A frustrated Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack revealed why withheld the audio recording from the press.
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - The public was supposed to hear the recordings of phone conversations between three Cheektowaga teachers and a student who was in jail and facing murder charges, but when it came time to play the tape, police changed their mind at the last minute.
According to Town of Cheektowaga Police Chief David Zack, town attorneys ordered him to hold off on releasing the audio recordings.
Zack said police are outraged by what the teachers said to the student on the tape. The recording involves Dontre Jones, who was convicted of killing a young man in a very crowded Cheektowaga Town Park on Memorial Day in 2011.
According to Zack, while Jones was at the holding center awaiting trial, he called three different Cheektowaga Central High School teachers during school while they were in a classroom. When town police heard the audio of those conversations, they said they were outraged. They would not give further details, acknowledging only that the conversations went beyond simple encouragement and hampered their investigation into the crime.
Zack said his department alerted the district attorney and the school district. The D.A. did not charge the teachers with a crime, but the school district put them on paid leave. Thursday, an angry Cheektowaga police chief was about to play the recordings for the media, when, he says, the town was threatened with a civil lawsuit if it were to play the messages or even disclose the identity of the teachers.
"At this time, under the advice of counsel, we have no choice but to withhold information we believe the public has a right to know," Zack said. "Town attorneys are now researching the matter, and now assessing any liability we may be exposed to. I can assure the public that we are not intimidated. We are now more determined than ever to make sure the public learns what went on a Cheektowaga Central. When we are certain of what we can legally release, we will do so promptly."
2 On Your Side filed a freedom of information request for the material. We'll let you know what becomes of our request.
Jones was ultimately convicted of manslaughter in June.