Judge Unsure Of Plea Deal In Hitman Case
Wants Clarity of Charges Against Former Club Owner Lou Fucci Jr.
White River Junction — A judge is questioning a previously approved plea deal that would resolve the case against a former nightclub owner charged with hiring a hitman to kill his former business partner and his former girlfriend.
Louis A. Fucci Jr., was scheduled to be sentenced yesterday for his 2011 scheme, which unravelled when the would-be hitman went to the police. But late Thursday, Windsor Superior Court Judge Robert Gerety said he was unsure of the legality of the plea deal that was reached last year by his predecessor, Judge Patricia Zimmerman, and scrapped the hearing.
While attorneys could work out a new agreement, or convince the judge to allow the current agreement to proceed, the decision casts doubt on a case that appeared to be resolved one year ago.
“The validity of the plea agreement is in question right now,” Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert Sand said. “I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to resolve it and then over turn it.”
The judge’s decision centers on a tricky element of the case that has bedevilled lawyers from the beginning: Since the hitman never intended to carry out Fucci’s request, what, exactly, is the illegal act that was committed?
Prosecutors initially filed two charges of attempted murder, but defense lawyers fought that decision, saying since the hitman never wanted to take action, no one’s life was actually in danger.
Lawyers sparred for months overwhat charges are appropriate, and in March 2012, they seemed to have reached a compromise: Fucci pleaded guilty to attempted conspiracy to commit murder and two lesser charges, which combined carried a 10 to 15 year sentence. Zimmerman accepted the deal.
Fucci, 56, was scheduled to be sentenced for the crime of “attempted conspiracy.”
By law, a “conspiracy,” can occur even if the action is never taken: Since attempting to collaborate to do something illegal can be charged as a conspiracy, what, then, is an attempted conspiracy, Gerety wondered?
The law surrounding that question is vague and largely untested, Sand said.
Fucci’s attorney, Kerry DeWolfe of Barre, could not be reached for comment.
A new hearing has not been scheduled. Gerety ordered attorneys to file written briefs explaining their positions on attempted conspiracy.
Fucci, a dance party disc jockey known as “Rockin Lou,” is being held in Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., where he has been incarcerated since his September 2011 arrest on charges that he hired a carpenter working on his Wilder home to kill Bruce Weissman, a former partner of his in the Benning Street Bar and Grill, and Joy Barney, Fucci’s former girlfriend.
The alleged hitman, whose name has not been publicly released, received at least $9,000 from Fucci, according to court records, but notified Hartford police of the plot and then wore a wire to help gather evidence against Fucci.
Fucci was arrested Sept. 16 on charges that he put out a contract on Weissman and Barney, and gave the would-be hitman information about their whereabouts.
Court documents indicate that Fucci was motivated, at least in part, by financial difficulties relating to the sudden closing of Benning Street in December 2010.
Weissman sued Fucci after the collapse of the nightclub, while Barney, 41, claimed that Fucci “embezzled” from the business, according to court documents. She had also taken out a restraining order against Fucci.
Fucci was “anxious” to be sentenced and have the prosecution end, Gerety said in his order, and had pledged to waive any possible objection.
But the judge said he had a responsibility to resolve all relevant legal questions before allowing the case to conclude.
“The court is convinced that additional review and analysis is needed in order to ensure that justice is done,” Gerety wrote in a two-page order.
The case has been slowed by another event: Fucci’s former attorney, Matt Harnett of Rutland, one of Vermont’s most prominent defense lawyers, died of cancer in November.
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.