On August 8, 2020, Michael Cremen, a White man from Franklinville, hurled racial slurs and threatened Black Lives Matter protesters with a knife on Hertel Ave. while Buffalo Police officers sat by in a parked cruiser even after one of the protesters complained to the officers about the man’s threatening actions. Instead of arresting the man, the police waited 2 days after the video of the event went viral to issue an appearance ticket accusing Cremen of a felony hate crime and other offenses and directing the man to appear in court a month later.
After Cremen failed to appear in court, Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee, following the new bail reform law, denied the Assistant District Attorney’s request for an arrest warrant and rescheduled the case for October 19, 2020.
Erie County DA John Flynn complained, publicly criticizing the judge for following the law.
He held an 11 minute press conference during which he suggested he was “concerned for public safety” because of statements in an email allegedly written by Cremen.
Mr. Flynn’s actions, whether intentional or not, made it appear that a potentially dangerous defendant was still free because Judge Barbara Johnson-Lee failed to do her job by not issuing an arrest warrant for Cremen. It also raised questions in the minds of some people – especially in the Black community and those in the Black Lives Matter movement – as to why the judge, an African American, and respected member of this community and judiciary, would not immediately issue a warrant for Cremen because he failed to appear on charges arising out of his confrontation with Black Lives Matters supporters!
The bottom line – and what clearly did not come through in the news reports – is that Judge Johnson-Lee was simply following the law.
What kind of game is Mr. Flynn playing? And did he not consider what the personal impact of throwing this highly regarded Black woman under the bus would have on her family and loved ones? Doctor Bird’s Rasta-Rant the long standing family business? Her outstanding daughter attorney Jamila Lee, deputy chief clerk to Erie County Surrogate Court and president of the Minority Bar Association?
If Michael Cremen was so dangerous, did Mr. Flynn not have options to get him off the streets?
According to our sources, the DA had the power to remove Cremen from the street within days of his arrest, if he felt it was necessary to do so. If he was so “concerned about public safety,” he could have made a direct presentment of the facts in the Cremen case to a grand jury to obtain an indictment. That would have given the New York State Supreme Court jurisdiction and bypassed Buffalo City Court. Flynn didn’t do that.
From day one Michael Cremen could have – and probably should have – been arrested at the scene if the officers had investigated the report of a man spouting vile racial insults and wielding a knife in a threatening manner. Or did the officers not act because they were sympathetic to Cremen’s racial sentiments?
Last week, Michael Cremen failed to appear in court again and Judge Johnson-Lee properly issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Presumably, Michael Cremen may have his day in court, even if he doesn’t want it.
Justice Johnson-Lee is not ethically permitted to publicly speak on any issue that may come before her as a sitting judge. That is why we are coming to her defense and expressing our unwaivering support for this outstanding justice and her family.
This community proudly elected Barbara Johnson-Lee to the bench because we believe in her.
We still do. And no petty politricks and games people play, can change that.