Jury finds man guilty of hitting, killing 3-year-old in Rochester

    Rochester Police said Cassata was driving drunk when he intentionally veered off Lyell Avenue Saturday around 7:30 p.m. and drove into a front porch. (Photo: RPD)

    Rochester, N.Y. – A jury has convicted the Rochester man accused of intentionally driving his car into a porch – and killing three-year-old Amir Pallet last June.

    In June 2018, Frank Cassata was indicted on seven charges - second-degree murder, aggravated vehicular homicide with .18 or higher, first-degree vehicular manslaughter, operator leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, aggravated DWI, DWI with .08 or higher, and DWI.

    On Friday, a jury found him guilty of all seven counts.

    "Relieved, because I know he won't get out now," said Amir Pallet’s mother, Sophia Benitez. "It doesn't bring my baby back, but I know he doesn't get to see the day of light again."

    Prosecutors say Cassata was driving drunk on June 2 when he hit Amir Pallet on Lyell Avenue.

    Police said he was aiming for a neighbor with whom he’d been involved in an argument. Instead, they say he hit the toddler and the toddler's aunt. He then fled the scene in his car; police eventually tracked him down at another crash on Lake Avenue and arrested him.

    "You can't just keep going. You took my baby, you hit my niece, you hit another car and if it wasn't for that, he would be gone right now. His intentions was to get away - so you didn't care," said Benitez.

    Cassata previously served time behind bars for a robbery and burglary charge. He finished up his parole last year.

    “Families do not expect to be in danger when spending a summer evening outside in their front yard," Assistant District Attorney Perry Duckles said Friday in a statement. "Although today’s verdict is fair, there are no winners because a 3-year-old is dead. I want to thank the great team at the Rochester Police Department who collected the evidence during this investigation that secured today’s verdict.”

    Duckles said the witnesses in this case were also vital in securing a guilty verdict.

    "I think this crime pretty much shocked everybody who was on Lyell Avenue on that day. It was just so sudden, it was so senseless," said Duckles. "I think at the end of the day, everyone wanted to come in and do their part and tell what they saw, and I think at the end of the day, that's what carried it for the jury, is having real people come in, separate and apart from the police officers who helped out on this case, but having real people come in and testify as to what they saw."

    Judge Sam Valleriani will sentence Cassata at a later date.

    Amir's mother said outside of court Friday, she will be at his sentencing.

    "I'm going to come back because I have to speak. I need him to hear it," said Benitez. "It doesn't change anything. It's not going to change that he has no remorse and doesn't care, but I need to get it off my chest, and I’m happy with the decisions that jury came to."

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