Deputies accused of smuggling items into jail appear in court

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Former Erie County Sheriff’s deputies Charles Hunt and Eric Stevens faced felony charges Friday morning in Buffalo City Court.

Hunt and Stevens were fired after allegedly bringing contraband into a correctional facility. Both waived their right to a preliminary hearing Friday morning.

Stevens walked into city court just as Hunt was finishing with Judge Diane Wray. Both are charged with a felony for promoting prison contraband.

Prosecutors say Hunt was caught with a cell phone, 33 grams of marijuana and rolling papers while on duty. Stevens is accused of giving a Bic lighter to an inmate. Although both were deputies at the Erie County Holding Center and both were arrested the same day, the two cases are not connected.

Stevens’ attorney Dean Puleo said, “These two cases are unrelated. I have no reason to believe there is a connection between my client, other than they were charged the same day.”

“Anytime a law enforcement officer is charged or gets accused of a crime, it gets a lot of attention and embarrassment,” said Hunt’s attorney John Elmore.

Elmore says his client completed the police academy about a year ago. He only worked for the sheriff’s office for about nine months before the incident

Elmore said, “This is a very difficult time for him and his family. Very public and very serious allegations.”

According to court documents, Stevens confessed, saying his actions were driven by fear. Stevens said he bought the lighter and gave it to a suspected cocaine dealer. He says he was afraid the inmate would hurt his wife, who also works at the Holding Center, if he refused.

Puleo said, “We are talking about a Bic lighter. I don’t want to make light of it. It is a contraband item? Can it be used to harm someone? Certainly.”

Both cases will now move to a county grand jury. No dates have been set for either case.

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