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Terroristic charges dropped against man who called local restaurants after Tops mass shooting

Charges have been dropped against Joseph Chowaniec. He was charged with making terroristic threats by phone.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Joseph Chowaniec, 52, had been indicted on a charges of making a terroristic threat by phone to Bocce Club Pizza and Southern Tier Brewing.

The charges have been dropped.

According to court documents, obtained by Channel 2, Chowaniec was trying to get free food from the restaurants and told them "you can thank the Tops on Jefferson."

RELATED: Buffalo man charged with threatening local businesses

The calls were made on May 15, 2022, one day after the Tops mass shooting on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo where 10 black people were killed. 

Erie County Court Judge James Bargnesi wrote in his decision, "it is beyond a doubt that terrorism poses a significant threat to our security and that crimes intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population must be prosecuted and punished. This is not one of those cases."

Local defense attorney Barry Covert said, "according to the judge who reviewed the charges and dismissed them, he held that simply holding a conversation with a restaurant owner or a store or retail establishment by saying thanks to Tops on Jefferson, without anything more, threatening any type of assault kidnapping shooting or saying anything more, is not sufficient for criminal charges."

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he plans to file different charges in the case.

"The judge also specifically allowed the district attorney's office to re-present the case to the grand jury, so perhaps they'll have a different theory now that they understand that they didn't provide sufficient evidence to the grand jury the first time around," Covert said.

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