A jury will reconvene Tuesday morning to decide whether Raymond Wierzbic, his wife Bernice, their son Brian and their daughter Angelene will be successful in their lawsuit against Howard and Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hoock for false arrest, excessive force and trespass.
The Wierzbic have a small farm in the Town of Aurora. On July 2, 2012 Ray, Bernice and Brian were working at the farm when Hoock arrived to serve a subpoena from M&T Bank on Raymond Wierzbic. Brian met the deputy near the road, informed him that he was Ray’s son and he would take the paper. Hoock refused and demanded ID. Brian provided his license and told the deputy to give him the paper and leave several times. The deputy refused and demanded Ray show him ID.
Ray told the deputy if he didn’t have a warrant he needed to get off their property. The deputy argued with the men and the situation heated up. The deputy then noticed Ray, standing ten yards away from the deputy was holding a pair of pliers. The deputy demanded he put them down. Ray refused and the deputy decided to arrest him and called for back-up for assistance. He informed Ray he was under arrest and Ray walked away from him. The deputy pursued with Brian following continuing to insist the deputy give him the paper and leave. Ray had walked several hundred feet and when the deputy caught up to Ray he pepper sprayed him. Ray reacted by knocking the pepper spray canister out of the deputy’s hand and swore at him. The three men then walked back toward the site of the initial encounter and continued to argue.
Bernice Wierzbic met the three men and tried to calm things down. She then called 911 and requested the East Aurora police send someone to help with the situation. As she was on the phone the deputy’s back-up arrived. Without pausing to inform the arriving officers of what had transpired Hoock immediately attacked Ray. The other officers saw that Hoock was losing the fight with Ray then joined in to help their comrade. Ray was pepper sprayed again and the four officers were finally able to subdue. During the melee one officer took Brian down and another took control of Bernice when they tried to help Ray. Raymond, Bernice and Brian were arrested.
The Wierzbics stayed in the Erie County Holding Center until the were arraigned in Aurora Town Court at around 11PM the following day. They plead not guilty and eventually were released from jail. In June of the next year the Wierzbics were tried in Aurora Court where they were represented by Paul E. Fallon and Daire Brian Irwin. Bernice was found not guilty but Raymond and Brian were convicted. Their convictions were appealed to Erie County Court and Judge Michael Petruszka threw out their convictions and dismissed all charges.
The Wierzbics sued Sheriff Howard and Deputy Hoock. The trial began in Federal Court on November 5th in front of U.S. Magistrate Leslie Foschio. The Wierzbics are again represented by Fallon and Irwin and Jennifer Persico as lead council for Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP the firm the county hired to defend the case.