LOCKPORT – Timothy C. DePetris, owner of the former Electro-Dyne Choke Corp. in Niagara Falls, admitted Wednesday that he tried to kill his brother-in-law by shooting him.
DePetris pleaded guilty as charged to all seven remaining counts of the original indictment against him, including attempted second-degree murder, in exchange for dismissal of a second indictment that accused him of trying to hire a hit man from jail to finish the job of killing Sandro Viola, owner of Integrated Controls USA.
Another witness in the case also was to have been targeted by the hit man, according to the indictment.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said at DePetris’ original arraignment May 16 that the shooting of Viola was believed to have stemmed from a business deal between Electro-Dyne and Integrated Controls and DePetris’ belief that he was underpaid for equipment sold to Viola’s company.
DePetris was accused of firing three shots at his brother-in-law, with one shot striking him in the right shoulder. Viola recovered from the shoulder wound.
The stiffest sentence DePetris can be given on his guilty plea is 25 years in prison plus up to five years of post-release supervision. Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said that although the minimum is five years, her sentence will fall in the range of 15 to 25 years. She scheduled sentencing for March 27 and said the hit man indictment will not be formally dismissed until then.
If he had been convicted of the hit man charges, DePetris would have faced an additional 25-year maximum sentence.
“He got what he deserved,” Viola said after watching the plea. He called DePetris “pitiful.”
The shooting occurred at about 1:30 a.m. March 26, when DePetris and another man went to Viola’s Hyde Park Boulevard business posing as pizza deliverymen.
DePetris was arrested March 30, when police stopped his pickup truck and found an assault rifle, a Beretta pistol hanging from a homemade holster tied around his neck, and 16 magazines of rifle bullets, six of them taped together in pairs. In all, more than 200 rounds of ammunition were seized.
DePetris’ original indictment included six counts of violating the SAFE Act on high-capacity magazines, but those counts were later dismissed.
The driver of the truck at the time of the arrest was the other witness DePetris sought to have killed by a hit man. DePetris was indicted on attempted first-degree murder and other charges based on alleged efforts to hire a hit man from jail between April 3 and May 22.
DePetris, 44, was choked up and on the verge of tears as he answered questions posed by Farkas.
Asked by the judge to enter a plea to attempted second-degree murder, DePetris took a deep breath, sniffled and said, “Guilty.”
He also pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree criminal trespass. The last charge resulted from an unwelcome Jan. 15 visit by DePetris to Viola’s home.
The plea came on the day a hearing was scheduled on the admissibility of testimony from a jailhouse informant about the hitman scheme.
Key and Hoffmann declined to answer reporters’ questions after court, because Farkas has not yet lifted a gag order in the case.
In court, asked his home address, DePetris gave the 19th Street address of his business and said he had been staying there for two years before his arrest.
However, police found him after following his pickup truck from the parking lot of the hotel at the Seneca Niagara Casino, where he was reportedly staying.
He was a member of the exclusive Chairman’s Club for the casino’s high rollers. At the original arraignment, Key said DePetris had lost more than $1 million gambling there.