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Hate crime suspect skips court appearance over mask mandate

Bail reform gives grace period for warrant
Posted at 12:11 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 12:20:55-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A Franklinville man, facing hate crime charges over an incident in North Buffalo, was a no show for his court appearance Thursday morning.

According to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, 47-year-old Michael Cremen sent a lengthy email to the court writing in part, “I will not be compelled by any means to violate my conscience therefore I will not wear a mask or attend a court proceeding." Mask wearing is mandatory in government buildings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Despite Cremen's failure to appear, the judge did not issue a warrant for his arrest, something Flynn says he, "respectfully disagrees with." Flynn says Cremen is a risk to public safety adding he wants, "him in court, in cuffs."

Cremen is charged with menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and harassment after a caught on camera altercation on Hertel Avenue in August. He's accused of brandishing a knife and yelling racial slurs at demonstrators from the Western New York Liberation Collective.

A new court date has been issued for October 14.

New York State's bail reform law, which took effect in January, provides a grace period for missed court appearances.

Buffalo attorney Florina Altshiler, who is not connected to Cremen's case, said bail reform requires judges to wait 48 hours before issuing a bench warrant for missed appearances, and that before bail reform there was no 48 hour rule.

“After waiting 48 hours, if there’s reason to believe that he willfully failed to appear she could, if she chooses to, but does not have to, issue a warrant,” Altshiler said.

Prosecutors argued a warrant could already be issued because Cremen sent a letter.

“To be fair to the creators of the new bail statute, they purposefully put in a mechanism for this case right here," Flynn said. "They purposely put in there a provision that said, if you know someone’s willfully not coming in advance, ok, you don’t have to wait 48 hours.”

Flynn said he went over the judges head, and asked a superior court judge to issue a warrant. The judge said they did not have jurisdiction to issue a bench warrant in the matter.

Flynn said that since bail reform went into effect, this was the first it was brought to his attention that someone said they wouldn't be coming to court. Altshiler said court backlogs are not so much from failures to appear, but inefficiencies in the system.