A Buffalo police officer suspended without pay as the department investigates his conduct during a brutal May 11 attack on a bar patron in Molly’s Pub is not expected to face any disciplinary action for his refusal to answer questions last week at a felony hearing for the bar manager accused of pushing the victim down the stairs.
Sources said it is unlikely that Officer Robert E. Eloff would be disciplined for asserting his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Eloff, 39, and Officer Adam E. O’Shei, 41, who were both working off-duty security that night outside the bar, were suspended without pay last week for 30 days and face a hearing on departmental charges of acting in a manner unbecoming a police officer.
They had been on administrative leave, with pay, after severe injuries were inflicted on William C. Sager Jr., 28, an Air National Guardsman, while he was inside the Main Street bar in the University Heights neighborhood.
Sager suffered a brain injury when pushed down the stairs and remains unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit at Erie County Medical Center.
The bar manager, Jeffrey J. Basil, 35, of Amherst, has been charged with first-degree assault and was ordered held for the grand jury by City Judge Joseph A. Fiorella following Friday’s felony hearing.
Aaron Glazer, Eloff’s attorney, declined to comment when asked whether Eloff’s refusal Friday to answer a prosecutor’s questions about the attack and his actions that night could be used against him at an upcoming disciplinary proceeding in an Internal Affairs Division probe.
“An administrative hearing with the Buffalo Police Department had been scheduled for last week,” Glazer said. “It‘s been adjourned. No new date has been set.”
Buffalo police spokesman Michael DeGeorge also declined to comment on whether Eloff’s refusal to answer questions at the felony hearing in City Court would come up at the disciplinary proceeding, noting that it is a personnel matter.
He would only say that the Internal Affairs Division’s investigation of Eloff’s conduct that night at Molly’s Pub is continuing.
Witnesses and police say that Eloff locked his handcuffs around Sager’s wrists when he was out cold. The officer, alongside Basil, was then seen on a digital recording entering the office where the bar’s surveillance hardware is kept.
Basil, according to police sources, removed a key device and disposed of it in a garbage can outside, away from Molly’s. The device and digital images have been recovered, police sources say.
When a friend of Sager’s called 911 on his behalf before Sager was pushed down the stairs, he reported that Sager was being harassed by the bar manager and two off-duty police officers.
O’Shei testified at the felony hearing that he saw Basil push Sager down the stairs.
Eloff repeatedly refused to answer Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Belling’s questions at the hearing, including whether he was familiar with Molly’s Pub, whether he saw Sager thrown down the stairs, whether he handcuffed Sager, and whether he went to the basement office with Basil and removed the surveillance video.
In refusing to answer, Eloff cited his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Following the testimony, Fiorella ruled there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury and continued to detain Basil on $250,000 bail. He also refused a request by Basil’s attorney, Joel L. Daniels, to reduce the charge to second-degree assault.