Posted by: kathyhugs | March 5, 2010

Pre-sentencing stuff!

God is so good.  We are home from a very emotional day in court. The last 24 hours have been full of ups and downs. Let me try to get this all written down. On Wednesday evening I was checking the court website to make sure that nothing had been changed for the scheduled sentencing today. I saw a memorandum from defense Attorney James Hartford. It stated that he had filed a sentencing memorandum with exhibits. My radar went on high alert but it was too late to call the prosecutor. Yesterday I got off at 12:00. My plan was to go to the store, stop at the florist to pick up flowers and visit the cemetery. But first thing I wanted to do was to call Lynn Grimshaw, the prosecutor, about the memo I saw. He was so upset. He told me that there was a 1o page memorandum with 50 pages of evidence and that Hartford was asking the judge to consider a sentence of community release, essentially parole. I was so mad that I could barely speak. Lynn and I talked about possibilities and he said that he was going to be in court early in the morning to prepare his rebuttal. I started making phone calls; to vent, to ask for prayers, to get some support and advice. How was I supposed to handle this? I called Rick first. We talked shortly and decided that we needed to figure this out together when he got home that evening. He encouraged me to go to the cemetery and to try and get some more information.  I stopped and picked up my traditional purple carnations and went to the cemetery. But I forgot my boots! How goofy was that. But I slogged through the snow and put out the flowers and the stone with a candle that I had purchased. It was a sweet time.

I made some calls and headed home.

Here is the newspaper article:

Amato defense ‘suggests’ lighter sentence on manslaughter charge

LISBON — Jack “J.C.” Amato Jr.’s attorney filed paperwork Wednesday suggesting community control could be granted for the voluntary manslaughter charge against his client based on the evidence, even though the plea deal calls for five years in prison. “I just want the court to understand that they’re not bound by that joint recommendation,” James Hartford said when contacted by phone. Amato, 38, will face sentencing Friday for causing the death of his wife, Tonia, at their Wellsville residence on July 1, 2007. He told investigators he shot her in self-defense with a .45-caliber handgun after she fired a shot at him with a .22-caliber handgun during an argument. He was originally indicted for murder, which could have meant a sentence of 15 years to life, but pleaded guilty in January to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, along with a gun specification. As part of the stipulated deal, both the prosecution and defense will recommend five years for the manslaughter and a mandatory three years for using a gun for a total of eight years. Judge C. Ashley Pike of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court must sentence him to the mandatory three years for the gun specification and can consider a sentence of up to 10 years for the manslaughter, which means the maximum Amato could face would be 13 years. A third-degree felony charge of having weapons under disability related to alleged chronic alcoholism will be dismissed. The prosecution will recommend credit for time served for a separate weapons indictment from September 2008. Hartford said the defense team will stand by the recommendation, but they’re asking the court to consider the sentencing memorandum and the mitigating material they’ve laid out for him. The 10-page document with 50 pages of defendant’s exhibits attached outlined what the defense claimed the evidence would have shown and openly criticized the investigation by referring to a “hopelessly compromised crime scene” which had as many 26 different people crossing through it over two days. The document also claimed physical evidence was photographed but left at the scene on the day of the shooting. The bullet investigators claimed killed the victim didn’t match the gun handed over by the defendant, leaving some questions. According to the memorandum, the evidence indicated “the victim acted in inducing the offense” and “Mr. Amato was acting under strong provocation.” They also claimed there were grounds to mitigate his actions, although the grounds may not have been enough for total self-defense to the voluntary manslaughter charge. In a recitation of the facts of the case, the memorandum said the victim was found face down with a small semi-automatic pistol resting under her right hand with the hammer back and her finger touching the trigger. In her left hand was a Bursamatic propane torch. Gunshot residue was found on her right hand. A .22-caliber bullet casing was found near the victim which investigators determined was fired from the gun in her hand. Hartford pointed out that Amato said from the beginning that he shot his wife in self-defense. A world-renowned shooter by the name of John G. Sayle penned a letter to Pike dated March 1 which was attached to the memorandum explaining that Amato was trained in defensive pistol shooting and capable of shooting someone in the head in seconds in a life-threatening situation. He described it as a “reflexive reaction.” Hartford said some of those factors supported the argument that Amato’s conduct was less serious than the conduct normally constituting the offense of voluntary manslaughter, opening the door for community control. He also said the pre-sentence investigation shows he led a law-abiding life up until the shooting. “The factors in this very difficult matter for both sides lend support for a measure of leniency in the treatment of Mr. Amato by this Honorable Court,” Hartford wrote. Mary Ann Greier can be reached at

Rick and I talked about our statements and made some decisions about what we would say if asked. It was the end of a long day!

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