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‘Cowboy’ State troopers run roughshod in Lewiston

By Darryl McPherson and Frank Parlato

State Trooper Danny Cullen. (Courtesy Niagara Gazette)
New York State Troopers are usually known for their excellent police work and professionalism.

Apropos of the story on the previous page, where it is alleged that State Troopers Danny Cullen and Benjamin Campbell have been using their badges to intimidate Ed Lilly and his family, it is only fair to point out that this is not the first time these two have seemingly worked together to intimidate citizens.

Since 2006, residents of Lewiston have been claiming they are being terrorized by one or both of the two men.

Most famously was the case of former Lewiston-Porter School Board member Lenny Palumbo. After an acrimonious public dispute with Lew-Port United Teachers Union (LPUT) activist Richard Sweeney on school board matters, Sweeney’s wife, Katherine, accused Palumbo of stalking her while driving his 1999 Dodge Intrepid up and down her street and revving his engine loudly. Palumbo lived on the same street as the Sweeneys, nine houses away.

The Sweeneys produced video tapes that showed a 1999 Dodge Intrepid, belonging to Palumbo, passing by their house. When Lewiston police questioned Palumbo, he admitted his 1999 Dodge Intrepid had a faulty exhaust and no muffler, but he said he was not trying to stalk anybody.

After trying several times with the Lewiston Police to have Palumbo arrested, the Sweeneys made their case to Trooper Cullen, who arrested Palumbo on Dec. 5, 2006, for stalking in the 4th degree, a Class B misdemeanor.

As a matter of record, Cullen’s wife Danielle was the head of the PTA at the middle school where Sweeney teaches. Like Sweeney, Mrs. Cullen worked actively on LPUT politics. Palumbo, as part of the majority on the Lewiston School Board, had ruled against the teacher’s union on a number of controversial issues. On at least one occasion Mrs. Cullen had sent Palumbo a letter asking him to reconsider his position.

After Palumbo's arrest, all three Lewiston judges recused themselves. The case was transferred to Wheatfield Town Court. In January 2008, the stalking case against Palumbo was dismissed, although the DA appealed the dismissal.

A few months, later Trooper Cullen himself claimed he was being stalked by Palumbo.

"Palumbo's vehicle, a 1999 Dodge, was in front of me," Cullen swore under oath. "He glared at me in his rearview mirror ... stopped in traffic and yelled, 'Who's stalking who now?'"

Of events of June 24, 2008, Cullen wrote, "I witnessed the vehicle, now known to me to be driven by Leonard Palumbo, a 1999 Dodge Intrepid, drive slowly east. I ran to the edge of my property and watched the vehicle... Palumbo slammed on the vehicle's brakes and completed a right-hand u-turn. The vehicle accelerated ... came to a sudden stop (then) began to rapidly accelerate as if he was coming down my street.

"Minutes later Palumbo slowed by my driveway ... and gestured for me to come towards him.... to entice me into a confrontation. As he was leaving ... he yelled, 'Anytime, faggot!'"

Cullen repeatedly identified the 1999 Dodge Intrepid -- the well-known one seen on Sweeney's tapes -- with the faulty exhaust system. In fact, Cullen said he saw the vehicle before he actually saw Palumbo.

It sounded fishy to the Niagara Falls Reporter that a man would stalk an armed state trooper, so we looked up sales records of the car in question. State motor vehicle records showed Palumbo sold his 1999 Dodge Intrepid to Fuccillo Chevrolet Inc. of Grand Island, on June 14, 2006, a full two years before the events described by Cullen took place.

When we published the fact of Cullen’s erroneous testimony/perjury about a car that had been used to stalk him that had been sold two years ago, the case imploded. However, apparently Cullen’s vengeance did not die.

On Feb. 7, 2009, Trooper Cullen’s friend Benjamin Campbell stopped and ticketed Palumbo on his way to a Wheatfield Town Court appearance in the case involving Cullen’s bogus charge of stalking.

Campbell pulled Palumbo over for a seatbelt infraction, then wrote two more tickets for failure to change registration and failure to change his address on his license.

After issuing the tickets, he followed Palumbo to court and waited in the parking lot. After Palumbo left court, but before he had actually started driving, Campbell issued Palumbo three more tickets for failure to yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle, speeding and disobeying a traffic control device.

Campbell then arrested and handcuffed Palumbo for these traffic infractions and took him to the Witmer Road barracks. Trooper Cullen -- his accuser in the stalking case – happened to be there.

"After I was handcuffed to a bench," Palumbo said, "Campbell and Cullen accused me of interviewing for articles that appeared in the Niagara Falls Reporter and creating anonymous fliers about Campbell that accused him of pointing guns at motorists at traffic stops.”

Afterward, while driving to county jail for traffic tickets, Palumbo claims, "Campbell told me I'd be arrested again if 'me or my friends (referring to Ed Lilly) didn't stop the fliers.'"

The Reporter tried to ascertain the truth of the allegations contained in the fliers about Campbell.

One involved a woman and two teenage girls. Although unnamed in the flier, the Reporter was able to learn the identity of the people involved.

On March 12, 2006, Claire MacMillan was driving up Lewiston Hill Road coming from Lewiston-Porter Senior High School after picking up her daughter, Kim, and her friend, Danette Kilmer, from their chorus concert. According to MacMillan, she left her high beams on accidently.

A patrol car came behind with flashing lights.

"I was at the traffic light,” she said, “and couldn't pull to the side of the road because I was in the left lane. I couldn't turn because the light was red. I stayed in my lane and stopped at the light in order to give the officer room to pass. I did not realize then he wanted me to pull over. When the light turned green, I made the left turn and pulled to the side of the road. The next thing I knew was Trooper Benjamin Campbell slammed his flashlight on the hood of my car in front of the windshield and pointed his gun at my head."

MacMillan is married and works in Niagara Falls. She said she never had a ticket in her life and was never in trouble with the law.

"He held the gun point-blank at my eyes. He got violent and loud. He was like a psycho-cop."

The Reporter spoke with MacMillan's passenger, then a 17-year-old Lew-Port high school student, Danette Kilmer.

Danette told the Reporter, "Campbell got out of his car. He was screaming and swearing and his gun was aimed less than a foot from (Mrs. MacMillan’s) head. He kept pointing the gun at her head and kept yelling, 'You need to learn how to drive. Where did you learn to drive? Who the hell taught you to drive? Why would you get into a vehicle when you do not know how to drive?' He was just blabbing on. … That whole night we were pretty much in shock over doing something so minor. He appeared crazy. If I hadn't known he was a cop, I would have called a cop."

MacMillan was issued a ticket for driving with her high beams on and paid a $90 fine.

Meanwhile, in Lewiston it has become open season for anyone connected with the Smiths, Lilly or Palumbo, unless of course Lilly can bring some justice to what has now become a federal case.

Calls to the State Police, Cullen and Campbell regarding these incidents were not returned.



Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jan 08 , 2013