Assistant county public defender pleads not guilty to DWI

Vincent Sandonato

BUFFALO -- Assistant Niagara County Public Defender Vincent Sandonato pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated during an arraignment in Buffalo City Court on Tuesday.

Sandonato, 34, was released on his own recognizance and will return to court in December for further proceedings. The former Niagara County legislator and former Niagara County Community College trustee could face a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail if he is convicted on the charge.

An arrest report, furnished by the state police, shows that New York State Police troopers, assigned to the Lewiston Road barracks, stopped a vehicle being driven by Sandonato at 9:28 p.m. on June 23. Sandonato was reported to be traveling southbound on Military Road (NY Route 265) at 102nd Street at the time he was stopped.

A spokesperson for Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, who is acting as a special prosecutor in the case, indicated that Sandonato was stopped "for failure to maintain the vehicle in the southbound lane." The trooper also said he "observed signs of alcohol intoxication."

The case was transferred to Buffalo City Court after all the Niagara Falls City Court judges recused themselves from the matter. The Niagara County District Attorney's Office was also recused, leading to the appointment of Flynn's office as a special prosecutor.

Sandonato, was appointed by the Niagara County Legislature earlier this year to a newly created post as a full-time assistant public defender in the Niagara County Public Defenders Office.

Niagara County Public Information Officer Kevin Schuler has previously confirmed that, after a review of the arrest by county administrators, Sandonato "continues on as the assistant county public defender."

In response to further questions about Sandonato's continued employment, Schuler said, "In looking at any employee, the guide (for taking action) is, does (the arrest) impact their ability to do their job. At this time, (the arrest) does not impact his ability to do his job."

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