But hopefully with better results
by Chris Stevenson
All the people who wanted to put the Cariol (Carol) J. Horne case to bed-from the Buffalo Police Department, to Horne’s last attorney Barbara Sims to Sim’s newspaper the Buffalo Criterion as well as the Buffalo’s other black newspaper the Challenger Community News-are not having a lot of success. Some post-criminal and peripheral cases have been kept alive by 1.David Neal Mack’s court cases. 2.Greg Kwiatkowski’s ego.
Actually the trial started a day late due to a prolonged jury selection that seems to have featured some peremptory challenges by Attorney Michael B. Risman of Hodgson Russ, LLP representing the City of Buffalo. Reportedly there were only 3 blacks that showed up and two of them were struck from the 8-person spot because they may have shown some bias against police (knowing in these cases the slightest dislike for police abuse can get a black juror prospect get booted off the list). At any rate Tuesday morning was the first day of trial regarding Neal Mack Sr. vs. the City of Buffalo with the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister residing. Also in attendance throughout the sessions was the principle of the whole fracas Cariol Holloman-Horne.
The first day’s morning’s session featured the testimony of pretty much the woman seen by some as the initiator of the whole affair Yolanda Wilkerson. She testified her direct involvement with the incident that took place at 707 Walden Ave., to those closely following the case she is known as an ex-live-in-girlfriend of Neal Mack who through some agreement with him wanted her SSI checks to still be delivered to his address (file that one under; you gotta be from the ‘hood to understand) even though they split a month or two prior to that day. Once on the stand and watching her facial expression while being questioned by Mack’s attorney Anthony Pendergrass, and cross-examined by Risman, it wasn’t hard to see how the recollection of the incident was reeling up unwanted memories. As her voice crackled and she seemed to fight back tears I wondered if she wishes she could relive the whole incident so she could do things differently. On one hand she testifies that Mack was never abusive and they never argued, on the other she knows when the mailman comes, and says she posted herself outside with her mother and 8-year-old son.
From L-to-R Kwiatkowski, and Horne (photos- the Blue Line, WKBW Ch.7 Buffalo).
Pendergrass asks her what happened after that, and she says at some point Mack comes out and they have words outside and Mack goes back into the house for a minute. As the postman comes she tries to intercept him and show her ID which matches name and face to that of the check. Mack returns and gestures the postman toward the mailbox, where he then drops the mail in. What’s not clear is why the mailman would call the police after he leaves Mack’s premises, I asked her during lunch break and she claims to not know either. If not knowing why the police showed up was a lottery number, most of us would be rich by now. Before long the ex-couple that never argued are visited by a police officer (Officer Paul Sobkowiak), by this time Mack is back inside of his home according to what she tells Pendergrass, she explains her dilemma to him, he knocks on Macks door. Mack answers and eventually he tells Mack bring out all your mail. Soon after, as she puts it, Mack is on the ground, unable to remember much else except for trying to get her mother and son to safety, she tries to turn and make her way back home but is soon persuaded to take a ride in a squad-car and sign a statement.
These checks are now electronically delivered as of a year or two later, just imagine the pain and money it could have saved Horne and Mack, and the lack of attention, bad-cop celebrity-status, and free peripheral-court money and promotion it would have saved Kwiatkowski?
There may be some controversy with one of the jurors. Spectators (including the 2 newspaper people Patrick Lakamp and myself) were asked to leave while all those directly involved in the case and the attorneys were advised to stay in a private session. One of the jurors (a young female with red hair) it seems may directly know the former officer Greg Kwiatkowski. Judge Bannister’s office just confirmed this, they say no action has been taken yet because she isn’t sure if it’s him that she knows.
Day 3 on Friday saw Risman trying to push Mack’s buttons. Mack’s natural voice is pronounced and deep, has mannerisms are plainly those of a man of the streets. Nothing wrong with this if you’re black and grew up in the same environment as him, if you are white, oddly-enough this can quickly be interpreted as threatening. If you are a white cop particularly born and raised in the suburbs-where most of Buffalo’s law enforcement come from-this type of mannerism can be almost completely foreign to you, and can be part of a pretext to arrest you, and used as a weapon to exploit you in a court of law. Whereas men who look and sound like Mack are arrested everyday, and profiled even moreso, the odd part is, it’s wasn’t men who look and sound like Neal Mack who embarked on a mission to invade parts of the world outside of Europe 1,000 years ago, and leave a trail of blood millions of miles long in the aftermath and give a neat name called colonialism. This was accomplished by men who look much more like Sobkowiak, Kwaitkowski, and Risman.
But this didn’t stop Sobkowiak from testifying that he was “afraid” on day-2 due to what he saw as Mack’s being “argumentative and irate,” and saying “other vulgarities.” Pendergrass decided to explore the fear of the officer known commonly as “S.O.B.,” “What would you charge him with if he just used vulgarity?” “Harassment” answered Sobkowiak.” Pendergrass stood right next to Sob’s witness seat and leaned toward him on the armrest. “Now come on officer, you didn’t charge that man with Harassment… in his Own House did you?” “Yes.” Pendergrass then asked him “What if I used vulgarity, would you charge me with harassment?” SOB was silent for a few seconds, he was obviously caught off guard, “you mean if you were talking to me?” Pendergrass at this point makes no mistake as to who he was directing the question to as he bust into a verbal-array of anti-cop vulgarity towards SOB that either stunned the court or made others erupt in laughter. Judge Bannister stops the proceedings, and Pendergrass explains that he was just trying to make a point.
Neal Mack’s two sons Larcenio and Wesley gave some interesting testimony, especially Wesley’s on day-3. The jury, now just 7 with no replacement for the departed juror who apparently knows Kwaitkowski (who was now present on days 2 and 3 and fresh from winning his 2nd defamation suit in a row, this time over Pendergrass) got to see Pendergrass ask Neal, Larcenio, and Wesley to do physical reenactments of what positions they were in when they were beaten by Sobkowiak, Kwiatkowski, BPD Officer Anthony Porzio or ganged-up on by several officers that day. Neal got up off the witness stand and lay of the ground crunched over and covering his head shouting “What ya’ll doing? Get off of me! Get Outta Here!” SOB and Kwiatkowski sat together that day, SOB was unmoved. Kwiatkowski stirred, and sat up closer to the table at Neal’s simulated demonstration. Larcencio testified that he remembers waking him up and telling him to get ready for school, he says he got up and 20 minutes later he heard a loud Boom! He then said he went out to see what was wrong and his father was on the floor and he identified SOB as being on top of him punching him: “Other cops arrived and jumped my father, like a gang beating…. SOB took a nightstick and began beating him with it.”
Neither of Mack’s sons present-both very young (Larcenio was the older and he was only 16 on the date this incident happened)-tried to physically interfere with the officers according to both their testimony. Larcenio states that at some point an Officer Porzio approaches them, and at first forces them to move back toward an open stove. The stove was on in order to heat the Kitchen, Porzio was said to have taken his stick and slapped Wesley across the face with it hard enough to make him fall over the open oven-door and unconscious. Later after having carried Mack outside Larcenio said he saw a whole lot of commotion and all the officers fell, and then he points directly at the sitting Greg Kwiatkowski. “That man right there, he picked up my father and started chocking him.” Pendergrass had Larcenio give him a demonstration, and then asked “how do you know your father was being choked. “From me and my brothers playing… my father was lying there blue, I ain’t never seen him like that. A lady cop went up to him and said ‘chill Greg you’re choking him, and she pulled his arm and he jumped up and popped her: ‘Get the Hell off me you black bitch.'” Understand those were the actions and words heard around Buffalo, and the behavior that made him a hero in the suburbs.
Wesley gives the same type of testimony that his brother gives, having been even younger than his brother’s 16 at the time, it was a real horror for him. Like Larcenio, he say’s he too didn’t interfere, “I wouldn’t dare interfere with Buffalo Police, my Aunt’s a Police, (Officer Marilyn Mack) I wouldn’t dare interfere.” This in spite of Neal’s pleas to both his sons to do something to stop the apparent torture he was undergoing. Both his boys pleaded verbally to the two officers Sobkokwiak and Kwiatkowski initially.
What is clear to this commentator is that after all of this Mack clearly deserves an award, and I mean a substantial financial award. Nothing under 7 figures here. Pendergrass accomplishing less than this would make him as suspect to Mack, as Barbara Sims was to Carol. Kwiatkowski during and since Horne’s hearing and firing has done nothing more than get in more trouble time-after-time. There was the story I broke while with the Criterion where he was accused of initiating a beating on a South Buffalo man at a restaurant, there was two alleged altercations he got into along the Transit Rd. strip, both against police officers, one was at a bar and Grille where a transit cop (James A. Delacy; who is also the son of a prominent local auto dealer) was beaten down by Lt. Kwiatkowski and his cop buddies after he tried to warn them of how it looked bad for them to be in uniform drinking in a bar. Risman’s mission today is no different than when he was on the Corporation Counsel, to be the stopper of huge rewards to black victims of police misconduct. It is a certainty he will use every trick in the book to prevent this from happening to Mack. The next court date is tomorrow 9:30am, City Court Bldg., 50 Deleware 8th floor part 29.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, Political Affairs Magazine, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice and The Network for clbTV. Sign his Petition to permanently Abolish the Death Penalty @ Change.org. Respond to him on the link below.