World Events

Man charged in death of 80-year-old after mask dispute in upstate New York bar

Donald Lewinski, 65, is facing a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Rocco Sapienza, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced Monday.

Sapienza allegedly confronted Lewinski at a West Seneca bar near Buffalo on September 26 about how he spoke to the bar staff and for not regularly wearing a mask as Lewinski brought out buckets of beer to a band playing outside, Flynn said.

When Lewinski came back inside the bar, he allegedly shoved Sapienza to the ground.

“He was pretty much in an unresponsive condition right away. He went into a seizure right away there on the floor of the bar,” Flynn said.

After Sapienza was taken to the Erie County Medical Center, he remained unresponsive until he succumbed to his injuries on September 30, Flynn said.

The preliminary autopsy results showed that Sapienza died from blunt force trauma to the head, Flynn said.

“I get the impression from witness statements that these two just didn’t like one another … these two were butting heads from minute one there,” Flynn explained.

“So there were other things besides the mask that were involved here,” the district attorney said.

The confrontation was recorded on video, but there was no audio, Flynn said.

The suspect could face four years in prison

According to all evidence gathered so far, including statements from witnesses, there is no indication that either of the men were intoxicated or that they knew each other beforehand, despite being regulars at the bar, according to Flynn.

Authorities arrested Lewinski on Monday and released him with an appearance ticket since newly passed state bail laws do not consider criminally negligent homicide a holdable offense unless certain criteria are met such as an outstanding warrant, Flynn said.

Lewinski’s attorney, Barry Covert, said his client plans to plead not guilty when he appears in court Tuesday, according to The Buffalo News.

“It’s certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza passed away,” Covert told the newspaper. “My client and his family want to express their best wishes and sympathy to the family of Mr. Sapienza.”

CNN reached out to Lewinski’s attorney for comment Monday evening but has not received a response yet.

Lewinski will be arraigned at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the West Seneca Town Court, Flynn said, and faces up to four years in prison, if convicted.


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