MAYVILLE – The Cheektowaga man accused of attacking and attempting to take the life of a Chautauqua County Sheriff deputy has been acquitted on all three charges he was facing. However, 23 year-old Justin Haffa was found guilty on a lesser charge of 3rd degree robbery by a jury in Chautauqua County Court, which delivered its verdict on Wednesday afternoon.
Haffa was accused of attacking Deputy Sara Cunningham along Route 60 in the town of Pomfret after she responded to a report of a vehicle off the road in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2016. Following a field sobriety test, Haffa was accused of wrestling Cunningham to the ground, using a knife during the incident, and also taking her service weapon before fleeing the scene. He was facing charges of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree robbery and aggravated assault on a police officer.
Wednesday’s verdict was culmination of the second trial to take place for Haffa. A mistrial was declared the first time due to the District Attorney’s office withholding evidence from Public Defender Ned Barone, yet still presenting it during that trial. Barone also was Haffa’s attorney in the second trial. The Post-Journal is reporting he expressed elation with the outcome. Since his arrest in September 2016, Barone said Haffa maintained his innocence and that he never tried to hurt the deputy.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson said he was disappointed in the result, adding that the outcome hinged on the alleged knife that was used in the incident and that it was never recovered at the scene. As a result, the jury was unable to come up with a guilty verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for April, and Haffa could get anywhere from 2.5 to 7 years in state prison for being found guilty of 3rd degree robbery.