Pilato guilty on all charges
Updated: Friday, July 12 2013, 09:12 PM EDT
Rochester / Webster, N.Y. --- The teenager accused of setting his family's Cardile Drive home on fire in December 2011, killing his father and two brothers, has been found guilty on all charges.
The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours, before deciding the 16-year-old was guilty of nine charges: three counts of murder in the 2nd degree, three counts of murder in the 2nd degree linked to arson, two counts of attempted murder, and arson.
Pilato's lawyers admitted their client set the fire, but they tried to pursue a defense strategy that showed he suffered from Extreme Emotional Disturbance at the time of the crime.
If the jury believed the “EED” defense they could have convicted on lesser charges of Manslaughter 1st Degree.
"From the beginning I did not believe that EED was a defense in this case,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. “I believed that this was intentional murder, that was the case I put forward, those were the arguments I made to the jury and obviously the jury found based upon the evidence and the law.”
"His emotions have been the same throughout the trial,” Pilato’s lawyer James Nobles said of his client’s reaction. “He realizes these are serious charges, at the moment I think he's in shock but I think that's going to develop over time.”
Nobles and co-counsel Brian DeCarolis said they will file an appeal.
D.A. Doorley said she intends to ask Monroe County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo for the maximum sentence of 15 years-to-life when Pilato is sentenced on July 24th. The minimum sentence he faces is 7 and-a-half years to life.
Pilato’s Mother Still Supports Him
When the courtroom doors swung open Pilato’s mother Elaine was among the first to walk through them. Despite losing her husband and two of her children in that fire, Elaine Pilato supported her son throughout the legal process and even hired defense lawyers on his behalf.
"I don't even know, I'm disgusted with my family and I'm disgusted that they wouldn't allow the EED with the judge too,” Elaine Pilato said when approached seconds after the verdict. “I don't know how you could see those tapes and not see a disturbed youngster.”
The jury watched three hours of videotaped interviews of Michael Pilato with a forensic psychiatrist hired by the prosecution.
"He didn't do this on purpose it was above and beyond,” Pilato’s mother said. "He is not a monster like she (D.A. Doorley) said she only called him by his name once. Once. He has a name.”
A Family Divided
The rest of the Pilato family remained quiet for a year and-a-half since this fire. Throughout the trial they kindly declined comment until a verdict was reached. On Thursday afternoon it became apparent that Elaine Pilato was the only member of the family still supporting her son Michael.
"We are all united as a team with the exception of his mother, I'm not exactly sure why she is siding with (him) I guess it's her son,” said Angel Pilato-Shuman a biological daughter of Carmen Pilato.
“Nobody agrees with her,” added Lisa Pilato-Reagan, another biological daughter of Carmen Pilato. “She is alone, stands alone.”
Following the verdict many members of the Pilato family gathered at the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office to at last address the fire, the case, and the verdict that convicted Michael Pilato on all charges.
Throughout the trial much was made about why Pilato set that fire that killed his father Carmen, 71, and his two brothers Peter, 16, and Joshua, 12. Issues stemming from his birth to a cocaine-addicted mother, his upbringing, his problems at school, his drug use, and his addiction to marijuana all surfaced at trial as possible reasons why he might have set the fire on the day he did.
"Actually Michael was going to be going to a (treatment) facility within a couple days of when this happened,” Angel Pilato-Shuman said of one possible reason that was not brought up in court. The sisters said he was supposed to be taken there on Monday and that he knew that.
“I do yes,” Lisa Pilato-Reagan said when asked if she thought that was one possible motive for his setting fire. When asked if he should ever be released from prison she responded, “Never, never. No.”
“I don't believe he can be rehabilitated I don't believe you can be after you killed three people,” Angel Pilato-Shuman said. “And we would never want to have another scenario like what just recently happened in Webster where someone was released and they should not have been and they went on to kill again, we're hoping this never happens again.”
That reference was to the Christmas Day 2012 ambush of West Webster Firefighters by gunman William Spengler. Spengler had been paroled after serving time in prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer. He shot four firefighters that day, killing two.
Carmen, Peter, & Joshua Remembered
The Pilato family remembers the three victims of this fire fondly. Carmen Pilato is described as strong father-figure who, despite references and innuendo that surfaced at trial, was never abusive to his children according to his daughters.
"He (Michael) knocked my father down my father never ever hit, never,” said Pilato-Reagan. “So that was absolutely untrue they made my father look awful that was not true at all, he never laid a hand on any of his kids.”
"When we lost our father we lost our best friend,” Lisa Pilato-Reagan said. “Each one of us kids called and counted on our father. We couldn't wait to be in his presence, if we had a problem we called our dad, he made each and every one of us feel special and important.”
Pilato’s daughters said Peter’s classmates at BOCES named an award after him and that he is fondly remembered by the way he would great friends or family when he announced their day had just gotten better because he was now there.
Joshua Pilato, 12, was described as being loving and loyal and expressing an interest to one day enlist in the military.
"It goes so far the chain of what he's done to our family,” Pilato-Reagan said of the impact of Michael’s crimes. “I mean my little kids are having nightmares, it's awful. It's awful.”