A 24-year-old man who killed an upstate New York police officer was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole after being condemned by the judge and the slain officer's family members.
"You have earned a greater punishment than I can give you today, but that punishment will come on your judgment day," Oneida County Judge Barry Donalty told Wesley Molina-Cirino as he pronounced sentence.
"And I hope each day you spend behind bars is a miserable one, and the one that follows is even more miserable than the one that preceded it. You deserve nothing less," the judge said.
Molina-Cirino was convicted in March of aggravated murder in the death of Utica Police Officer Thomas Lindsey in April 2007.
Lindsey, a 32-year-old former Marine and six-year veteran policeman, was killed by a hooded assailant who came up from behind him and shot him in the head during a traffic stop in Utica's Cornhill neighborhood, a high-crime area.
During a six-day trial, defense attorney Rebecca Wittman argued that more than one person was involved in Lindsey's death and that the prosecution's key witness lied. Wittman said police and prosecutors made Molina-Cirino a "sacrificial lamb."
Speaking through an interpreter, Molina-Cirino repeated his claim of innocence Thursday and said he would appeal his conviction.
Nearly 200 police and emergency workers joined with family and friends to pack the courtroom for the sentencing. A portrait of Lindsey stood on an easel in the front of the courtroom.
Donalty noted that Lindsey grew up in the Cornhill neighborhood and asked to be assigned to patrol and protect his former neighborhood when he returned from service in the Marines. Lindsey served with "distinction and professionalism," the judge said.
Noting that Molina-Cirino was a persistent felon, with convictions for weapons, drugs and unlawful imprisonment, Donalty called the killing "among the most reprehensible, vile, heinous, vicious and cowardly acts" he had ever seen.
The most emotional statement came from Lisa Karpowich, Lindsey's girlfriend, who described the impact his loss has had on her and her two young children.
"My 9-year-old son hates you. He says you should never be able to see another sunny day and, like Tom, you should never be able to see or talk to your family again," said Karpowich, wiping away tears as she spoke.
Karpowich said her 5-year-old daughter still says goodnight to Lindsey every night before bed.
"That is one thing you couldn't take away from us," she said.
"No one will ever remember you. They will forget your name. They will forget your face. But they won't ever forget Thomas Michael Lindsey," Karpowich told Molina-Cirino, who sat at the defense table, never looking at her or the other speakers.
Lindsey's two sisters - Christina and Edwina - also spoke.
Christina Lindsey said her brother was a hero long before joining the Marines or becoming a police officer.
"He became my hero when I was 7 and he gave up his trick-or-treat bag to make sure his little sister came home with some candy," she said.
Christina Lindsey said the family was always aware that being a police officer was a dangerous job.
"It was the way it was done. You left him on the road, wet, cold and alone ... I just hope he died fast. Who wants to die alone?" she said.
Lt. Nicholas LoConte described Lindsey as "a caring, but a tough police officer. He went out everyday and gave all he could to all he encountered. He left an impression on everything he touched."
He said Molina-Cirino had been "a menace to society all his life."
"I hope you spend everyday of your worthless life suffering in a little hole that you will call home," LoConte said.
After his sentencing, Molina-Cirino was taken from the courthouse and driven to the local jail, passing through a gauntlet of Utica and local police flanking each side of the road. As Molina-Cirino's car passed, officers turned their backs on him as a show of disrespect.