A former New York police officer was sentenced to prison this week after confessing to his involvement in an incident that resulted in the death of an Air National Guardsman and the unlawful arrest of his friend. Although the off-duty officer had been working as a security guard at a bar that night, he admittedly abused his authority under the color of law.
Early on the morning of May 11, 2014, Air National Guardsman William Sager Jr. had attempted to thank and shake the hand of Jeffrey Basil, the bar manager at Molly’s Pub, for buying him a drink. Intoxicated on whiskey and Xanax, Basil became angered at Sager for interrupting his conversation and shoved the Guardsman down a flight of stairs, which resulted in a fractured skull.
At Basil’s behest, off-duty Buffalo Police Officer Robert Eloff Jr. and a bouncer carried Sager outside and propped him up against a wall outside the bar before placing his unconscious body in handcuffs. Instead of calling 911 immediately, Eloff waited 21 minutes before making the call.
Upon arrival, emergency medical technicians discovered Sager had slipped into a coma and ordered Eloff to remove the handcuffs. As on-duty Buffalo Police officers began to arrive, Sager’s friend, Donald Hall, demanded Sager’s name and badge number after the off-duty cop initially threatened him for asking questions about the assault.
Placing Hall in handcuffs and under arrest, Sager concocted a false narrative accusing Hall of physically interfering with him while refusing to leave the scene. Surveillance video from the bar revealed that Sager had lied in order to falsely arrest Hall for trespassing.
Suffering from a fractured skull due to the impact to the back of his head, Sager remained in a coma until his death on July 31, 2014.
In April 2015, Eloff was charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of conspiracy to deprive an individual of rights under color of law. On June 27, 2016, Eloff pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law and admitted to unlawfully arresting Hall.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara sentenced Eloff to three months in prison and one year supervised release to include three months home detention. Last year, Basil was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing Sager.
Unable to save his friend from a corrupt cop and a violent bar manager, Hall filed a lawsuit against the city over his unlawful arrest. Sager’s family has also filed a suit against Basil, the bar’s owners, the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Police Department.