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Eloff pleads guilty to role in deadly 2014 Molly's Pub incident

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A now-former Buffalo Police officer faces up to a year in prison as the result of a guilty plea stemming from a violent and eventually deadly incident inside a former Buffalo bar two years ago.

Back in May 2014, William Sager, Jr. was pushed down a flight of stairs inside Molly's Pub. Sager died weeks later from his injuries.

Monday morning in federal court, 41-year-old Robert Eloff entered a guilty plea to one count of misdemeanor civil rights violation. Eloff, who at the time was an off-duty Buffalo Police officer working security at the bar, admitted in court to unlawfully detaining an individual who was attempting to assist an unconscious Sager moments after the latter was pushed by Jeffrey Basil.

Basil was sentenced last July to 18 years in prison. He took a plea deal in which he admitted to manslaughter. His previous conviction was tossed out as the result of juror misconduct.

As part of his plea deal, Eloff resigned from the Buffalo Police Department. Following Monday morning's proceedings before federal judge Richard Arcara, U.S. Attorney William Hochul explained that his office didn't want Eloff to emerge unscathed from the Molly's Pub incident.

"We looked at out statute books and we discovered that the federal civil rights crimes would allow us to prosecute Officer Eloff," Hochul said.

When sentenced on October 3, Eloff faces up to a year in prison. Because Eloff's victim was not physically harmed, though, the defendant did not face more serious counts.

Eloff has no comment as he left the courthouse, but his attorney Herb Greenman spoke briefly to reporters.

"He's accepted responsibility. He's prepared to move forward with this life," Greenman said. "We decided to end the process at this point in time. We'll have more to say as we go toward sentencing."

Greenman also told reporters it was his hope that the public would not forget Eloff's good work while on duty for Buffalo Police. Sager's father, though, said Eloff betrayed his oath to serve and protect by his actions in May 2014.

"It's like I tell a lot of other people, when you become a police officer and you take that oath, you should take that oath to the heart no matter where you are and what time of day it is," William Sager, Sr. said. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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