The D.A. and Me

by Ted Kirklad

It was July 23 when by courier, a message came from Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn inviting me to lunch and giving me the pleasure of selecting the place, date and time. This was a complete surprise considering our opposite positions concerning the shooting of the 12 year old Black boy by confessed shooter Edward Bald. Bald, is a 61 year old white man whom the Grand Jury recently no billed; a decision I was certain that the D.A. wanted. For our lunch meeting, I chose Mattie’s Restaurant at 12 noon on July 25th.

Prior to leaving home that morning to meet the man who held the most powerful position in Erie County government, I scanned the morning Buffalo News. One article caught my interest. The Minority Bar Association selected Erie County District Attorney, John J. Flynn to be one of its awardees. Interesting, I thought, but not surprising, since the article did not mention any particular member of the Minority Bar Association as being the lead spokesperson in submitting this information. I wondered why. Like straddling a fence, it appeared to be a calculated political move. I arrived at Mattie’s a few minutes early, as I wanted a certain table for the meeting, and chose one that was out of the way of the flow of customers. Flynn, a rather imposing individual was on time. First, I congratulated D.A. Flynn for being one of the Minority Bar Association’s awardees, for which he thanked me. After our greeting, we ordered lunch. He ordered chilly dogs and I ordered an unusual combination; oatmeal, and a piece of fish.

Before getting down to the reason for the lunch meeting, I asked D.A. Flynn if Justin Caldwell, the Black male lawyer he recently appointed to his staff was related to Frank Caldwell. Frank Caldwell, formerly of Buffalo, was a member of the New York State parole board when I joined in 1978. Flynn said he didn’t know. D.A. Flynn began the conversation by what appeared to be an effort to persuade me into believing that he had done all he could to get the Grand Jury to indict the White, 61 year old Edward Bald for shooting and severely wounding the 12 year old Black boy in November of 2017.

D.A. Flynn admitted that he thought Bald was guilty, but the Grand Jury thought otherwise and decided not to indict him. Again, he said he had done all that he could to get an indictment. Of course, I was not persuaded. Flynn knew my position on this issue concerning the Grand Jury which I stated in one of my previous articles. Specifically, that the D.A. controls the Grand Jury, and the only information the Grand Jury considers is what the D.A. gives them and what they may glean from the media. The information fed to them is frequently onesided and heavily influenced by sources from the D.A.’s office and the police department. From my perspective, one only needed to compare the manner in which the D.A. prosecuted Black people versus the manner in which he treated Bald who is White. Flynn’s bias was as clear as that of the Buffalo News, who distorted facts in this case.

It made it easier for the D.A. when the Buffalo News skewed the story in such a way that it was quite obvious the direction the paper wanted its readers to lean, and potentially Grand Jury members to vote. And let’s not forget the impact that the Buffalo police played in distorting this case by not arresting the shooter on the spot. By not following the usual protocol of an arrest of this 61 year old White man, this may have persuaded the general public to believe that this act of extreme violence against the 12 year old Black boy was justified because Bald thought the boy was trying to break into his home.

Flynn spent an inordinate amount of time laboring the point that he did his best to get an indictment. While I listened and did not express an opinion one way or the other, I remained resolved in what I believed took place. My position was previously stated in a series of articles published by The Challenger, including an article published by The Challenger and The Criterion, titled the 12 Year old Black Boy and the World against Him. Flynn then provided details of the questioning of the 12 year old Black boy by his investigators and Buffalo police officers. His investigators promised the 12 year-old immunity if he told the truth and confessed. According to Flynn, the 12 year-old finally admitted to law enforcement authorities that he and his friends were there to commit a robbery. But there were obvious flaws in this approach. This was real life intimidation of the worst kind.

At this stage of our conversation, I came very close to breaking my silence for I could hear the Black voices of the past saying, “I was innocent but I was told that unless I confessed to having committed the crime I would go to prison, so what was I to do?”

Here before me sat the District Attorney, the most powerful public official in Erie County government, saying that this 12 year old Black boy…………. a 12 year old severely wounded and traumatized boy, who was not yet a teenager, was in a room full of White male adults, that included White assistant District Attorneys, investigators, Buffalo police officers, and possibly other White men pressuring the boy to confess to a robbery.

Then they proceeded to tell him that if he confessed to the intent to commit a robbery, he would be set free; and if he did not confess, the assumption being he would be sent to jail or worse. What would any 12 year old do? Especially a 12 year old Black child who was obviously wounded, very likely frightened, and not in a position to challenge authority. So, I believe this room full of White adults wanted this 12 year old Black boy to confess to an attempted robbery where upon they would use the broken window as evidence that this was a means to gain entrance to Bald’s home with intent to commit a robbery, and not just a case of childhood mischief of having broken a window.

As I am piecing this together in my mind, at some point during the interview, authorities concluded that the boy actually broke the window, and to sweeten the pie, they manufactured the story that his intent was to gain entrance into Bald’s house to commit a robbery. This could give Bald a reason in his mind to shoot the 12 year old Black boy, although it still would not justify such behavior by state law, which seems to have been lost in the story as told by Flynn to me.

The big hole in this story is that Bald would have to be a mind reader to know beforehand what was on the mind of the 12 year old and his two friends. It seems that all of this was being fabricated to give Bald a legal justification for shooting the boy who lost his right eye from the shotgun pellets. But the law does not support this theory. But looking back to my career in the Buffalo Police Department, I remember a quote from Buffalo Police Commissioner Frank Felicetta when a Black police officer spoke to him about a tavern that refused to serve him. Felicetta responded that, “the White man made the law and he can break it anytime he wants to.”

So, the 12 year old Black boy, in a room surrounded by a group of White men, symbolic of the modern day KKK without a friendly face in sight, gave them what they wanted in exchange for his supposed freedom. This child confessed under very intimidating circumstances and chances are the boy would have confessed to having walked on the moon.

The question the child’s mother and his lawyer, if he had one present, must answer is, will this pre-teen have a juvenile or adult criminal record since he confessed to attempted robbery? Will this attempted robbery show up in a background check later in his life when he seeks a job, applies to college, registers to vote, applies for a passport, gun permit, or what have you? If there is a juvenile record, when and under what circumstances could these charges be expunged? It seems unlikely that he had a lawyer representing him in that room. No lawyer worth his title would allow a child to suffer such intimidation in a room full of white investigators and police officers.

The question the child’s mother and his lawyer, if he had one present, must answer is, will this pre-teen have a juvenile or adult criminal record since he confessed to attempted robbery? Will this attempted robbery show up in a background check later in his life when he seeks a job, applies to college, registers to vote, applies for a passport, gun permit, or what have you? If there is a juvenile record, when and under what circumstances could these charges be expunged? It seems unlikely that he had a lawyer representing him in that room. No lawyer worth his title would allow a child to suffer such intimidation in a room full of white investigators and police officers.

Yet one question still remains unanswered, a question that has become even more important to answer now than the time I raised it in the first article I wrote concerning this case. Who is Edward Bald? Now that police officers and investigators participated in a sham to protect him, who is he? What does he do? What is his relationship with Black children? Why would someone throw a rock through his window? I ask these questions because I do not believe the robbery theory merely because Bald said he thought these boys were going to rob him.

How many times have we heard whites use fear of Blacks as a reason for shooting Blacks? The question of who is Edward Bald remains a mystery, but one thing for sure; this mysterious character has shown to have more political power and influence than all the Black elected officials in Buffalo combined. Their silence speaks for them.

Long Time Contributing Columnist and Community Voice/ Ted Kirkland

Before we departed that day, Flynn acknowledged among the 19 investigators on his staff, only one is Black. We then discussed the racial demographics of detectives in the Buffalo police department. Flynn said to his knowledge, only one Black detective is in the homicide unit of about 15 investigators. We agreed this may be one of the major reasons Black people are reluctant to talk with White investigators and police officers, this includes me. What is never mentioned is that in politics, one group’s problem or vulnerability serves as an advantage or source of strength to rival groups. Is that happening here?