A Buffalo man pleaded guilty to 10 misdemeanors for his actions during a January raid of a Buffalo duplex that left two families terrified.
Dennis J. White, 36, of Buffalo, pleaded guilty Monday in Buffalo city court to the following misdemeanors in connection with the raid:
- Two counts of criminal trespass in the second degree for allegedly entering the two homes in the duplex on Oakdale Place in the Seneca-Babcock community.
- Four counts of menacing in the second degree for allegedly pointing what appeared to be a shotgun or rifle at four adults.
- Three counts of endangering the welfare of children who were inside the homes during the raid. Between the two families, there were three children present, and the homeowner’s fiancé was pregnant.
- One count of criminal mischief in the fourth degree for alleged damage to an upstairs door.
White, armed with a long gun, was doing the work of a bounty hunter, but he lacked a state license at the time. He performed the raid with a second armed person, who has not been identified or charged.
Both White and the unidentified second person were looking for the duplex owner’s brother, who had jumped a $5,000 bail out of Pennsylvania for misdemeanors.
Jake Reinhardt, the owner of the duplex, told News 4 Investigates that his brother was not there and has never lived at the duplex. Video footage showed both bounty hunters, with guns drawn, had forcibly entered Reinhardt’s home and then searched the upstairs apartment rented by a second family.
Reinhardt said he initially thought Buffalo police officers wanted to gain entry to his house because he saw through a window several police officers and their vehicles outdoors.
Surveillance video showed that at least one officer had guarded a back entrance of the duplex and flashed his light inside the dwelling, while two other officers stood on the porch; one even entered the porch hallway and stood by the front door of the duplex.
A month after News 4 Investigates broke the story, the Buffalo Police Department adopted a new policy to guide officers’ future interactions with bounty hunters. Part of the policy prohibits any police officer from being visibly present or assisting bail enforcement agents, more commonly known as bounty hunters, with any operation.
Reinhardt said he asked several times if the bounty hunters had a search warrant, which is confirmed by the audio from the surveillance footage. One of the bounty hunters, believed to be White, claimed he did have a warrant. Even a Buffalo police officer told Reinhardt that a search warrant had been secured.
But no one ever produced a search warrant; White showed Reinhardt a bail bond slip while he prepared to leave.
On Monday, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn described White as a “law enforcement wannabe.”
“As a bail bondsmen, you have no right to go into a third-party home,” Flynn said. “Anyone else’s home is off limits without a search warrant.”
James Maloney, White’s defense attorney, said after court Monday that his client did nothing wrong other than not being licensed at the time of the raid.
But Flynn disagreed with Malone’s take. In fact, White was not even charged with failing to have a state license, Flynn said.
“He was charged with the more egregious misdemeanors here,” Flynn said Monday. “I know that the defense attorney kind of made out that if he was licensed this would have been fine. The answer to that is unequivocally not true. It doesn’t matter whether he was licensed or not. Even if he was licensed, what he did was still illegal, and he would have been charged for it as well.”
In June, Flynn said that White duped city police officers, and “intentionally placed the victims in reasonable fear of injury or death by pointing the gun at the homeowner, his fiancé and two upstairs tenants.”
As for the second unidentified bounty hunter, Flynn said law enforcement authorities believe they know who it is but they cannot prove it. So, it is unlikely he will ever be charged, he said.
White is now being sued in federal court, along with the City of Buffalo, several Buffalo police officers who were present during the raid, and others, for alleged civil rights violations. The lawsuit accuses Buffalo police officers of conducting a joint operation with the bounty hunters.
White’s sentencing is scheduled for February 11.
The judge offered to commit to a sentence of three years of probation and a $2,000 fine contingent upon White staying out of trouble through his sentencing, cooperating with probation and making all court appearances.
Misdemeanors carry a maximum one-year in prison, and Flynn said his office will ask the judge to sentence White to the maximum sentence, “because what he did was outrageous.”