by Benjamin Tschirhart
On April 5, 2022, a former jail guard in Buffalo pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony count of promoting prison contraband. Jason Stachowski, 48, had already resigned from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) on February 17, 2022, after investigators acting on an anonymous tip discovered that he provided a cell phone and charger to a detainee at the Erie County Correctional Facility.
Sheriff John Garcia said that “these are not the people that represent [ECSO], nor do I want people like Mr. Stachowski representing the county sheriff’s office in the future.”
But how did he get there in the first place? This was not Stachowski’s first brush with the other side of the law. Before joining ECSO, he worked for the Buffalo Police Department (BPD), where his alleged misconduct included assaulting both a pretrial detainee and a co-worker.
In 2013, a year after he was hired by BPD, Stachowski served a three-day suspension for throwing a fellow guard to a concrete floor during a dispute. Then in October 2013 he was accused of assaulting a pretrial detainee he was escorting to arraignment at the City Court.
That detainee, James W. Shannon, was in a courthouse elevator with his wife when Stachowski allegedly “pushed, shoved, struck, punched, kicked and/or otherwise assaulted” him, according to the lawsuit Shannon later filed. The case carried racial overtones; Stachowski is white, and the Shannons claimed they felt targeted because they are Black. In 2014, an attorney from LoTempio & Brown in Buffalo filed suit against the city on Shannon’s behalf. The city settled that case in May 2018 for $42,500. See: Shannon v. City of Buffalo, N.Y. Supr. (Cty. of Erie), Case No. 811691/2014.
Less than a year later, Stachowski quit BPD, leaving behind two more outstanding disciplinary charges – for using “harsh and insolent” language with a detainee and then refusing to sign a disciplinary report about the incident. But he was hired by ECSO, scoring a $15,000 annual pay increase, too.
After that, in 2016, a new law required agencies to begin alerting the state Division of Criminal Justice Services when employees are terminated for cause or leave with an open disciplinary charge. But New York Civil Rights Law 50-A still then barred law enforcement agencies from sharing disciplinary files with one another; it wasn’t repealed until 2020.
In summer 2020, a video went viral on the internet of Stachowski menacing a group of racial justice protesters with a baseball bat. For that he served a seven-day suspension, Sheriff Garcia said. In July 2021, Stachowski served another suspension for shouting at a supervisor. When he was arrested for smuggling in January 2022, deputies attempting to subdue him were forced to use a Taser. [See: PLN, Apr. 2022, p.62.]
Stachowski’s lawyer called his client a “good guy who has gone through a lot in his life…it’s an unfortunate situation for him, but it is not reflective of his character and the man that he is.” Curiously, the lawyer vouching for the disgraced guard was Frank LoTiempo III, whose firm represented the Shannons in their suit against the county and Stachowski.
Additional source: Buffalo News
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