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Suspect in Hertel Avenue BLM confrontation skips arraignment

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A Franklinville man accused of wielding a knife during a confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters failed to appear for his scheduled arraignment Thursday morning. While the judge rescheduled the hearing, the Erie County District Attorney wanted Michael Cremen arrested immediately, expressing safety concerns.

Police say Cremen was the man captured in photographs holding a knife while facing protesters outside a Hertel Avenue bar during an August protest on Hertel Avenue. He was subsequently issued an appearance ticket.

Thursday morning in Buffalo City Court, attorneys waited for the defendant's appearance. Finally, around 11 a.m., Cremen was declared a no-show. Under the state's bail reform, Cremen could still appear within a 48-hour window before the judge would issue a bench warrant for failing to appear.

Prosecutors, however, sought an immediate bench warrant for his arrest. They advised Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee that the court clerk and other authorities had received an email, allegedly from the defendant, stating he had no intention of appearing.

While Erie County District Attorney John Flynn would not release the email to media, he read from a portion of the message and raised concerns for public safety. He started by reading that the defendant allegedly would not wear a mask nor appear in any courtroom with people wearing masks. 

"He then goes on to say that 'if you do issue a warrant for my arrest, it is unlawful. And please understand that anyone that approaches my person, wife or property, especially wearing a badge in or facemask, I consider to be very dangerous threat to my life, and my Lord will severely punish those in violation of his or her protection of my life,'" Flynn said. "And then he goes on to talk some more hate here in about two or three pages here."

Flynn stated that Cattaraugus County law enforcers, who would have the duty to take Cremen into custody if a bench warrant is issued, have been advised of the email. In the meantime, he's urging the defendant to understand he remains innocent until proven guilty and appear with no further trouble on October 19.

He also expressed his respectful disagreement with the judge, explaining lawmakers put a mechanism within bail reform that would allow for an immediate bench warrant in some cases.

"They purposely put in there a provision that said if you know someone's willfully not coming in advance, you don't have to wait 48 hours," he said. "They did do a catch-all for this, right here. For whatever reason, the court decided to disregard that."

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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