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Buffalo Police union, attorney defend officers charged with assault

The felony second-degree assault charges are based on the crucial question of intent. 'Nobody intended to hurt him.'

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Attorney Tom Burton with the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association has defended many cops accused of misconduct in his career.

Now he will represent Officer Robert McCabe in this very high profile case with national and even international attention.

On behalf of his client and the union, he leads off with this statement: "Nobody from the police is delighting in the fact that this fellow got hurt, OK. Nobody intended to hurt him. But the bottom line is the events which triggered this were not started by the police."

It is an obvious strategy to shift the blame to 75-year-old Martin Gugino, who was injured Thursday in the incident on the steps of City Hall as a line of police officers tried to clear Niagara Square of protesters.

We heard a similar line of reasoning Friday night from Police Benevolent Association President Thomas Evans. He says the accused officers, like the rest of the Emergency Response Team, were simply following orders from the police brass to clear the square of protesters after the curfew took effect.

Evans says: "Why would you approach a line of police officers you know that are clearing the area. They gave the command to clear the square, and why would you approach them if you weren't ... you know ... had a combative mindset?"

Attorney Burton also feels the Erie County District Attorney's office is overreaching with felony second-degree assault charges against the officers. It is based on the crucial question of intent.

"In our view it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that a shove equals the officers attempting to injure this fellow. There's a disconnect there," he said.

2 On Your Side asked Burton: Couldn't they have just taken this gentleman into custody, turned around, and put handcuffs on him as opposed to knocking him down?

Burton's response: "Yeah, that is speculative as to woulda, coulda, should have. But these officers are not charged with what they could have done. They're charged with a felony of purposely hurting this man. And those other Monday morning quarterback issues aren't something that I think is appropriate to dwell on right now."

Burton says he hopes to review much more evidence such as whether here is any potential video from police body cameras. 

Burton says his co-counsel is Attorney Joseph Latona.    

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