BUFFALO — The lawyer for a Wheatfield man accused of making bombs in the garage of his Walmore Road home has been given one more week to file a new request to block statements his client made to law enforcement investigators from being used at his trial.
Michael O’Neill, 45, is charged, in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, with unlawfully making a destructive device and unlawfully possessing a destructive device. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Magistrate Hugh B. Scott denied a request “to suppress statements that O’Neill allegedly made during one or more interviews with law enforcement agents” while he was recovering from severe injuries to his leg at the Erie County Medical Center. Those injuries were the result of an explosion in the garage of his parent’s Walmore Road home.
He suffered what was described as a “catastrophic foot injury” when he “stomped” on burning gun powder while using a heat gun to manufacture what federal law enforcement agents have called an “improvised explosive device (IED)" in the early morning hours of July 21 on Walmore Road.
In a search of the garage at the home, agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and investigators with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office said they found what appeared to be seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
In an interview with federal agents after the explosion, O’Neill said that he was “working on something” at the time of the blast.
His defense attorney, Joseph LaTona, has said O’Neill planned to sue the explosives to remove tree stumps on his parent’s property.
In a motion, filed with Scott, LaTona raised objections "about the voluntary or adversarial nature of the interviews” with the federal agents. LaTona asked Scott to bar federal prosecutors from using the statements at O’Neill’s trial.
The magistrate judge, in a written decision on LaTona’s request, wrote that, “The Court harbors some concern about how O’Neill’s medical status might have affected the nature of the interviews.”
But, Scott said, LaTona failed to file a “factual affidavit” as part of his motion, and that case law requires such an affidavit.
Scott had given LaTona until the end of the day Wednesday to file such an affidavit.
LaTona asked for additional time to deliver the affidavit, because of difficulties in getting it signed by O'Neill, who is being held at the Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville. The Buffalo-based defense attorney said he wished to mail the affidavit for O'Neill's signature, rather than incurring "unnecessary legal fees and disbursements in connection with counsel or counsel's secretary having to travel to Mayville to secure Mr. O'Neill's signature."
Scott agreed to give LaTona until April 27 to file the affidavit.
The magistrate has said that if he receives the affidavit, he will schedule “an evidentiary hearing” to determine if O’Neill’s statements to the federal agents are admissible at a trial.