Wife-murderer’s conviction upheld

Anthony Passaro Jr., the Saugerties man convicted of killing his wife Tracy in 2007, will remain in prison with a 25 years to life sentence. Passaro’s appeal of the judgment on the grounds that the previous court had erred in determining that he was competent to proceed with sentencing and that his sentence was harsh and excessive was dismissed July 14 by a state appellate court.

Anthony Passaro, Jr. was convicted following a non-jury trial, of murder in the second degree, a class A-I felony, criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, a class B violent felony, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a class E felony, on November 23, 2009. The case was tried by District Attorney Holley Carnright before Supreme Court judge Roger J. McDonough.

The defendant’s conviction stems from a domestic violence incident which occurred on September 26, 2007 shortly before 7:00 a.m.  On that date, the defendant’s nine year old son and six year old daughter witnessed him shoot their mother to death in the hallway of their home in Saugerties with a high powered semi-automatic rifle.  In the 911 call placed by Passaro’s son moments after the shooting, the defendant admitted to the dispatcher that he had shot his wife five times in the back.  At trial, the defendant, who has a history of physical and mental deficiencies, raised the affirmative defense of mental disease or defect claiming he was not able to form the mens rea (intent) to commit murder.  In support of this defense, defense counsel retained two expert witnesses – a board certified pharmacotherapist and a psychiatrist.  On rebuttal, the prosecution called psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Smith who opined that, at the time of the shooting, Passaro did have the necessary mens rea relying, in part, on the defendant’s actions and statements following his arrest.   Following deliberations Judge Roger McDonough found the defendant guilty of all four counts in the indictment, including Murder in the Second Degree.

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“This case was such a graphic example of domestic violence it has helped to galvanize our community’s awareness of domestic violence and commitment to combat it” stated Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright.

Anthony Passaro, Jr. was subsequently sentenced by Judge McDonough to the maximum sentence allowed by law, an indeterminate term of imprisonment with a minimum of twenty five years and a maximum of life.

On appeal, the defendant claimed that his counsel was ineffective, that Supreme Court erred in determining that he was competent to proceed with sentencing and that his sentence was harsh and excessive.  The Appellate Division, Third Department, however, rejected all of defendant’s contentions.

The defendant is represented by Louis N. Altman, Esq. of Hurley, New York.  Assistant District Attorney Joan Gudesblatt Lamb, Esq. handled the appeal for the District Attorney’s Office.

 

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