City Councilman Charles A. Walker of Niagara Falls never thought twice about writing a letter of support for Wally Reynolds.
Or about putting his letter on behalf of Reynolds, a family friend awaiting sentencing on drug charges, on official Niagara Falls city letterhead.
“I never thought it was an issue,” Walker told The Buffalo News.
A federal prosecutor suggested otherwise Wednesday, noting that government employees are prohibited from using their official position to influence a pending court case.
He also indicated his office will have more to say about Walker’s letter when Reynolds is sentenced next week.
“Our comments regarding this specific local official will need to wait until the day of the defendant’s sentencing," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said in a statement.
Hochul stopped well short of criticizing Walker’s use of city letterhead but made a point of noting that, as a federal official, Hochul himself is prohibited from doing the same type of thing.
“As a general rule federal employees are forbidden from using their official title or position in order to attempt to influence an official criminal proceeding,” he said.
Reynolds, who was accused of running a cross-border marijuana ring, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and now faces nearly six years in prison.
At the time of his guilty plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten said Reynolds supervised other individuals in a drug conspiracy that imported marijuana from Canada for distribution to his customers in the United States.
Walker, in his letter to U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, acknowledges Reynolds’ wrongdoing but chalks much of it up to bad choices.
“He made a bad one here,” Walker said in his letter to Arcara. “But I believe there is enough foundation there to get him back on track as a law-abiding citizen and family man.”
In an interview with The News, Walker said he never intended the letter as an attempt to use his public position to influence Reynolds’ case and suggested it was simply a well-intentioned effort to help a family friend.
Walker said he has known Reynolds for years and thinks he deserves a second chance.
“Wrong is wrong,” he said of Reynolds’ conduct. “My character letter is basically about who I know he is. There are some core values there, and I think the judge should know about them."
Arcara will sentence Reynolds on Monday.