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Former cop gets 18 months for selling pot

A former probationary Buffalo police officer is going behind bars for growing and selling marijuana.  James Hamilton Senior will do 18 months in a federal prison.The sentence from Federal Judge William Skretny is far below the 78 months Hamilton might have served without a plea bargain between his lawyer Thomas Eoannou and the U.S. Attorney's office.

There's also a $50,000 cash forfeiture. While wearing his service weapon, Hamilton collected a relatively small amount of marijuana from the "grow-op" in his basement and took it to a friend and was paid cash. The friend was a cooperating witness with federal agents and wore a wire for the deal.

Hamilton was immediately arrested and fired as a cop.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul suggested Hamilton seemed to have a lot of money before becoming an officer.

"We presented information to the court that among his possessions was a Porsche and another luxury automobile. I believe a Jaguar was another one of his cars. So, here's a defendant who had every opportunity in life, who also knew the law," Hochul said.

Immediately after his arrest, State Police notified his wife not to show up for her basic training as a State Trooper. Last week, Judge Skretny expressed some concern in court that Hamilton had paid a heavy price already by losing his job and his wife's job and questioned the plea bargain of 18 to 24 months in prison. He told the two sides to talk again.

Eoannou says prosecutors instead talked of reinstating more serious charges. Eoannou says the judge went with the plea bargain in what his lawyer says was not a big deal.

"It was an old friend who asked him for a very small amount of marijuana who solicited my client and there was a very small exchange made and he's obviously not in the business of selling marijuana. The judge took that all into consideration and gave him the low end of the range."

Eoannou says the cooperating witness is a much more important figure in local drug circles and got off relatively lightly on a different charge.

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.