BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A federal judge has upheld a ruling prohibiting access to evidence in the civil cases related to the Tops mass shooting.
Attorneys representing the victims’ loved ones who brought a civil case against the gun manufacturers and social media platforms were, at one point, able to review, but not keep or take notes of the evidence. They also had to do this in the presence of the defense.
But in May, federal prosecutors accused the public defense attorneys appointed to the shooter, Payton Gendron, of violating a protective order previously signed by Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder. They requested a modification, specifying that evidence collected for the criminal case should not be disclosed for use in any civil proceeding. Schroeder sided with prosecutors in a July ruling.
And Monday, following oral arguments from the defense and prosecution, Judge Lawrence Vilardo upheld that decision, telling the court that in order to reverse it, he would have to find that Schroeder made an error.
“Judge Vilardo, I think, made a very detailed decision in that he wasn’t turning something over based on a brand new evaluation, that he was making his decision within narrow lines as to whether or not the previous judge completely erred. So I think that was an important distinction,” said Kristen Elmore-Garcia, one of the attorneys representing the victims’ families in their civil case.
Elmore-Garcia said this will now affect how they gather evidence for their case moving forward.
“We will have a much longer, a much more strenuous battle ahead to obtain the final, important details of what really happened – what really led up to this event. But we will do it,” she said.
Vilardo told the court to let the civil case play out, but said they could always revisit this decision.
As for the federal case, both the prosecution and defense informed Vilardo they met with the U.S. Attorney General’s office last month. The defense presented evidence to try and persuade the AG against the death penalty – though it’s likely a decision won’t be made official for at least another month.
Because of this, a status conference with Vilardo has been scheduled for the end of November. Arguments for the civil case are set for the middle of November.