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Basil found guilty of murder

WBFO News photo by Mark Scott

A jury has found Jeffrey Basil, the former bar manager of Molly's Pub, guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Air National Guardsman William Sager, Jr.

Basil pushed Sager down a flight of stairs at the Main Street bar early on the morning of May 11, 2014. Sager, 28, suffered a severe brain injury and died nearly three months later.

The defense admitted Basil shoved Sager but did not intend to kill him.  Prosecutor Christopher Belling said the evidence told a different story.

"The fact that we had witnesses who saw the push and witnesses who could tell us how forceful the push was made it clear what the intent was," Belling said.

Defense Attorney Joel Daniels said this was a sad case for all involved.

"There are no winners here.  Only losers," Daniels said.  "I'm sure that young man (Sager) was a good guy with a promising career."

Credit Photo by Avery Schneider / WBFO News
Jeffrey Basil hears guilty verdict.

Sager's family declined to address the media until after Basil's sentencing on February 23rd.  He faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.  Daniels said he plans to appeal.

Jurors deliberated over the course of two days after a week of testimony in State Supreme Court. Closing arguments were presented Tuesday, after which the jury was charged. Word of a verdict came just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Basil was also found guilty of tampering with evidence. Earlier in the day, the jury sought clarification on the charge of tampering with physical evidence.

Just after noon on Wednesday, the definition of the charge of tampering was re-read to the jury by Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang. Wolfgang also granted the jury’s request that they be given the actual Digital Video Recorder that held security footage of Molly’s Pub on the night of May 11, 2014.

Some of that footage was then reviewed, starting at the time from which Basil re-entered the pub after visiting another Main Street bar. The jury watched footage of Basil making his way through the bar with off-duty police officers Adam O’Shei and Robert Eloff. The three were shown entering the basement office where the DVR was kept.

The jury then heard a re-reading of testimony by O’Shei, with examinations by both the prosecution and the defense. In it, O’Shei refers to the DVR as his “best friend,” because he didn’t know if anyone else had seen the incident.

O'Shei explained that Basil was frustrated and intoxicated as he tried to bring up the footage from earlier in the evening, and then began disconnecting wires on the DVR. O’Shei testified that he was concerned about possible damage to the DVR, and that he knew it might have held important video evidence.

In addition to murder and tampering, Basil, 36, faced a charge of first degree manslaughter with intent to cause serious physical injury resulting in death. The jury convicted him of the more serious murder charge.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.