BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Acting Erie County District Attorney Mike Flaherty has less than three months on his term.
And though the state of New York is calling on him to investigate the case of Richard Metcalf Jr., the matter will likely be decided by his successor, either Republican and Conservative candidate Joseph Treanor or Democratic candidate John Flynn.
“The commission called on the DA’s office to conduct an investigation, and that’s what needs to be done,” Flynn said.
Richard Metcalf Jr. was taken to the Erie County Holding Center in November 2012 after his arrest in Depew. (Links to complete coverage is below.)
His family said he was hearing voices and behaving strangely in the weeks leading up to his arrest.
His paranoia grew worse at the holding center, and Metcalf began acting out, and resisting deputies’ commands.
Eventually, he had to be restrained, and that’s when, according to a state report released Sept. 26, jail deputies beat and choked him to death.
“All I would try to do as the DA is to try and find out what happened here,” Flynn said. “I’m not saying anyone did anything wrong at this point. I’m not even implying that anyone did anything wrong. All I’m want to do is find out what happened.”
Treanor said he wouldn’t shy away from this type of a case.
“I would have no problem prosecuting this case, if the facts merited it,” he said.
But he said it’s still too early to make a determination about whether an investigation is necessary.
“We have a district attorney right now,” Treanor said. “It is Mr. Flaherty’s job and charter to review this case. And it’s my understanding that he is doing exactly that.”
Flynn said that’s part of the problem. Without a commitment from one of the county’s most important offices, taxpayers who fund it begin to lose trust and confidence.
“This family lost a loved one, which is tragic,” he said. “And the family of this young man deserves to know what happened.”
Treanor said politics should play no role in the decisions of the county’s top law enforcement officer, and that includes in this case.
“Right now, since it’s not my charter, if you will, I’m going to let Mr. Flaherty do his job, without trying to influence anything,” Treanor said. “Because, to me, that would be more of a political ploy, and I’m not going to do that.”
Treanor said he believes voters agree.
“I think people are craving an anti-politician,” he said. “They are craving someone who is principled, who is ethical, who will do the right thing for justice and for them, consequences be darned.”
Flynn said those consequences — the possibility of losing a case or upsetting one political base or another — have played too large a role in the county’s DA office.
“The public has to have trust and confidence in all branches of government,” he said. “You have to change the culture there. If I’m elected, we’re going to take on difficult cases, we’re not going to be afraid to lose.”
Flaherty met with attorneys for the Metcalf family on Wednesday, who said the meeting was positive. Flaherty said he will review the case, but hasn’t committed to reopening the investigation.
Metcalf’s father, Richard, Sr., said Wednesday he hoped the report from the Commission of Corrections breathes new life into the case.