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Plea deal reached in TV crew assault

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Rick Pfeiffer Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

April 21--The man accused of assaulting a local television news reporter and photographer in Niagara Falls has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in a plea deal with Niagara County prosecutors.

Evan Stafford, 25, 8421 Donna Drive, entered his plea to a charge of attempted second-degree robbery during a hearing Thursday morning before Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.

Stafford faces a potential prison term of 2 to 7 years. Murphy made no commitment on what sentence he might impose.

Stafford had faced multiple, separate counts of assault, menacing, harassment and attempted robbery in connection with the Oct. 22 incident involving two staff members from WIVB TV News4Buffalo.

Reporter Nick Quattrini and photographer Melvin Barinas were reporting on the opening of Art Alley in the Falls, around 6:20 p.m. when they saw four to five men standing in front of the Third Street Tap Room. The men were described as "highly intoxicated" and harassing passers-by.

The men then began yelling at the News 4 Buffalo crew, and one of them, Stafford, walked toward the news crew. As Stafford approached, Quattrini told police he "threatened to shoot him and his co-worker."

The news crew also told police that Stafford "repeatedly reached into his waistband, as if he was going to pull out a handgun."

Stafford then became more aggressive and told the crew he was going to "rob them."

According to News 4, a producer in a control room at the station in Buffalo, she was monitoring a live video feed from the news crew when she heard someone ask the crew to give them money and the camera. The crew later told their producer that they were "cornered in the alley."

Quattrini told police Stafford "lunged at the photographer in an attempt to grab the camera. When the reporter began to struggle with Stafford, who is 6-feet-4 and weighs 240 pounds, the suspect repeatedly punched him in the face.

Police said Quattrini told them his "face was sore" after the assault. Officers said they observed swelling in his face and a cut on the left side of his jaw.

Stafford than again attempted to grab the photographer's video camera and during the struggle the camera fell to the ground, shattering into several pieces. The attacker then began punching Barinas in the face with his fists.

Barinas told police he covered his face with his arms until he could escape from the attack. Police said Barinas suffered swelling to his right eye.

He was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for treatment. Sources say he suffered fractured bones in his face.

When Falls police arrived they said they were able to find Stafford about a block away from the scene. As the officers approached him, Stafford began "ripping off his clothes as if he was going to become combative towards (officers)."

Stafford told the officers, "he is not a fan of the police" and "We (police and he) do not get along."

Police were able to take Stafford custody without force.

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