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LOCKPORT – Timothy C. DePetris, the Niagara Falls businessman charged with shooting his brother-in-law and trying to hire a hitman to finish the job, must stay in solitary confinement, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas ruled today.

DePetris, 44, has been in isolation in the Niagara County Jail since June, when he was charged with using the jail telephones to try to reach a would-be killer on the outside to rub out Sandro Viola, the rival business owner and brother-in-law whom DePetris allegedly shot March 26.

Another witness in the case also was a purported target of the hit that DePetris tried to arrange.

After a second session of the hearing on defense attorney E. Earl Key’s claim that DePetris was being denied access to legal materials and to his lawyer, Farkas announced, “I’m tempted to say this is much ado about nothing.”

Farkas said testimony from DePetris himself and a corrections sergeant showed that the inmate had made very little attempt to access the phone or the computerized Lexis-Nexis legal research system since being placed in solitary.

“The fact that he’s in isolation doesn’t prevent him from using Lexis-Nexis or calling his lawyer,” Farkas said. “He has my permission to ask for it every day.”

But the judge reiterated that DePetris is barred from using the phone to call anyone but Key.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said, “He has made very little effort to make the request properly.”

Only three permission slips were entered into evidence, none more recent than July 16, and it appeared from the lack of notations on it that one of the three never was actually submitted, the judge concluded.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com