BUFFALO - BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Did a Buffalo cop act as a casting agent for a locally shot short film?
The movie is “Blink of an Eye”. It’s a fictional account of a woman’s death from a heroin overdose. But one scene in the movie is very real.
Robert Sagliani pops-up 12-minutes in. He is in a bathroom at the Main Place Mall. He pulls a small bag of grayish powder from his pocket. He takes a small amount and snorts it. Then he asks, “Ready?”
The question is apparently directed at the film crew that record what looks like his well-practiced series of steps of loading a syringe. Sagliani does not identify what he’s using, but it’s apparently heroin. When he places the needle to his forearm, a male voice off-camera urges Sagliani to stop. That’s the end of the scene.
How did Sagliani come to be in the movie? Mark Sacha, a defense attorney working for the Sagliani family says an officer with the Buffalo Police Department recruited him.
According to Sacha, Sagliani and his mother were picked up on drug possession charges back in December. There was an altercation during the arrest. Sagliani wound-up at a local hospital to be checked-out.
“(The female officer) suddenly switched gears and started saying to him, 'Do you want to be in a movie?’ and ‘If you’re in the movie, I’ll help you with your charges,’" says Sacha.
The officer was identified by Sacha as Elizabeth Baker. 2 On-Your-Side can independently confirm Baker was affiliated with the film. In February, reporter Ron Plants did a story about the movie being shot in Buffalo. In his report, Plants identifies Baker as one of the officers with a role in the movie.
But Sacha says Baker also delivered Sagliani to the movie-makers. Sacha says Baker knew or should have known why the film’s producers were interested in Sagliani, to record the illegal act of a drug-user using drugs.
"I felt the whole incident was horrible, that it was coercive, that it was disrespectful and without care about his health and livelihood,” says Sacha.
Did Baker promise to help Sagliani if he demonstrated his drug-use on-camera? Did other officers know Sagliani’s role in the film? Were department supervisors aware?
To sort it all out, an Internal Affairs investigation is underway. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says his office is monitoring the probe. If the allegation turns out to be true, that Baker or any other officer knew Sagliani was using for the camera, Flynn says the price should be their badges.
“They should be fired. I mean…simple as that,” says Flynn. Silent Tuesday on this emerging story was Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. The police department was urged to cooperated with the shooting of the film by the Mayor. A request was made for an interview to the Mayor’s office. There has been no response.
But early this evening, a source familiar with the investigation confirmed to 2 On-Your-Side that Baker did arrest Sagliani and that the officer later introduced him to the film's producers. The source also says Baker did suggest and arrange the Main Place Mall location for the controversial scene.
But the source says while Baker did see Sagliani at the mall for the day of the shoot, she left prior to filming and did not know any sort of drug-use demonstration was going to take place.
And the source says officers assisting the film-makers were told repeatedly that there would be no tolerance
for any drug violations. Specifically mentioned was that there was to be no drugs present or any drug use on-set.
You can watch the full film below.
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