B U F F A L O N E W S buffalonews.com
December 23, 2010
Updated: December 23, 2010, 12:52 AM
He was an athlete who got a college scholarship and had aspirations of serving in the military.
His father was a police officer, and his mother a nurse, and both had long careers in the armed forces.
He, too, became a cop, with the potential for a successful career.
But somewhere along the way, Ryan G. Warme's "dark side seemed to take over," U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara said.
Warme accepted a plea deal in April, admitting that he groped a woman during a traffic stop, bought cocaine while on duty and tipped off drug dealers about a police raid.
Arcara on Wednesday sentenced the 29-year-old former Niagara Falls police officer to 13 years and nine months in federal prison.
"I have shamed my family and humiliated myself," Warme told the court in a letter. "There are no excuses. I crossed the line and used drugs. I knew better."
Before imposing the sentence, Arcara wondered what had happened to Warme.
"I'm just trying to figure out why someone who had all this going for him would throw it all away," the judge said.
In sentencing the former college wrestler, football player and ROTC scholarship winner, Arcara said he could not remember another case in which a defendant had so much going for him.
Warme's family was "like the all-American family," with dedicated parents who put their children first, the judge said.
Warme initially faced up to 10 years, 11 months in prison for convictions on felony gun and drug charges and a misdemeanor civil rights charge.
But after admitting in November that he threatened a fellow inmate who was set to testify against him, Warme had faced up to 15 years, one month in prison.
Warme admitted making a threat against the inmate and the inmate's family in May while both were in the Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville. The inmate had testified before a federal grand jury and cooperated with federal officials.
During his court appearance Wednesday, Warme wore an orange prison jumpsuit, and his wrists were shackled to his waist. He gave an approximately 2-minute statement apologizing to the court, his family and the Niagara Falls Police Department.
He said that he was "not going to let his anger control [him] anymore" and that he feels the pain of how he disappointed his father "every day."
"It's my fault," he said, "and now I have to pay for it."
In his letter to the judge, Warme also apologized to his victims.
As part of his April plea agreement, Warme admitted to using his job, uniform and gun to abuse his power and put other police officers at risk when he tipped off drug dealers.
Under the agreement, Warme admitted to several incidents of misconduct, including:
There were several crimes alleged by prosecutors that were not covered in the plea agreement, and charges related to them were dismissed after the sentence was imposed.
Those accusations included the alleged rape of two women, forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him while he was on duty and threatening a woman after an attack, saying he would take her to the Indian reservation and shoot her.
It was those charges, for which there were no convictions, that prompted Arcara to weigh whether to recommend imposing some type of status as a sex offender. In the end, Arcara said he would leave that up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Agencies involved in the investigation of Warme included the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Niagara Falls Police Department
After Warme's arrest, Falls police said he also had been using cocaine on the job.
In court papers -- which included two dozen letters from family and friends -- Warme's attorney, Joel L. Daniels, said his client "makes no excuses for what he did."
"He blames no one but himself. He crossed a line that few police officers crossed," Daniels said in a sentencing memorandum. "The experiments with drugs, the decline into addiction and the lure of the dark drug culture, always a dead-end street, overcame all of the hard work that went before."
Warme grew up on Grand Island and started with the Falls police in August 2005. He lost his ROTC scholarship while at Western New England College after an episode of cheating, though the prosecution and the defense differed on the extent of Warme's involvement. He has been in custody since his arrest in December 2008.
Warme's younger brother currently is a patrolman in Niagara Falls.
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce each called Arcara's sentence "appropriate." Hochul said the case was especially troubling because Warme was in a position of trust.
Warme -- who is eligible to earn 53 days' early release per year for good behavior, Bruce said -- was allowed to speak with family members before he was taken from the courtroom. He was hugged by his mother, Suzanne, while his father, Gordon, rubbed the top of his head.
Along with the prison sentence, Arcara recommended that Warme be put in a 500-hour drug-treatment program while incarcerated, as well as receive mental health treatment. He also ordered that Warme be put on supervised release for five years once he is freed from prison.