Syaed Ali: Muddying the Water
by Geoff Kelly - posted 1:29 pm, February 23, 2009
Syaed Ali, of course, is the guy we first wrote about on January 9: He’s the young man from a Bangladeshi family who lives on Breckenridge Street, and is accused of emailing fake press releases making salacious allegations about the private life of Mayor Byron Brown last summer. In November, Buffalo Police, armed with a search warrant signed by City Court Judge Craig Hannah, a Brown appointee, ransacked Ali’s house, confiscated his and his family’s possessions, took Ali downtown, and questioned him for several hours. No arrest, no arrest warrant, no lawyers, no phone call. Going on four months later, Ali still has not been charged and Buffalo Police have returned none of his and his family’s possessions.
Ali began talking to AV in January and hasn’t stopped talking. This, while certainly Ali’s right, presents something of a problem for the lawyer he’s retained, Richard Grimm III of the firm Magavern Magavern & Grimm: All this talking with the media runs the risk of compromising the lawsuit they intend to file, if Ali’s narrative changes over time in even the slightest detail.
And the attention Ali has demanded also draws reports like this one by Buffalo Geek, who this morning dives into one of the many, many deep pools of weirdness in the case. Read the whole thing over there, but here’s the gist: Ali’s claims about his IT business, SAIL-IT Inc., seem grossly exaggerated. As a result, Ali’s credibility suffers.
Happily for Ali and his lawyer, the other side of the case has not fared much better, in terms of establishing credibility.
After insisting that he could not speak about an ongoing investigation, or even acknowledge that there was one, Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge went ahead and told other media that the investigation was heading in the direction of aggravated harassment and criminal impersonation, and that the involvement of state and federal agencies might lead to further charges. That last part turned out not to be true: The same week that DeGeorge made this statement, both state and federal law enforcement agencies made it clear to me that they have no continuing interest in the Syaed Ali case.
A little over a week ago, a new rumor surfaced that a state law enforcement agency had become involved, and that local politicians had been summoned to speak to this agency about their relationship and correspondence with Ali. If local state law enforcement agents are investigating, they are acting without the blessing or knowledge of their superiors: Representatives from the New York State Police and the the New York State Attorney General’s office told me last week, categorically and on the record, that their agencies are not involved in the case—not on any level, local or otherwise.
I’ve been told that the source of this latest rumor is the mayor’s office, which hopes to trace those salacious emails through Syaed Ali and back to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, the mayor’s chief Democratic rival. I don’t know if that’s true, but the source is solid. (Hoyt has denied any role in the emails, and says he met Ali once last summer, for about 20 minutes, as a result of Ali’s part is an effort to draft New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president.) If someone in City Hall is spreading false rumors about the case, that suggests they have something to hide.
Most importantly, no one yet has denied the events of November 7. No one has refuted Ali’s story of his detention and the confiscation of his and his family’s possessions—on the contrary, Buffalo Police acknowledge possession of the materials they seized from Ali’s house, though their inventory is much shorter than the list of items missing produced by Ali and his family. No one so far has produced the affidavit that backs the search warrant signed by Hannah. No one has yet explained how sending fraudulent press releases to a wide distribution list is criminal.
Whatever the claims Ali makes about his business, true or false; whether or not he sent those emails, and whether or not Sam Hoyt conspired with him or had knowledge of what he was going to do; regardless of the sordid playground politics that underpin this whole affair: If Ali’s claims about what happened to him on November 7 are true, then anyone party to the search of his house and his detention may be in big trouble.
Grimm filed a notice of claim against the City of Buffalo in December. The lawsuit will proceed in April. If he and Ali can hold on until then, much more of the story will become public record.