BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced today that Robert Eloff Jr., 41, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
“This case is yet another reminder that when individuals take an oath to protect the public, that obligation continues whether on off duty,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “This Office will continue to praise and honor those who uphold their pledge of service, while being vigilant to ensure consequences for those who violate it.”
U.S. Attorney Hochul stated that the defendant pleaded guilty in connection with an incident at Molly’s Pub in Buffalo in 2014. In the early morning hours of May 11, 2014, William Sager was pushed down a flight of stairs at Molly’s Pub by Jeffrey Basil. Sager later died of his injuries and Basil pleaded guilty in state court to manslaughter.
At the time Sager was pushed by Basil, Eloff was in Molly’s Pub working security for the bar. Eloff had been employed as a Buffalo Police Officer since 2007. While employed at Molly’s Pub, Eloff wore clothing and articles of equipment which identified him as an off-duty police officer.
A victim identified as D.H. was with William Sager the night Sager was pushed down the stairs. D.H saw people carry Sager outside after he was pushed down the stairs, and upon leaving the bar, saw Sager propped up against a wall. When D.H. asked BPD officers what happened, Eloff grabbed D.H. and told him to get out of there. D.H. then walked away and called 911. When other officers arrived, D.H. asked for Eloff’s name and badge number. Eloff, in response arrested and handcuffed D.H. and seated him next to Sager. D.H. was later taken from the scene by other officers.
Eloff told BPD officers that D.H. had physically interfered with Eloff and others inside the bar and had refused to leave the bar when directed to do so. A later review of surveillance video from Molly’s Pub revealed that D.H. never interfered with Eloff in the bar and never refused a command to leave the bar. In essence, Eloff caused D.H. to be falsely arrested for trespassing, a crime D.H. never committed.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 3, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.