Judge Disallows Defendant's Waiver To Not Appear At Own Sentencing Hearing
Thursday, March 14, 2013 • 11:14pm
NEWTON, NJ - The Honorable N. Peter Conforti denied the request of counsel representing Giuseppe "Joe" Tedesco yesterday the opportunity for Tedesco to be waived from attending his own sentencing hearing, currently scheduled for next week on March 20 at 9:30 a.m.
"The court rejects the defendant's waiver, he will be required to appeal," Conforti said.
Tedesco, 27, is convicted for the 2010 slaying of Alyssa Ruggieri. Tedesco, a Hopatcong resident, killed Ruggieri, then 22, by shooting her six times in her Hopatcong home on March 27, 2010.
Conforti reminded those present in the court as well that certain conduct is expected during the upcoming hearing, noting Tedesco's outburst when he heard the verdict this past Jan. 10, convicting him with murder in the first degree, and weapons charges, including second degree of a weapon without a permit to carry. At that hearing Tedesco threatened Ruggieri's brother, then broke the leg of a Sussex County Sheriff's Officer during a scuffle, following the threat to Ruggieri's brother.
"Let this court be perfectly clear, this court's decision won't be ruled by an unruly defendant," Conforti added.
He emphasized how "ample court security shall be in place for the sentencing."
"For any individual attempt to challenge an orderly sentencing, will be dealt with according to the law," Conforti said.
Conforti decided the case reflected a strong societal interest, demanding Tedesco hear his punishment, as well as the words of the victims recovering in the aftermath, including Ruggieri's mother, Michelle, who sat in the back of the courtroom when Conforti made his decision, her face reddened from tears, surrounded by supporters and wearing a photo of her daughter pinned on her shirt.
Conforti heard the arguments of both defense attorney, Anthony J. Aicullo, and victims' rights attorney, Richard Pompelio, representing the family of Alyssa Ruggieri.
Pompelio submitted a brief to the court, Conforti said, indicating the absence of Tedesco on the day of the sentencing, would be a violation of the Ruggieri Family's Constitutional Rights, under the New Jersey Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Aicullo filed a letter to the court in opposition to the brief, on March 7. Aicullo argued his client's written waiver not to be present should be upheld.
While Conforti said Tedesco has the right to waive his attendance, he posed the question if Tedesco does not have the right to be there.
"The defendant doesn't have the right not to be here," said Conforti. "Constitutionally, Alyssa's parents are defined as victims. They [Ruggieri's parents] should be addressing their comments to me, the sentencing judge. In this instance, it is no doubt these parents have suffered irreparably."
The court also issued a pre-trial gag order, which Conforti lifted yesterday.
"He [Tedesco] has to face justice exactly the way the judge says has to," said Pompelio of the decision. "Judge Conforti was right on."
Michelle Ruggieri came out of the courtroom, and spoke with reporters with Sussex County Prosecutor Seanna Pappas at her side.
"I'm very happy," Ruggieri said. "Alyssa was a fighter. She was a strong girl. She would have been pleased for today."
"We're disappointed the judge denied the waiver," Aicullo said. "We are taking this decision to the appellate court."
Aicullo told reporters, "He [Tedesco] doesn't want to put his family through it. He doesn't want to put anyone through it. He wants to avoid any unnecessary hardship to anyone."
Aicullo said there were issues, and errors during the trial, as well as stated that Tedesco and Alyssa Ruggieri were friends, and had a good relationship.
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