Body camera video from a Niagara County Sheriff's Office deputy contains audio of a confidential law clerk for a state Supreme Court justice repeatedly asking if his daughter's arrest on a drunken driving charge could "go away."
The Niagara Falls City Court Clerk's office released the video after requests from the Gazette and with the support of Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone, the special prosecutor in the case.
"I think this thing should be very transparent," Cardone said. "I feel bad that (Niagara County Sheriff's) Deputy (Timothy) Caughel and Rachel Winter are out there now (on videotape), but I feel it's important for the public to have confidence in the (court) system."
The body cam video was recorded by Caughel after he stopped Rachel Winter on Locust Street in Lockport for failing to have the headlights of her vehicle on and crossing the center line of the roadway at 3:19 a.m. on Nov. 24, 2016.
Her father is Ronald Winter, the confidential law clerk to State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
In a cellphone conversation with the deputy that can be heard on the video, Winter identifies himself and asks, "Do you recognize my name at all?"
When the deputy replies, "No sir, I don't." Winter responds by saying he was the former "chief homicide prosecutor for Niagara County" and "worked in the DA's office for 18 years."
Winter then says to the deputy, "Is there any way to not have this happen? Is there anything we can do?"
The deputy tells Winter that he has already placed his daughter under arrest for driving while intoxicated, that he has read her Miranda warnings and DWI refusal warnings and that the process of charging her could not be stopped.
"Oh God," Winter can be heard saying. "So this isn't going away, huh?"
"We've gotten to that stage," Caughel says, "where we've gotten to the handcuffs on and in the back of the car and called out (the arrest)."
Winter and the deputy were having the conversation because Caughel had contacted his supervisor, Lt. Steve Broderick, after Rachel Winter asked to speak with her father to determine whether or not she would take a Breathalyzer test.
When Caughel calls Broderick to ask if Winter can phone her father, the lieutenant, who is also the Lewiston Town supervisor, inquires, "Is it Ron Winter, who her father is?" The deputy says he believes Rachel Winter is Ronald Winter's daughter.
Broderick says, "I know him very, very well."
Broderick tells Caughel that Ronald Winter worked as an assistant DA under his uncle, Peter Broderick, who served as Niagara County District Attorney until 1991. He went on to preside as a Niagara County Court judge, until his retirement from the bench in 2007.
Caughel then asks Broderick if Rachel Winter should call her father from the roadside or from the sheriff's office headquarters. Broderick asks "How drunk is she?" The deputy replies, "She couldn't pass any of the tests. She had most of the clues."
Broderick then approves the roadside phone call to Ronald Winter that leads to his conversation with Caughel. Though the lieutenant also advises the deputy, "If she's gonna refuse (a Breathalyzer test), at this point don't even mention my name."
Caughel then allows Rachel Winter to call her father on her cellphone. After a brief conversation with her dad, Rachel Winter hands her phone to the deputy.
After telling Ronald Winter that the arrest cannot be stopped or undone, Caughel tells Winter that he needs to know whether his daughter is going to take a Breathalyzer test or not. Winter says he's going to advise her not to take the test.
"You're going to have her refuse the chemical test?" Caughel asks.
Winter replies, "I think she has to (refuse)." But then adds, "No way to turn this around? There's nothing we can do?"
Caughel returns the cellphone to Rachel Winter and her father can be heard telling her not to take the Breathalyzer test.
His daughter tells Winter, "I'm not, I'm not intoxicated." Winter then speaks to Caughel again and says, "She's telling me she's not that bad. Maybe she should take the damn thing."
"I want to see her before she takes the test," he continues later.
When Caughel says he doesn't know if his supervisor will allow Winter to have contact with his daughter at the sheriff's office headquarters, Winter asks the deputy who his supervisor on duty is. Caughel tells him Lt. Broderick and Capt. Jill Herrington.
Rachel Winter can be heard telling her dad, "You know Broderick."
Caughel takes Winter to the sheriff's office headquarters to process the arrest and body cam video shows Broderick arriving there as well. The lieutenant is seen walking down a hallway trying to call Ronald Winter on his cellphone.
Broderick then approaches Caughel, in an office area, and asks: "You don't have a problem with doing a reckless (driving charge instead of the driving while intoxicated charge) and letting her go today?"
Caughel can be seen putting up his hand and saying, "That's totally up to you." And Broderick replies, "You have to be OK with it." The arresting deputy's reply was not captured by the body cam.
Broderick then walks out of the office and as Caughel follows him toward the door, Ronald Winter appears on the video walking down a hallway in the direction taken by Broderick.
Winter has repeatedly told the Buffalo News that he "never asked for any favors."
When questioned by the Gazette late Thursday afternoon Winter said, "I never asked for a favor from Broderick."
But when asked about repeated requests for favors from the deputy, Winter said, "I'm not going to get into a battle in the newspaper with (Niagara County Undersheriff) Mike Filicetti. I really wish he would stop slandering my daughter."
Filicetti, and Sheriff James Voutour, have both objected to the decision by Cardone to dismiss the driving while intoxicated charge against Winter. Cardone has previously said his decision was “in the interest of justice.”
Cardone said he joined with Winter's defense attorney in moving for the dismissal because, “I used my due diligence to review the evidence in the case, and what I am saying to you is, whether she was intoxicated or not, will never be able to be proven.”
When pressed by the Gazette on why a judge or jury should not have made that decision, Cardone said that would be an injustice.
“You are not doing justice to the parties in this case if you (take it to trial),” Cardone said. “And especially not to Rachel Winter.”
The sheriff's office also said that Rachel Winter had ultimately refused to take a Breathalyzer test. But, after a state Department of Motor Vehicles hearing where Deputy Caughel testified, an administrative law judge ruled that she had not refused the test.
"She was falsely accused of refusing the test and falsely arrested for DWI," Ronald Winter said. "This case is over."
Asked for comment on Winter's claims, Filicetti said, "I think the video speaks for itself."
Though Rachel Winter's criminal case is closed, an investigation by the state Office of Court Administration, which oversees the conduct of courts statewide, is continuing.
Earlier this week, Lucian Chalfen, the director of public information for the state Unified Court System told the Gazette, “We are looking into the circumstances regarding the dismissal of that case."
After an internal investigation, which included a review of the body cam footage released Thursday, the sheriff’s office disciplined Broderick.
Filicetti has previously declined to elaborate on the discipline, calling it only a “personnel action."