Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO -- His attorney said Guy Bax's relationship with Falls contractor John Gross was "toxic."
But the Falls' former acting director of the Niagara Falls Department of Inspections will not pay the price of prison time as a result of that relationship.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara "departed" from federal sentencing guidelines and on Friday and placed Bax on two years of probation for his guilty plea, in January, to a single count of accepting illegal gratuities from Gross. Bax admitted to take the "gratuities" while he was the acting director of the city's inspections department.
"It was a well-researched sentence from a judge who read everything we sent him in our pre-sentence memorandum and everything sent to him from the government and the probation officer," Bax's defense attorney Terry Connors said. "Guy's conduct was at the lowest level on the scale of culpability. The sentence was entirely appropriate."
Under the terms of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Bax, 66, had been expected to face a sentence of between 8 to 14 months of incarceration and a fine of between $2,000 and $20,000 dollars. He would have been eligible for what is known as a "split sentence", meaning he could have done his time in so-called community confinement, at a half-way house, by serving weekends in jail or by being confined to his home.
While acknowledging that Arcara went well below that sentencing guideline, First Assistant United States Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. said the government would not appeal that decision.
"The judge determined that (incarceration) was not necessary," Kennedy said. "We accept the court's decision."
Bax was swept up in a federal law enforcement investigation of Gross, a high profile Falls plumbing contractor with prior federal criminal convictions.
In his plea deal, Bax admitted that between 2007 and January 2009, when federal agents raided Gross' Niagara Street business headquarters, he would routinely steer business to the three-time federal felon. Specifically, the one-time inspections chief admitted that in promoting Gross' business he would create the perception that it would be in a developer's best interest "to use Gross and his company and that if (they did that), they would have an easier time obtaining approvals (for permits) they sought."