West Seneca man facing homicide charge over alleged mask dispute

Oct 6, 2020

A West Seneca man is facing a criminally negligent homicide charge after a barroom dispute over not wearing a face mask. Donald Lewinski, 65, will be arraigned in Town Court Tuesday evening in the death of Rocco Sapienza, 80.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said surveillance tape -- which doesn't have audio -- shows the two "jawing" over Lewinski not wearing a mask on Sept. 26 and then Lewinski pushed Sapienza down.

Flynn said Lewinski is free awaiting further court action.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn in a Monday press conference.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Per the new New York State bail laws, that offense is not a holdable offense, if you can believe that. It is an offense where an appearance ticket has to be given out, unless you meet certain criteria, which Mr. Lewinski did not meet," he said.

Those include no outstanding warrants, no priors and it wasn't a case of family violence. Flynn said Sapienza suffered blunt force trauma when his head hit the bar floor. He died four days later.

"The defendant allegedly stood up at the bar stool and pushed him, with two hands, and he pushed him pretty hard," Flynn said. "The victim went flying back, hit his head on the ground, on the floor of the bar. He was pretty much in an unresponsive condition right away."

Flynn said Lewinski left the scene immediately, but it is fair to say the mask wasn't the only issue involved.

"Also, there was an incident beforehand that involved a young lady and the victim didn't like the way the defendant spoke to the young lady. I get the impression from the witness statements that these two just didn't like one another," he said.

The charge against Lewinski carries a possible four-year sentence.