A man convicted of manslaughter in a stabbing death six years ago wants his guilty verdict tossed. Benedict Agostini has filed a motion before Judge Anthony Aloi, claiming the jury which found him guilty was tainted.
O n June 18th, 2007, Syracuse Police say George Printup was stabbed to death during a brawl at Pfohl's tavern on South Salina Street in the valley section of Syracuse. The next day, Benedict Agostini turned himself in. He said he did it in self defense.
A gostini claim ed the fight originated over some insulting comments directed toward his wife . He said he was beaten down by 5 men inside the bar. When he escaped into the parking lot, Agostini says Printup came out after him and he stabbed Printup fearing for his life.
O thers say Agostini started the fight and taunted Printup to come into the parking lot to continue the fight which would contradict a claim of self defense.
T wo years after the incident in 2009, even though the jury was hung for several days, Agostini was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 years in prison. His appeal was denied.
Agostini family, led by his sister, Jennifer have not given up the fight to free him. She has established a website with an online petition that claims the jury was tainted by the involvement of LaVerne Doctor, the investigator assigned to the case by the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office. Among other things, the motion to dismiss the verdict asserts that Doctor should not have been assigned to the trial because he and the victim, George Printup are both members of the Onondaga Indian Nation. The motion also contends that Doctor had entered the jury room on several occasions.
"He did not get a fair trial. It was a racially charged environment." Jennifer Agostini told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon. "LaVerne Doctor...and George Printup being from the Onondaga Nation. It's a conflict of interest."
The idea that Doctor had entered the jury room is backed up by an affidavit from Pamela Angotti, an alternate juror who did not participate in the actual deliberations. Though Angotti says Doctor was in the jury room, she did not remember him interacting with the jurors.
LaVerne Doctor, who is retired from the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office, deferred questions to D.A. Bill Fitzpatrick but called the motion "laughable."
Fitzpatrick said, "There's absolutely no way in the courthouse structure ...That a DA's investigator can walk in unannounced on a deliberating jury...it's impossible." He added, "unfortunately a defense lawyer can slander one of the best cops I know."
Fitzpatrick defended the verdict against Agostini. "He cowardly waited in the parking lot for the victim to come out and just gutted him like a deer."
Jennifer Agostini says it was clearly a case of self defense. "My brother is the victim here after getting gang assaulted by five men, now he's in jail for 18 years."