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Friends on the inside

There were some chuckles last week in the courtroom of Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.

First, Murphy offered some career advice to Demetrius M. Clark, 54, of Loepere Street, Buffalo, who was sentenced to two to four years behind bars for stealing more than $1,000 worth of True Religion jeans from that brand’s store in the Fashion Outlets mall in the Town of Niagara on April 11.

Noting Clark’s lengthy criminal record – he’s making his fourth trip to state prison since 1984 – Murphy told Clark, “This isn’t working out. Did you ever think of doing something else?”

Later that same day, Murphy handled the case of Thurmond Walton, 46, of La Force Place, Buffalo, who pleaded guilty to third-degree assault for attacking a nurse in the mental health unit of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center on Aug. 10.

Told he could be sentenced to a year in jail, Walton replied, “I’d like to do a little time. I’m not ready to come out yet. I got friends in jail.”

Murphy will decide on Feb. 28 how long Walton gets to stay with his friends.

Betting on youth

The Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls is courting a younger demographic with the grand opening Thursday of a new gambling area that now caters to patrons age 18 and older.

The renovated balcony area overlooking the main gambling floor has now been dubbed “the Mezz,” and is an alcohol-free zone walled off from the rest of the casino where the consumption of alcohol is permitted.

Whether this is a good idea is debatable. However, according to Tony Astran, publicity manager for the Seneca Gaming Corp., it is legal for 18-year-olds to gamble in New York State, just not while patronizing venues where alcohol is accessible.

It’s not a new concept, Astran noted Friday. The Turning Stone Resort Casino outside Syracuse has been admitting patrons as young as 18 since it opened in 1993. That’s because the establishment does not serve alcohol anywhere on the premises.

“We’ve always had that option, as long as we could provide a secure separate area where we are able to keep that purely alcohol-free,” Astran said.

The past is prologue in Marilla

Marilla will be reliving its history when its new town supervisor, Earl Gingerich Jr., is sworn in at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The ceremony will be held at the historic Marilla Grill at 11591 Bullis Road. That is the same location – though not the same building – where the town’s first supervisor, Jesse Bartoo, was sworn in back on March 7, 1854.

The town was created from the southern portion of Alden and the northern portion of Wales by the Erie County Board of Supervisors in 1853.

Bartoo and other Town Board members were sworn in at the home of Niles Carpenter, who just happened to own the Spring Hotel, also known as the Spring House. The next year, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt on the same site, in the same image.

It has had different names and owners until Jeff Lewinski, the town’s deputy historian, bought the building, which is now the Marilla Grill.

Two other board members will be sworn in with Gingerich. Councilwomen Julie Lathrop and Debbie Beats will take the seats of former council members Beth Ackerman and Donald Darrow. Town Justice David Wyzykowski will conduct the ceremony.

Losing ground

According to an article in Friday’s New York Times, the Sunshine State is poised to overtake the Empire State, as upstate cities, like Buffalo, continue to lose population.

The latest census estimate shows the states nearly tied, with New York at 19.6 million and Florida at 19.3 million as the margin continues to narrow.

It’s something for the snowbirds to mull over.

Off Main was written by Harold McNeil with contributions from Thomas J. Prohaska and Nancy Gish. email: offmain@buffnews.com