The man convicted of aggravated criminally negligent homicide in the death of Trooper Craig Todeschini in a high-speed chase on April 23, 2006 was sentenced to seven years in state prison. Below is an article from The Post-Standard of Syracuse detailing the sentencing and comments made by the presiding judge. While the State Troopers PBA is pleased that Carncross was brought to justice for his actions, we are troubled by the judge’s comments and are in the process of responding to them.
Judge: Defendant, trooper both at fault in fatal crash
Thursday, February 15, 2007
By Jim O’Hara
Judge William Walsh did Wednesday what an Onondaga County Court jury was not able to do in assessing the guilt of James Carncross in Trooper Craig Todeschini’s death.
The judge apportioned blame.
And in doing so, he concluded Carn-cross and Todeschini bore equal responsibility for the trooper’s death in a high-speed chase last year.
For that, he sentenced Carncross to seven years in state prison for his aggravated criminally negligent homicide conviction in Todeschini’s death.
The judge said Carncross set in motion the chase that resulted in the trooper’s death. But he then added he was troubled by the fact "Trooper Todeschini did not die at the hand of Mr. Carncross, he did so by his own hand."
The judge said he hoped every law enforcement officer who considers chasing a motorist in the future would think about Todeschini’s death and the tragic consequences that could result from such a chase.
After battling over just about everything throughout the case, District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick and defense lawyer Salvatore Piemonte concluded as they left court Wednesday that the sentence Walsh imposed was fair.
Then they disagreed over the genuineness of Carncross’ courtroom apology to the Todeschini family.
"I want the court and the Todeschini family to know I’m very sorry for what happened," Carncross said, reading from a prepared statement. "I never intended to hurt anyone," he said.
Carncross then said that if "I knew then what I know now" he would have stopped and never led Todeschini on the chase that ended in the officer’s death. He ended his statement by saying he hoped to learn from his conduct and that someday the Todeschini family would
find it possible to forgive him.
Todeschini’s father, James Todeschini, said he is working on that.
"Our faith says we should forgive, but my heart is not there right now," he said.
But Todeschinisaid the family members appreciated Carn-cross’ courtroom comments even though they were surprised the defendant spoke at all.
Piemonte said Carncross was extremely remorseful for what happened.
"He is torn over this," the defense lawyer said. "What person in his right mind wouldn’t wish he could take this back?"
But Fitzpatrick questioned Carncross’ sincerity, contending the comments were little more than "a last-ditch effort to get some leniency from the court."
Carncross, 21, of Apulia Road, Jamesville, was convicted in December of being the speeding motorcyclist Todeschini was chasing on Route 91 on April 23 when the officer’s vehicle slammed into a tree in the hamlet of Pompey Hill.
The trooper’s mother, Cindy Todeschini, spoke briefly, noting she wanted Carncross and all motorists to keep in mind a simple phrase: "Respect and responsibility for the rules of the road."
She said her sonwas just doing his job to enforce those rules when he died. But she said she was not giving in to any sense of anger or hatred.
"I do not hate Mr. Carncross as a person," she said. But she quickly added she didn’t like the choices he made to speed and then not stop when he knew he was being chased.
"He had that choice. He was just totally disrespectful for the rules of the road," she said. The result, she said, was a life sentence for her without her son.
Fitzpatrick noted the case had split the community. But he said people are being caught up in a number of "myths" about the case.
One is Carncross didn’t know he was being chased, Fitzpatrick said, calling that "complete fiction."
Another is the incident was over long before it got to Pompey Hill, something disproved by a video showing the speeding motorcyclist passing through the hamlet moments before Todeschini’s crash, the prosecutor noted.
The third is that Carncross turned himself in and was remorseful, something Fitzpatrick said amounted to "a false assertion" that Carncross used to try to shelter himself from responsibility when he knew it was inevitable he’d be caught.
Yet another isthat Carncross did not receive a fair trial, a point Fitzpatrick strongly disputed.
Thinking about Todeschini, Fitzpatrick said he is "overwhelmed by the sadness of a life unfulfilled." As for Carncross, he said he is struck by "the reality of a life unfulfilled."
Fitzpatrick asked Walsh to impose a 12-year sentence, saying that was "a sentence (Carn-cross) so richly deserves and so thoroughly earned."
Walsh told thepacked courtroom the case was the most difficult he had ever faced in considering sentencing.
Despite the length of the sentence imposed, Walsh had some harsh words for Carncross.
The judge said respect for law enforcement officers had been lost on Carncross. And he took issue with the defendant’s failure to actually own up to what he did in contributing to Todeschini’s death.
"The nobility of his life and the meaninglessness of his death are lost on you," the judge said.
The judge ordered the seven-year penalty to run consecutively with a sentence of 1Ð to four years Carncross already is serving for violating probation in a prior grand larceny case.