This publication began seeking people wrongly accused of crimes by former Assistant US Attorney Anthony M. Bruce, who retired after 38 years with the US Attorney’s office, Western District of NY.
Public service announcements also appeared in Artvoice, the Niagara Falls Reporter, the South Buffalo News and the Front Page, seeking to hear from people who claim they were victims of Bruce.
Since running the announcements, lawyers, defendants, witnesses, convicts, people who were indicted and acquitted and others claim they or someone they knew was falsely accused by Bruce.
There are a number of curious cases such as that of Bhavesh Kamdar, where Bruce may have committed the crime of obstruction of justice when he changed a Pre-trial Supervision report which recommended “moderate bond” to “no bond” and submitted the false document to a magistrate judge.
But for the “blue line” policy of the DOJ and and then acting US Attorney, Bruce might have been disbarred.
Bruce’s plan was to deceive the court into denying Kamdar bail and keeping him in prison while awaiting trial, a hard place to conduct an effective defense.
Bruce was cuaght with the fraudulent document and Kamdar made bail.
While on bail, he retained the services of a top flight lawyer, aided in his own defense and Bruce failed to win a conviction.
Kamdar is free.
Then there is David Knoll, a once successful lawyer. It is well known and the subject of litigation that Bruce made a deal with a known bank robber in federal prison to trade a robber’s freedom for something “incriminating” he might uncover against Knoll, if it wound up somehow in Bruce’s possession.
The bank robber, while in federal prison, was able to arrange for a friend to commit a burglary of Knoll’s law office. Bruce wound up with the stolen documents, which he used to indict Knoll.
The case and the Bruce-sanctioned burglary were famous in the Western District of NY as an example of how Bruce could flaunt the law and get any target he chose.
Another example is the case of Paul Rutherford. Bruce merely wanted him to testify against his two nephews, who Bruce was targeting at the time.
Rutherford refused. Bruce again went into the prisons, this time to persuade a convicted killer who had been in prison for a 20- year-old murder to suddenly claim he remembered that it was Rutherford who did the killing two decades earlier.
Rutherford was indicted and held without bail spending 14 months in prison awaiting trial, where, he claims, he went deaf from the din.
At Rutherford’s trial, the man who had been convicted for the murder admitted on
The jury didn’t buy that a man who sat in prison for 20 years only remembered after Bruce refreshed his memory [and promised him freedom] that Rutherford was the killer.
Bruce’s case fell apart, when Rutherford’s assigned counsel uncovered that the convicted murderer had over the years accused others, including his own brother, of the killing in various attempts to get out of prison.
The acquittal infuriated Bruce, who threatened Rutherford’s lawyer with charges that could lead to disbarment, for what he claimed was improperly obtained exonerating information.
Then there is the case of Mike Caggiano, a guy who Bruce claimed was part of a union extortion ring.
Caggiano, who never had a criminal record before, got into a brawl in a local bar and cut his opponent with a knife causing a small puncture to his neck requiring two stitches. The man was otherwise unhurt.
Orchard Park police charged Caggiano with a misdemeanor. He was convicted and sentenced to four months of weekends in county jail and 300 hours of community service. He served his sentence and worked at Local 17 as an apprentice.
Bruce was after Local 17. Other than property damage and some pushing and shoving at picket lines, there was nothing to evidence Local 17 was dangerous or violent.
But Bruce learned about how Caggiano fought a man in a bar brawl, and indicted Caggiano for the fight he had already served time for, claiming the fight was not a drunken brawl, but that Caggiano was extorting the man on behalf of the union.
Bruce conflated the fight and the two stitch puncture wound to a brutal stabbing to the neck of a man who wouldn’t play ball with the union.
The publicity was splendid. Alongside dry and complicated wire fraud and money laundering schemes, and murky conspiracy, Bruce had a brutal union stabbing which everyone could understand.
Bruce knew, of course, that Caggiano wasn’t guilty. Everyone told him well before trial. But he needed Caggiano.
As other indicted union members were offered plea deals without prison time, the best deal Bruce offered Caggiano was eight years imprisonment.
As long as Caggiano was a defendant, he was useful in every news story which never failed to mention that he was the man who stabbed a man in the neck while allegedly extorting him to use Local 17.
During the trial, the man Bruce claimed had been brutally stabbed admitted he had been drinking with Caggiano for more than 10 hours the night of the fight. They got drunk together and the stabbing was revealed to the jury as nothing more than a pin prick.
The witness further admitted that Caggiano pricked him only after the man broke a bottle of liquor and threatened Caggiano with its jagged edges.
Bruce must have known the jury would acquit Caggiano. He knew it all along. But Caggiano’s life was ruined. His life saving lost. His reputation shattered.
Bruce pretended Caggiano was an enforcer. His acquittal seemed irrelevant to Bruce. He served his purpose.
The acquittals of Jeffrey Peterson, Thomas Freedenberg, Gerald Bove, and Michael Eddy, also of Local 17, seemed also irrelevant to Bruce.
He got one man. To get one conviction, he traded four acquittals of innocent men.
“The verdict was a mixed verdict,” Bruce said when four of five men he tried to put in prison were acquitted in the Local 17 trial.
For Bruce, the man he sought, Mark N. Kirsch, the leader of the union, was convicted. That four innocent low level union members were falsely charged was the sacrifice Bruce required of them to make his case better.
Then there is the case of the Chosen Few motorcycle club. Bruce suborned perjury and was almost disbarred.
For 38 years, Bruce enjoyed conscienceless antipathy to Blackstone’s ratio of “It is better that 10 guilty men go free, than one innocent suffer.”
In Bruce’s world, innocence and guilt were of little concern.
He wanted to win.
He feared no one, not judges, not defense lawyers, nor colleagues or juries. Nor his bosses at the Department of Justice.
He was above the law.
And he indicted Frank Parlato at the behest of Clare Bronfman and Keith Raniere. He may now be under investigation himself.
In coming posts, we will examine the cases Bruce led – where he knowingly indicted innocent men.
Most think he did it for the perverse pleasure. But some – considering the way he indicted the clearly innocent Parlato for the Bronfmans – now think he may have also gotten a reward for his work.
Bruce announced his retirement immediately after indicting Parlato.