Ricky M. Allen’s unexpected journey from police watchdog to convicted drug dealer to threatened government witness ended just as unpredictably.
A federal judge spared Allen prison time Monday.
“I think this sends a very important message to the community,” said U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
Arcara was referring to the AK-47 attack on Allen’s home just prior to his trial testimony in the Afro Dogs drug case last April.
The judge said Allen put his own safety and the safety of his family at risk when he testified hours after the attack at his home on Roosevelt Avenue.
Allen, who already had pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking, said he, his wife and their 11-year-old son were at home when the shooting began between 10:30 and 11 p.m. the night before his testimony.
One of the bullets shattered the window in his bedroom, but Allen said he never had second thoughts about taking the witness stand.
“You can’t break my resolve,” he said Monday, “especially with my 11-year-old kid lying there.”
Allen was facing up to 46 months in prison as part of his plea deal and federal prosecutors were recommending a shorter prison term in exchange for his cooperation.
Arcara went a step further and cited Allen’s testimony in the case as one of the primary reasons why.
“It’s not often that I give this type of consideration,” the judge said of Allen. But “I heard him testify. I’m very familiar with what happened here.”
Allen, former interim chairman of the Buffalo Joint Commission to Examine Police Reorganization, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine after being accused of using his position on the police panel to obtain inside information about drug investigations.
Police said Allen would pass the information on to John C. Smith, a longtime friend and the man charged with heading the drug ring.
They also claim Allen allowed Smith, who died while awaiting sentencing last year, to store cocaine in Allen’s home.
Arcara was in the midst of sentencing Allen on Monday when he asked for more time to consider his fate.
When he returned, Arcara explained why he was letting Allen go without jail time.
“I’m glad he’s appreciative,” Allen said afterward. “It’s been torturous. It’s been gut-wrenching for my family.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz said the government recognized Allen’s cooperation but did not feel it warranted the prison-free sentence that Arcara doled out.
Allen’s lawyer suggested just the opposite.
“The message was, testify and you’re dead,” said Thomas J. Eoannou, Allen’s defense lawyer. “Somebody was out to kill Ricky Allen.”
Allen claims his involvement with Smith started out as a well intentioned effort to help his friend of 28 years.
Allen never explained how that led him to drug dealing, but his lawyer was quick to suggest that it was a bump in the road in an otherwise law-abiding life.
At the time of his arrest, Allen was portrayed by police as an insider who abused his advisory position with the department.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he was so upset by Allen’s involvement with Smith that he accompanied members of a SWAT team when they arrested Allen at his home that day in March 2011.
At the time, prosecutors claimed that Derenda had informed the police commission at a meeting in February 2011 that “something big” was planned for the following week. Allen, according to court papers, called Smith the next day and had the following conversation with him:
“Something big going down next week, man,” he told Smith. “I have to talk to you about it.”
A few weeks later, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Allen, Smith and several others as part of an early-morning raid that included members of the Afro Dogs motorcycle club.