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September 19, 2013

Rusek's mental state probed

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Chester Rusek, the 88-year-old man accused of brutally beating his roommate at a Town of Tonawanda assisted living facility, is competent to stand trial, Erie County psychiatrists determined after an evaluation. 

But in court Wednesday, defense attorney Barry Dolgoff disagreed with the doctors, arguing Rusek is not in a proper mental state to assist with the trial. As part of his argument, he cited statements that Rusek provided during the evaluation. 

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Rusek told the psychiatrists. “I don’t know what the charges are. No one told me.”

Rusek, who was brought into court in a wheelchair Wednesday, also told the psychiatrists he had spoken to two lawyers about the case, while Dolgoff insisted that he was the only one to speak to his client. 

“He doesn’t even remember me ... that doesn’t sound like a guy who knows what is going on,” Dolgoff said in court Wednesday. 

Dolgoff argued that the evaluation of Rusek, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter, did not delve deep enough. 

“Competency is very loosely defined ... by these so-called experts,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Bonanno stood by the evaluation. 

“The defendant has been evaluated multiple times now and repeatedly found competent. We are ready for trial,” he said. 

But Erie County Court Judge Michael Pietruska granted Rusek the opportunity to obtain another evaluation by his own doctor. Rusek, who has recently been in the hospital, will be back in court Nov. 18 to review that assessment. 

Rusek was initially charged with first-degree assault after the alleged attack, which took place Nov. 26 at the Kenwell De-Paul Senior Living Community. The charge was upgraded to first-degree manslaughter after the victim, Salvatore Trusello, 86, died from his injuries a month later. 

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