three men have rejected plea deals offered by prosecutors that would have allowed them to plead guilty to lesser charges, but required them to testify against their co-defendants.
Like Buck, Rubin and Taggart are charged with first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment in connection with a shoot-out in the city's South End in April.
Detectives have said the trio were all involved in a hail of gunfire in the area of 12th and Niagara streets that left a Falls teen with gunshot wounds to his arm and chest.
Witnesses told detectives a dark-colored car, with three men inside, rolled up on a group of young men who were gathered on the street corner. The suspects in the car then reportedly tried to start a fight with the men who were on the corner.
As the yelling between the men in the car and the men on the corner escalated, two of the suspects in the car brandished handguns. As the men on the corner began to run away, the armed suspects began firing at them.
Detectives said Anthony McDougald, 18, was shot in the left arm near his bicep. The bullet then went through the arm and entered his chest.
McDougald was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and then transferred to the Erie County Medical Center. He has now recovered from his wounds.
Rubin was arrested the day after the shooting, Buck was taken into custody, without incident, in the area of 24th Street and Whitney Avenue a few days later.
Taggart was arrested a couple of weeks later, after a brief stand-off with Town of Amherst Police. Acting on what they said was a tip, Amherst cops converged on a Niagara Falls Boulevard motel and took Taggart into custody at gunpoint.
He’d been holed up in a motel in the town with his girlfriend.