NORWICH _ Convicted murderer Peter Wlasiuk was not sentenced in Chenango County Court on Tuesday, as his attorney, Randel Scharf of Cooperstown, argued the verdict should be set aside and a third trial granted.
Wlasiuk, 39, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison.
In pronouncing him guilty last month, jurors found that he smothered his wife, Patricia, on April 2 or 3, 2002, then drove her body into Guilford Lake to make the death seem accidental.
The former truck driver originally was found guilty in 2002, but appellate judges overturned that conviction in 2006 and ordered a new trial, which was held last month.
On Tuesday, Wlasiuk was scheduled to be sentenced, but Scharf filed papers with the court late last week, asking that the verdict be overturned because of an alleged error by Judge Martin Smith, as well as juror misconduct.
Scharf said juror No. 6, Norwich podiatrist James Lentini, had violated rules of how jurors should conduct themselves by offering medical opinions about the evidence during deliberations with his fellow jurors.
See WLASIUK on Page 9
``This is a wholly circumstantial case, and the jury was deadlocked,'' said Scharf. ``If Dr. Lentini is in there dispensing medical opinions, that would be misconduct.''
Smith, a Broome County judge who was assigned to the retrial, asked what advice Lentini allegedly offered. Scharf said another juror told him Lentini spoke authoritatively about bruises on the victim's face, asphyxiation ``and his experience doing autopsies.''
Scharf also argued that Smith had erred by not offering a limiting instruction to jurors about a note, buried in a 73-page police report, that was admitted into evidence.
The note, on page 48, referred to Patricia Wlasiuk's diaries, where she allegedly had written that she feared Wlasiuk ``would seriously injure or kill her'' and was upset by his ``ongoing sexual affair with Joyce Worden'' of Guilford.
During the jury's second day of deliberations, Sept. 26, the panel had asked Smith if they could consider the police notation and judge said yes, without noting the diaries were not in evidence.
Smith denied Scharf's request for a new trial on this basis, noting that Scharf had introduced the document and had not requested the limiting instruction at the time.
Scharf said he wished he had done so.
Family statements cause delay
At the end of Tuesday's session, Smith postponed sentencing until 11 a.m., Nov. 17. He said the delay was necessary because he wasn't apprised soon enough that Patty Wlasiuk's mother, Joyce Cardozo of Bainbridge, and another family member wanted to address the court at sentencing.
Smith noted he was required to notify the defense attorney in advance of such speeches and had been unable to do so.
Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride said he had notified the court on time. McBride also said family members would rather not speak Tuesday than delay the sentencing.
Smith said it was too late to withdraw the request.
Scharf asked Smith to conduct an inquiry of jurors to determine whether the murder verdict should be set aside. Smith gave him until the end of next week to interview jurors and offer evidence that a new trial is warranted, and that it is a matter to be resolved before sentencing.
As the judge announced a new sentencing date, several people began to leave the nearly full courtroom.
Thomas Wlasiuk of Oxford, Peter Wlasiuk's father, said he was disappointed in the verdict and disillusioned about the state of justice in the county.
``Those diaries were a big reason the first trial was unfair and now, here they are again in this one,'' he said. ``How many times are they going to try an innocent man?''
Outside the courtroom, Cardoso said, ``This has been dragging on for two years now, and I don't know why the perpetrator gets all the breaks and the victim gets (nothing).''
``I was one of the ones who defended him (Wlasiuk) when I first heard this,'' Cardozo said. ``I said, `It can't possibly be true,' but I've seen what he's like.''
Outside the courtroom, Scharf said he accomplished what he had hoped to Tuesday when Smith granted the adjournment.
``The court has now released the names and addresses of all the jurors, and I'm going to talk to them,'' he said.
About 45 minutes after court adjourned, Lentini entered the courthouse. He left several minutes later and got into a black Acura with Scharf and a private investigator.
``What are trying to do, get me killed?'' Lentini asked in a jocular voice, then shut the door.
After getting out a few minutes later, he told The Daily Star he had done nothing improper during deliberations.
``I don't know where they're getting that, because it's not true,'' he said.