NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — A Niagara Falls man, accused of raping and kidnapping one of his neighbors before leaving her chained in his basement last weekend, appeared for arraignment on a host of charges Tuesday in Niagara Falls City Court.
Michael Ciskiewic, 25, pleaded not guilty to kidnapping in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, rape in the first degree, assault in the second degree, and menacing in the second degree before Judge Shawn P. Nickerson.
According to a court source Nickerson, who is a North Tonawanda city judge, was brought in to handle the arraignment due to a conflict of interest for the Niagara Falls judge who had been scheduled to preside.
Held Without Bail
Ciskiewic appeared in handcuffs wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, and he provided brief answers to the judge’s questions while looking at his attorney Dominic Saraceno for guidance.
On his client’s behalf, Saraceno also waived a preliminary hearing, which means the case will now likely go before a Niagara County grand jury for purposes of indictment.
Due to the fact that kidnapping in the first degree is considered a Class A felony, and the fact that a city court judge in New York State has no authority to set bail on such a serious charge, Ciskiewic will remain held without bail until such time as he appears before a Superior Court judge.
Ciskiewic was apprehended Monday evening after an all-day manhunt led by a U.S. Marshal’s Service fugitive task force, when he was discovered hiding in an area of woods and high weeds near 24th and Allen Avenue.
It is less than a mile from his Monroe Avenue home.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Ciskiewic is accused of entering the home of a woman who lives not far from him and who, according to police, had hired him to mow her lawn and for other odd jobs as a means to support himself. (Because she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault, 2 On Your Side is not reporting her name.)
According to police, Ciskiewic then assaulted her before dragging her to his home and chaining her in his basement, where police later rescued her on Sunday afternoon after she was held captive for an estimated 12 hours.
Believing that Ciskiewic was still inside his home, a SWAT team surrounded the residence and waited another 12 hours before firing tear gas, only to enter the residence and discover he was not there.
A dragnet then ensued, culminating with Ciskiewic’s arrest at around 7 p.m. Monday.
“This should be a wake-up call to our lawmakers we can’t ignore the mental health crisis in our communities," Saraceno said following the arraignment of his client, who he claims has several mental health conditions. “Most significantly he is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.”
Niagara Falls Police told reporters Monday that while Ciskiewic has had prior brushes with the law, his past charges were not overly serious and certainly not to the degree of the heinous acts he is now accused of committing.
Building a Case
Meanwhile, with the tear gas police fired into Ciskiewic’s home early Monday morning having safely dissipated, detectives returned to the scene on Tuesday to execute a search warrant in hopes of gathering further evidence.
On Monday evening, Niagara Falls Police Captain Kelly Rizzo lauded the victim’s courage during her ordeal and beyond.
"She's pretty tough and she fought back. … And she made it a point to let us know how much she fought back," said Rizzo, noting that the glass in the front storm door at the victim's home had been shattered and that, according to the victim, it got that way when she struggled with her accused assailant, and slammed his head through it.
“She’s continuing to fight,” Rizzo said. “Not only is she out of the hospital sooner than we would have thought, but we know that she’s gonna make a great witness this case."
Judge Nickerson also issued an Order of Protection commanding Ciskiewic to have no contact with his alleged victim, nor with a man who was identified by name in court, but whose connection to the case was not specified.
However, a source describes that man as a witness who gave police information during their search for Ciskiewic.
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