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Former Buffalo Cold Case Detective Loses Appeal Of Suspension

A famous former Buffalo Cold Case detective has lost his appeal of a suspension dating back to 2008
Dennis Delano

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A famous former Buffalo Cold Case detective has lost his appeal of a suspension dating back to 2008.

Dennis Delano had sued the city and its police department on free speech grounds after speaking out to 2 On Your Side about the District Attorney's handling of a case he was involved in.

Back in 2007, Lynn DeJac had just been released after spending more than 13 years in prison for the strangulation murder of her daughter, Crystallyn.

Buffalo Cold Case detectives, including Delano, had discovered that DNA from DeJac's boyfriend at the time of the murder, Dennis Donohue, had been found at inside Crystallyn's body and at the crime scene of her bedroom in the South Buffalo home where she lived with her mother.

That prompted a judge to release DeJac from prison.

It turned out that Donohue, the boyfriend, couldn't be prosecuted for the crime because he had been given immunity by the Erie County D.A.'s office in exchange for his testimony against DeJac at her trial.

Following DeJac's release from prison, the D.A. at the time, Frank Clark, said he would retry DeJac for Crystallyn's murder.

But just months came later a shocker - Clark had hired renowned pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to review the case, and Baden announced that Crystallyn hadn't been strangled at all, but instead, Baden said she had died of a cocaine overdose.

With that Clark closed the case because he said there was no murder.

But Crystallyn had only trace amounts of cocaine in her system and her mother was convinced that Donohue had killed Crystallyn. Donohue had admitted to police when he was questioned about Crystallyn's death that he had done cocaine that night.

At the time, we at 2 On Your Side wondered what the true story was about Crystallynn's death. 

We flew to Washington to have a noted criminologist, Dr. Larry Kobilinsky review the case.

He strongly disagreed with the finding of an overdose. 

Joining us in Washington was Detective Delano.

Delano had taken his concerns about Baden's finding of a cocaine overdose to his superiors, but he was ordered not to work on the case or talk to the media about it. But Delano felt so strongly about things that he took a day off of work and flew to Washington that day at his own expense.

Scott Brown (in 2008): "Would you like to see this case reopened and reinvestigated?"

Detective Dennis Delano: "Oh absolutely, absolutely, I'm convinced justice is not done in this case."

Because of his actions that day, as well as releasing police video of the case to 2 On Your Side, Delano was given a 60 day suspension.

Rather than accept the suspension, Delano retired from the force and filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the police department asserting that his first amendment rights to free speech had been violated.

Delano lost the case, and just last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision saying that although... "the value in Delano's speech is admittedly strong. He spoke out about what he believes is an injustice in what may have been the murder of a young girl...(Police Commissioner McCarthy) Gipson had his own duty to ensure he maintained a significant degree of control over his employees' words and actions, without it, there would be little chance for the efficient provision of public services."

Steve Cohen, Delano's attorney, calls Delano a hero for doing what he did.

"When somebody does something like that, when they sacrifice their own job, they are a hero and regrettably the Second Circuit has taken the wind out of anyone's sails who might otherwise think, 'you know I've got to stand up and do what's right here,' now they would be ill advised to do so," said Cohen.

Delano declined an on camera interview, but told 2 On Your Side that despite what happened to him, if given the chance, he would do the same thing all over again. Delano told us "it was the right thing to do, not the politically correct thing to do." Delano added that he "fears others in the future will be reluctant to come forward with wrongdoing because of the 'chilling' effect this ruling will have."

Lynn DeJac sued the city, county and state for her wrongful imprisonment and won a settlement of more than five million dollars. She died of cancer at the age of 50 in June of 2014.

Dennis Donohue, based on evidence discovered by Buffalo Cold Case detectives, including Dennis Delano, was convicted in 2008 of the 1993 strangulation death of a Buffalo woman, Joan Giambra, and is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Giambra was murdered just seven months after Crystallynn was found dead.