Judge upholds extortion conviction of former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis

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SPRINGFIELD — Former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis' extortion conviction will stand, and his argument for acquittal "has no merit," a federal judge has ruled.

Judge Mark G. Mastroianni filed his three-page ruling in U.S. District Court last week, stating that Buffis' motion for acquittal was denied.

Buffis was convicted on one count of extortion following a three-week trial last June. He was cleared of 10 other counts related to his handling of the finances of a charity toy fund he ran.

His attorney, Lori Levinson, argued her client was not extorting a Lee couple when he collected $4,000 from them in exchange for dropping prostitution charges against them.

Levinson reasoned since one of the defendants in the case already had agreed during an interview with police that the couple would donate $6,000 to charity, Buffis was only accepting a deal that had already been proffered.

Mastroianni disagreed, noting in his decision "[Buffis'] contention that he is somehow absolved because the idea of a donation was initially suggested by [the defendant] has no merit."

"What mattered is whether (Buffis) knowingly and willfully accepted money he was not entitled to ... and that they provided the payment in order to assure the dismissal of charges," part of the ruling reads.

Meanwhile, a hearing has been set for Thursday in U.S. District Court for clarification regarding published comments from a juror in the case.

That motion, also filed by Levinson, asks "If the court has considered or may consider any comments made by a juror in the above mentioned article, the defendant, by and through counsel, seeks the opportunity to respond in writing to the jurors' comments."

The motion does not make clear what comments are at issue.

After a request to reschedule earlier in November, a firm date for Buffis' sentencing on the extortion conviction has yet to be set.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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