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Former police officer awaits drug sentence

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Mike Desmond/wbfo news
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Sentencing of  James Hamilton, the Buffalo police officer fired for marijuana dealing, was delayed as a federal judge considers the case.

"The gun charge is the elephant in the room, obviously. That's the five-year mandatory minimum," Defense lawyer Tom Eoannou told reporters following Wednesday's session in federal court. 

Eoannou's client James Hamilton was slated to be sentenced yesterday. The probationary cop who was fired after selling marijuana to an informant has admitted to possession for the purpose of trafficking and agreed to 18 to 24-months in jail in a plea deal.

That plea deal, however, doesn't include the charge of possession of a weapon during the commission of a drug crime, in this case his service weapon. Hamilton was carrying his weapon while taking $1,100 worth of marijuana from where he was growing it in his basement and taking it to the scene of the sale where he was arrested.

Eoannou says Chief Federal District Judge William Skretny wanted time because there is a complex legal issue involved.
              
"If the court were to go lower, the 11-C-1-C plea would no longer be valid and effective and the United States government could proceed with both the marijuana and the gun charge. That is why we took the week's adjournment to discuss what is a fair and appropriate disposition in light of this young man's exemplary character."

That gun charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in jail. After the probationary officer was fired, his wife was notified by State Police not to show up for basic training at the State Police Academy.

During the court hearing, Judge Skretny left the impression loss of two law enforcement careers and limited jail time might be enough punishment.
 

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.