Officer Peter Figoski
Photo credit: New York Police Department
Court officers handcuff Lamont Pride before he is escorted from the courtroom at the State Supreme Court in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Feb. 28.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Newsday, Charles Eckert, Pool
In a packed Brooklyn courtroom, the ex-convict who fatally gunned down NYPD Officer Peter Figoski of West Babylon was sentenced Thursday to 45 years to life -- the stiffest punishment the judge could impose.
Figoski's fellow police officers applauded his relatives as they left the courtroom after the sentencing of Lamont Pride, 28, of North Carolina, who shot Figoski more than 14 months ago in a dimly lit staircase leading from the basement of a Brooklyn home.
Figoski's mother, ex-wife and daughters, ages 15-21, spoke with emotion before sentencing.
The daughters each addressed the court, reading from a statement they handed one another, as scores of police officers looked on and listened.
"When our father died, a part of us died, too," said the youngest, Corinne Figoski.
Christine Figoski, the oldest daughter, recalled going to the hospital as her father lay dying.
"Our father was shot in the face, and breathing at that moment. . . . We still thought he would survive," Christine Figoski said. "The next several hours were the hardest of our lives."
When Pride addressed the court, he did not express remorse to the Figoski family.
"I just want to apologize to my family," Pride said.
Pride was convicted of burglary, aggravated manslaughter and second-degree murder in the shooting of the 22-year veteran, who was blocking Pride's escape from a botched robbery of a drug dealer. The defense had argued Pride accidentally fired the gun at the officer.
The jury acquitted Pride of first-degree murder, which would have led to a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
In handing down his sentence, Judge Alan Marrus acknowledged the "devastating and tragic loss for the family."
Marrus then paused and addressed the four daughters: "I speak as a father instead of a judge. Your father would have been very proud of you today."
The judge then sentenced Pride to 25 years to life on the murder charge; 25 years to life on the burglary charge, to run concurrently with the murder sentence as required by law; and 20 years on the manslaughter charge.
Marrus said he hoped Pride would "never get out of prison."
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, appeared satisfied with the sentence.
"We are fortunate to have had a judge preside at this trial who recognized the jury's mistake and applied maximum consecutive sentences to afford Peter Figoski's family, friends and colleagues a measure of justice," Lynch said in a statement.
Figoski's parents, former wife Paulette, and daughters attended almost every day of the three-week trial, at least a dozen uniformed officers -- sometimes more -- came to court every day to show concern.
An alleged accomplice and getaway driver, Michael Velez, 22, was acquitted of all charges by a separate jury in a joint trial with Pride. Velez was sentenced to two years in jail last week by a Queens judge for violating his parole on an earlier assault conviction by accompanying Pride during a late-night trip to buy drugs.
Two other alleged members of the robbery crew are awaiting trial, and another pleaded guilty and will get a reduced sentence in return for his testimony.
Although Pride would be eligible for parole after 25 years, several experts said Wednesday it was unlikely that he would ever get it -- and that few killers of police officers ever do in the era of social media.
"You even have less of a likelihood [of parole] now. Now every crime is on the front page of every paper and it's on social media," Laurie Shanks, a professor at Albany Law School, said a recent interview.
"The police union can go on Facebook or Twitter or send a petition electronically by clicking a button on a computer," she said. "The chances of parole are slimmer now than they were 30 years ago. . . . In fact, the chances of parole are almost nil."
Copyright 2013 - Newsday
McClatchy-Tribune News Service