Female swimmers sue Niagara University, alleging harassment by men’s team – The Buffalo News

A member of the Niagara University women's swimming team and two of her former teammates have sued the university, charging that they and others were sexually harassed by members of the men's swimming team, with the knowledge of their coach.

The plaintiffs are Nastassja Posso, a senior who remains on the swim team; Jaime Rolf, a senior who quit the team in February 2018, forfeiting her swimming scholarship; and an unidentified woman who competed as a diver for four years before graduating in 2018.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, says Posso and Rolf sought treatment for depression, while the former diver "suffered from anxiety and depression."

"We went from being strong, competitive women who were sectional swimming champs in high school, to feeling broken down, depressed and drained of confidence," Posso and Rolf said in a statement released by their attorneys. "This is not how any college athlete or woman on campus should be treated."

The female swimmers said they and their teammates were ranked in order of physical appearance by the male swimmers, ridiculed for their weight and called vulgar names denoting female genitalia.

One woman allegedly was called a "water buffalo," while another allegedly was referred to as "Princess Thigh Gap."

Aside from one of the women being bumped into a bush, they made no allegations of improper physical contact.

They said Ben Nigro, who coaches both the men's and women's teams, failed to intercede and told the women to "be a duck," by which he apparently meant the women should let the verbal abuse roll off them like water off a duck's back.

Nigro, according to the lawsuit, told the women that the men on the team were immature, saying, "90% is how you react and 10% is what they do." He also said, "Boys will be boys," according to the lawsuit.

"The only 'locker room mentality' we should tolerate is one which supports, educates and demonstrates respect for all of our athletes; which recognizes that half the people in locker rooms across the country these days are women," said attorney Laurie A. Baker, who filed the suit along with attorneys Cheryl Meyers Buth and Brian M. Melber.

The former diver alleged that she complained to the assistant athletic director in 2016 about Nigro's response to an incident in which a male swimmer had sex with a female recruit. Nigro's response, according to the lawsuit: "He must not have been very good since she (the recruit) is not coming to NU."

"The coach and athletic department were either so unaware or so dismissive of the humiliating treatment of women swimmers that this appalling behavior became acceptable and continued year after year," Melber said.

The lawsuit also asserts the university violates federal law and NCAA rules because the women's team is treated unequally in terms of coaching and equipment.

"We are aware of a lawsuit that was recently filed in federal court," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

"Niagara University's foremost priority is the well-being of every member of our campus community. We proceed with due diligence to examine any issue that is brought forward that may compromise our culture, while ensuring that we do not rush to judgment or reach conclusions before the completion of the process. Where it is necessary and appropriate, the university engages independent investigators," according to the statement. "To ensure the integrity of the process, and out of respect for every individual involved, we do not comment on ongoing matters."

The suit claims the university slow-walked a formal complaint filed last December, dragging out the internal investigation until some of the accused male swimmers graduated and could no longer be punished.

No action has been taken yet in regard to the internal investigation, which involved the questioning of 22 witnesses, the lawsuit says.

The university's Title IX coordinator allegedly claimed the complaint was triggered by a female swimmer's animosity against a male swimmer who she used to date, according to the lawsuit.

Nigro coaches with the assistance of a male diving coach, Josh Larcom. The last female assistant coach, a diving specialist, quit in 2016 because of poor pay, according to the suit.

The structure, in effect, made the women's team "an appendage of the men's swim team," the lawsuit claims.

That structure "permitted, fostered and created a hostile environment," the lawsuit says.

"It’s not just the offensive language and behavior our clients were subjected to," Meyers Buth said. "It’s the negative message conveyed by the university by not having a woman head coach, woman assistant coach, woman trainer or women in other key roles. They learn women are not valued."

"For example, over a period of at least five years, men and women were required to stay on the same floors in hotels; the coach made sexual remarks, encouraged women to simply ignore derogatory language used by male swimmers, and failed to report or take steps to eliminate gender-based harassment, including body-shaming," the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs said they knew before enrolling at Niagara that the men and women sometimes practiced together.

"They didn’t realize the women didn’t really have their own team or own coaching staff, nor were they told that male and female swimmers and divers were required to be together as a team every day – they practiced, studied and ate together and participated in other mandatory joint training and social activities," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Nigro spent most of his time coaching the faster swimmers, which were the men, leaving the women to receive little feedback.

Nigro, 47, is in his 14th year at Niagara, according to the university website. Previously, he coached at New Hampshire, Vermont and North Carolina-Wilmington, his alma mater.

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Women swimmers suing Niagara University over harassment – The Niagara Gazette

COURTS: Swimmers cite ongoing sexual harassment from men's swim team.

Philip Gambini 

Strong women who joined Niagara University’s swim and dive team were scarred by the program’s culture of rampant sexual harassment, the athletes said in a public statement Wednesday.

Their remarks follow a federal lawsuit filed last week that alleged the school’s investigation into their complaints was biased against them and allowed their harassers to dodge potential accountability, the court documents said.

Current seniors Natasha Posso and Jaime Rolf, as well as an anonymous 2018 graduate, had decorated athletic resumes when they were recruited to NU. After joining, the women were repeatedly harassed by male athletes while their coach did nothing to intervene, the lawsuit charged.

The behavior permeated the program, they discovered only amounted to an “appendage” of the men’s program, the documents said. The female athletes were without their own practice schedule, their own coaching staff and, effectively, their own team, according to the lawsuit.

“We are competitive, strong women who were sectional swimming champs in high school,” Posso and Rolf said in a statement provided by their attorneys, Laurie Baker and Cheryl Meyers Buth. “This sexist, offensive behavior left us broken down, depressed and drained of confidence – this is not how any college athlete or woman on campus should be treated.”

All three plaintiffs’ mental health suffered from the environment. One became suicidal for a time.

The decision to go public with their identity and claims was a difficult one, Meyers Buth said. The filing is a result of the way the university handled the women’s internal complaints and is rooted in a desire that the school “provide equal opportunities to women,” the attorney said Wednesday.

And after the suit’s public filing in the federal courts, the firm’s office phone has been ringing, Meyers Buth said.

“We’ve talked to a number of young women since filing the complaint,” she said. “We’ve also gotten calls from parents whose daughters had similar experiences.”

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No jail time for UB student in 2018 hit-and-run on campus – The Buffalo News


Hannah Christensen sat inside her parked car on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus, watching as police and emergency responders treated Renuka Ramanadhan.
It was the evening of Nov. 1, shortly after the car Christensen was driving struck Ramanadhan, a fellow UB student, in front of the Hadley Village Apartments. After seeing that the person she had hit was getting medical attention, Christensen drove away.

But when police caught up with her two weeks later, after receiving a tip about her possible involvement in the incident, she was remorseful and cooperated by giving a statement.

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Mt Mercy Academy’s annual scholarship Gala April 6th at Sheas Seneca

McAuley Gala at Mount Mercy Academy


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How an idea on a whim turned Buffalo attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth into the one-woman show of sports agents

Cheryl Meyers Buth at her desk
By Lyndsey D'Arcangelo  Dec 14, 2018

If​ a sequel to “Jerry Maguire” —​ the​ memorable​ 1996 sports drama featuring a wayward​ sports​ agent determined​ to uphold​ his​ moral fiber and​ not​​ value corporate interest over his clients — were in the works, the organizers might consider casting Cheryl Meyers Buth as the lead.

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Cuomo signs Reproductive Health Act into law

Abortion now regulated under public health law

Author: Alison Chilton
Published: 5:15 AM EST January 23, 2019
Updated: 5:25 AM EST January 23, 2019

Women in New York State now have the right to an abortion under the state's public health law.

The Reproductive Health Act passed the senate yesterday by a vote of 38 to 24.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law last night on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Local Western New York attorney, Cheryl Meyers Buth, explains that the bill moves abortion, which had previously been regulated under the penal law, under the public health law. "It gives women the right to abortions in the last trimester if their life is in danger or if the fetus is deemed unviable."

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Drug dealer turned entrepreneur is sentenced to prison

By Phil Fairbanks Published February 19, 2019 Updated February 20, 2019

When Fawzi Al-Arashi was accused of selling synthetic marijuana out of his North Tonawanda storefront, he set out to make things right with his family.

Six years later, the e-cigarette company he formed after his arrest is doing $150 million in sales and employs 140 people, many of them Burmese immigrants.

Al-Arashi's lawyers say Magellan Technology, located in Riverside, is now one of the largest e-cigarette makers in the country.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara pointed to Al-Arashi's business success in sentencing him to a year and a day in prison, well below his recommended sentence of up to 71 months in prison.

Al-Arashi's sentence stems from a 6-year old plea deal in which he admitted running a wholesale synthetic marijuana distribution business that included his convenience store on Main Street in North Tonawanda.

He also sold synthetic marijuana to other retailers and owned a warehouse on Ridge Lea Road in Amherst big enough to handle large quantities of the drug.

"That was the lowest point of his life," defense lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buthsaid Tuesday. "But unlike a lot of our clients, he didn't sit around and feel sorry for himself."

When Al-Arashi was first arrested in 2012, federal prosecutors described him as a wholesaler who bought his synthetic marijuana in California, repackaged it at his warehouse and resold it across New York State.

Later, as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, he admitted being part of a larger criminal conspiracy.

"He directed the conspiracy," Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch said Tuesday.

Investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration said their interest in Al-Arashi began with phone calls from suspicious parents and alleged that at least two children were hospitalized after using drugs he sold.

At the time, investigators said they also seized four of Al-Arashi's bank accounts, which held about $725,000, as well as about $50,000 worth of silver bars and coins found in his Williamsville home.

Investigators said Al-Arashi sold the synthetic marijuana in brightly colored packages with names such as "Pump It," "Tiger Shack" and "California Dreams."

"Despite the green rush sweeping our area of late, today's sentencing makes two things crystal clear," U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. in a statement Tuesday, "One, the manufacture and distribution of marijuana - whether real or synthetic - remain federal crimes. And two, proceeds from the manufacture and distribution of marijuana remain subject to federal seizure and forfeiture."

Meyers Buth said Al-Arashi, a native of Yemen, started Magellan Technology with the help of family and friends who loaned him money after his arrest six years ago, and suggested his success is evidence of his rehabilitation.

"He built the company from scratch," she said. "We believe what he's done the last six-and-a-half years is extraordinary."

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What could be next in the AG’s investigation into the Catholic Church, WGRZ, September 2018

Local attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth speaks with us about the NY Attorney General's investigation into the Catholic Church.

September 6, 2018

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just like that bombshell investigation in Pennsylvania, New York's Attorney General is opening her own investigation into allegations of priest sex abuse in the Catholic Church. . . .

The civil investigation launched Thursday includes a clergy abuse hotline and online complaint form for anyone to submit confidential information. That's on top of the A.G. issuing a subpoena to each diocese in New York. Underwood's office is also working on a joint investigation with district attorneys from across the state to uncover potential criminal wrongdoing.

"What kind of documents could they be looking for, or are they allowed to request?" asked 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.

"[T}hey will be looking for are any policies, procedures on handling the complaints, anything that might be relevant to a cover-up by the church, you know, abuse that was concealed intentionally. Reports that were taken and never followed up on. Things like that," says attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth.

Meyers-Buth says the church will have to turn over both paper and electronic documents going back as far as they've been maintained, and the investigation will take as long as necessary.

"For those for whom the statute of limitations either in a criminal case or for a civil lawsuit is already extinguished, at least they get to tell their story and they provide information as background which could also help corroborate current complaints, for example, if there's one particular clergy member who has been accused, even if the statute of limitations is expired, those other complaints may be helpful," says Meyers-Buth.

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‘I can’t count that high,’ Kingsman says of members’ cocaine use, Buffalo News, March 2018

Defense lawyers attacked Masse's credibility and pointed to the numerous lies he told a federal grand jury four years ago to suggest he might still be lying.

They also referred to his more than 30 years of drug use and wondered aloud if it had taken a toll on his memory.

"Nine times, after putting your hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth, you looked at those grand jurors and lied," defense lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buth told him Friday.

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After moonlight stroll turns into tragedy, who’s to blame? Buffalo News, March 2018

There is no evidence that either John or Van Aernam had anything more than a few social drinks at the event, said Laurie A. Baker, who represents Van Aernam as Daniels' co-counsel. Cheryl Meyers Buth, who represents John's family, agreed.

"There is no evidence that they were impaired or inebriated," Baker said. "These were two people who stopped on a bridge on a very nice night, and decided to go for a short walk. The real issue here is that the state had abandoned this bridge for decades. There were no lights on the bridge, no warning signs, nothing to stop anyone from going up on that bridge."

The accident and its aftermath have been a "nightmare" for Van Aernam and John's family, which includes a son, two daughters and a young granddaughter, Baker said.

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Footage of Cheektowaga man killing father leads to not guilty plea, Buffalo News, January 2018

Family members had begun to be concerned about Sirwilliam's mental health in the days and weeks before the shooting,  defense attorney Cheryl Meyers-Buth said after court. He showed no signs of being violent, she said, but he was acting out of character and showing signs of paranoia.

"The sad part is, he had actually gone with his girlfriend to a doctor the Thursday before (the shooting) and then to another doctor with his mother that weekend because he was saying he didn't feel right," Meyers-Buth said.

Both times, she said, Hardy was told there was nothing wrong.

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Colden couple admit $1.2 million fraud against VA, Postal Service, Buffalo News, March 2017

Defense lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buth said Cathleen Klaffka, 62, was forced to plead guilty because the law says she had an obligation to turn in her husband. She also wonders why it took so long for their crimes to be discovered.

"This case raises questions about how to fix a VA system where someone who is not disabled is paid over a million dollars in benefits despite undergoing regular physical examinations," she said.

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Jury gets case in Danielle Allen trial

Jul 18, 2018

Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday in the trial of a woman accused of killing her boyfriend in Livingston County

"Don't kill me, please don't kill me. Those were the words that were loud enough for Justin Bergman to hear upstairs," Cheryl Meyers Buth, Allen's attorney stated. Meyers Buth told the jury that [   ] Allen's injuries were consistent with a person who had been choked. "If she was that'd see multiple stab wounds. She was not out of control, she did not kill him for no reason. She killed him or he fell on the knife because she was trying t protect herself," Meyers Buth stated.

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BLJ: New digs, new start for Meyers Buth, Buffalo Business First, October 2017

Cheryl Meyers Buth and Laurie Baker have worked together for a decade. At the end of last year, they decided to branch off together and in September they opened Meyers Buth Law Group PLLC in Orchard Park.

“It just made sense,” said Baker, who lives in the area. So does Meyers Buth.

The Southtowns base is a renovated office in the historic New York Telephone Building at 21 Princeton Place. The location also made sense for their clients, they said.

“Both of us had been downtown for many years,” Baker said. “We wanted to open an office that was going to be comfortable and convenient for our clients, away from the downtown hustle and bustle. We wanted an atmosphere that our clients would feel secure and calm. Basically, just a low-key atmosphere for our clients.”

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Law firm establishes office in village, Orchard Park Bee, October 2017


Western New York attorneys Cheryl Meyers Buth and Laurie Baker have recently launched their new law firm, Meyers Buth Law Group PLLC.

The firm’s newly renovated office is in the New York Telephone Building, located at 21 Princeton Place in the Village of Orchard Park.

Meyers Buth Law Group handles criminal defense, civil litigation, personal injury and sports/entertainment law matters.

According to the firm, the founding partners wanted to provide personalized, client-centered legal services to individuals and small business clients, which is often difficult in other law firm settings.

“Starting Meyers Buth Law Group gives us the opportunity to get to know our clients and for us to earn their trust while delivering a broad range of legal services,” Meyers Buth said.

Baker agreed.

“We take a personalized approach with all our clients, treating them as we would our own family members, realizing that many times we are helping people through some of life’s most challenging situations,” Baker said.

With more than 20 years of trial practice, Meyers Buth’s diverse range of state and federal court, criminal defense, and civil litigation experience makes her a top resource for a variety of clients who need legal representation, the company said.

She has earned numerous awards and has been recognized by the New York State Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York and the federal judges for the Western District of New York.

Baker has experience representing individuals and families in complex cases involving school liability, wrongful death, employment discrimination/sexual harassment, municipal claims, motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents and premises liability, the firm said.

She has recently been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in the WNY legal community.

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