The children of homicide victim Eugene Mallove told a judge Wednesday that the plea deal offered to Chad M. Schaffer, one of their father's killers, minimizes their father's life.
"A 16-year-sentence for this brutal murder is not justice," said Ethan Mallove, the victim's son. "It's a joke. It's an insult. It devalues my father's life and minimizes the suffering this senseless crime has caused."
Ethan Mallove and his sister, Kim Woodard, addressed Judge Patrick J. Clifford in New London Superior Court before Clifford sentenced Schaffer to 25 years in prison, suspended after 16 years served, and five years probation.
Eugene Mallove, a prominent scientist and Norwich native, was fatally beaten in the driveway of his childhood home on Salem Turnpike on May 14, 2004. He was brilliant, kind and good-natured, his son said, a 56-year-old man at the peak of his intellectual abilities. Without her husband, his mother, Joanne Mallove, is "an amputee," he said.
Schaffer, his cousin Mozzelle Brown and his girlfriend, Candace Foster, were charged in 2010, after the state had dismissed charges against two other men who had initially been charged.
Testimony at the trial revealed that Schaffer, 34, of Norwich, and Brown encountered Mallove in the driveway and brutally beat him. Schaffer's family had recently been evicted from the property, and Mallove, who lived in New Hampshire, had come to town to clean it out.
Mallove was lying on the ground, begging for help when Schaffer and Brown returned to the scene with Foster in an attempt to make the beating look like a robbery. They continued to assault him and Foster said they made her join in the attack so that she wouldn't tell anyone about the crime.
Schaffer took his case to trial in April. After several days of testimony, prosecutor Paul J. Narducci offered Schaffer the opportunity to plead guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter in exchange for a 16-year prison sentence.
Knowing the victim's family was unhappy with the deal, Narducci enumerated the reasons for the plea offer on the record Wednesday.
"I felt that the evidence that was going to be forthcoming ... may have created a reasonable doubt with some of the jurors or caused them to be unable to reach a verdict," Narducci said.
The state was concerned that the wrong people were initially arrested, Narducci said. Foster, a key witness, had admitted during her testimony that she lied to police numerous times during the investigation. The state had virtually no forensic evidence connecting Schaffer and the others to the crime, Narducci said, and the prosecution was anticipating a vigorous attack by the defense of an alleged incriminating statement that police took from Schaffer.
Kim Woodard said she lies in bed visualizing her father's last moments. She said Mallove was proud of his first grandchild, Matthew, who was born just before Mallove's death. Matthew recently said to her, "'I thought when a person killed someone they went to jail for the rest of their lives,'" Woodard said.
She said she responded, "So did I, Matthew. So did I."
Schaffer, who stood with his attorney, Bruce McIntyre, during the proceeding, did not speak, though the judge read a statement he had given during a pre-sentencing interview. He said he was truly sorry to Mallove's family and that he took the plea deal to avoid the risk of a longer prison sentence.
James Kornberg, a longtime friend of Mallove and a forensic physician, asked the judge to reconsider the sentencing based on his opinion that Mallove was disabled and unable to defend himself when he was attacked. He did not elaborate, but said Mallove's condition is an aggravating factor that warrants an additional five years in prison. Testimony at the trial had revealed that Mallove had undergone a colostomy.
Clifford said the facts of the crime are aggravated enough. He called it "a senseless, brutal, savage murder of an innocent victim."
"Sixteen years does not reflect the value of this wonderful man, trust me," Clifford said. "It reflects the uncertainty of the outcome of the case."
Being a nation of laws, the state has a heavy burden to prove to 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed a crime, Clifford said.
The state's work is not done in the Mallove death case. Foster remains incarcerated at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution, and her case is on the trial list in New London Superior Court. The mother of Schaffer's children, she had entered into a witness protection program before their arrest and cooperated with police in an effort to get a better deal for herself.
The state has an arrest warrant for Brown, who is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence in New York. It is unclear when he will be brought to Connecticut to face the murder charges.