William C. Sager Jr.’s fiancée is now his legal guardian.
Erika Webster, who has been at Sager’s bedside along with his parents and brother, left the hospital for the courthouse Wednesday, where a judge agreed that Webster can speak and act on behalf of the man she was planning to marry this summer.
“It was the unanimous decision of the family,” her attorney, Francis M. Letro, said after the state court appearance. “His parents and brother agreed she should serve as guardian.”
“Her wedding dress is hanging in the closet,” he added. “They planned to be married in July. They’ve known each other many, many years. They were engaged a year ago this week. They committed themselves to each other.”
Sager, 28, has been in critical condition at Erie County Medical Center since the early morning of May 11, when he was shoved down a flight of stairs at Molly’s Pub on Main Street in University Heights. Bar manager Jeffrey J. Basil has been charged in the assault, and two Buffalo police officers who worked as outside security at the bar have been suspended without pay for their actions – and inaction – at the scene.
State Supreme Court Justice James H. Dillon gave Webster, as guardian, authority to speak and act on Sager’s behalf on legal, business, medical and other issues as long as Sager is incapacitated and unable to speak for himself, Letro said. The attorney added that the family has not given up hope, despite Sager’s grave condition.
“Her intention is to tend to him and for them to return to normal life,” Letro said of Webster. “That is what everyone is hoping for, minute by minute and day by day.”
The guardianship also allowed Letro to appear in court Wednesday on Webster’s behalf to request that all evidence associated with the Sager case be preserved and, eventually, turned over after criminal proceedings are completed.
In addition to routine evidence, such as 911 calls and surveillance video, Letro’s request covered all types of social media communications, including text messages and emails between Basil and any other individuals involved in the ownership and operation of Molly’s Pub.
Letro said Sager’s fiancée and family became concerned about the chain of evidence after police said Basil attempted to discard or destroy surveillance video taken on the night Sager was injured.
The legal action indicates that a civil suit likely will be filed in the case, but Letro said the intention right now is to preserve evidence, not to file a lawsuit.
“We are not looking to identify potential targets to sue,” he said. “We heard of an attempt to destroy evidence and want to preserve the legal process and secure evidence.”
There is no reason to believe that the Buffalo Police Department or the Erie County District Attorney’s Office would not collect and preserve evidence as they are required to do, Letro said. Webster and the Sager family are more concerned about evidence connected to those associated with the tavern, he said.
“With the manager in jail, we asked the court to secure evidence,” Letro said.
Following the court hearing, Letro said he’s confident the evidence will be preserved.
“We feel satisfied that under the protection of the court, when the evidence comes due, and when the criminal proceeding is resolved, all the evidence will remain for us,” the attorney said.
Letro also said he is pleased with statements that top Buffalo police officials have made about the importance of the case.
“We were pleased Commissioner Daniel Derenda and Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards immediately and publicly said they take this very, very seriously and will continue investigating to the end,” Letro said. “We welcome that.”