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Former Nightclub Owner Sentenced in Murder-for-Hire Scheme

  • Lou Fucci turns to look at friends and his ex-girlfriend Joy Barney after he is sentenced in White River Junction yesterday to 10-15 years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill Barney and his former business partner. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Lou Fucci turns to look at friends and his ex-girlfriend Joy Barney after he is sentenced in White River Junction yesterday to 10-15 years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill Barney and his former business partner. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joy Barney, left, leaves court alongside Karen Young, an advocate with WISE of the Upper Valley, which provides services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Joy Barney, left, leaves court alongside Karen Young, an advocate with WISE of the Upper Valley, which provides services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lou Fucci turns to look at friends and his ex-girlfriend Joy Barney after he is sentenced in White River Junction yesterday to 10-15 years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill Barney and his former business partner. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Joy Barney, left, leaves court alongside Karen Young, an advocate with WISE of the Upper Valley, which provides services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

White River Junction — The former owner of Benning Street Bar and Grill was given the maximum sentence sought by the state yesterday for charges that he hired a hitman to kill his former girlfriend and a business partner.

As part of a deal reached with prosecutors, Louis A. Fucci Jr. ultimately pleaded guilty to three felonies — one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of inciting another to commit a felony — and was sentenced to 10 to 15 years with credit for time served.

Prior to sentencing yesterday, Fucci, who has spent the past 18 months at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., told a judge that he had “strong feelings of guilt” for hiring a hitman to carry out the plot, and that he had attempted to turn his life around by seeking therapy and volunteering while in prison.

Fucci said a confluence of personal difficulties during the summer of 2011 — including coping with a divorce, the end of a relationship with his girlfriend, legal troubles and the demise of his business — caused him to be depressed, anxious and suicidal, leading him to be “desperate, out of control and scared by my own thoughts and actions.”

“I’m very sorry for my conduct in the summer of 2011. My behavior was unacceptable. I deserve to be punished,” he said, his voice cracking at times as he read from a prepared statement for nearly 10 minutes. “It’s hard for me to even put myself back in that time; it seems like a bad dream. I should have stopped these crimes, and I did not, and in not doing so I caused the victims, their families and my own family to suffer tremendous distress, something that none of them deserve.”

“The state and the victims want me to be punished for my actions, and I understand their emotions,” he later continued. “What they don’t realize is that I already have been severely punished. With the exception of the love of my children and the friendship of a few good friends, I have lost nearly everything that is important to me.”

Defense attorney Kerry DeWolfe asked for a two-to-10-year sentence with credit for time served, arguing Fucci’s lack of a criminal record — his prior convictions were limited to a drunken driving charge from 1990 — and his emotional state at the time, which she said allowed Fucci to be “ensared” by the hitman, a carpenter working at his Wilder home.

While Judge Robert Gerety found that Fucci had already suffered significant punishment and felt genuine remorse, the judge ruled that 10 to 15 years was appropriate because of the seriousness of the crimes. The sentence, he said, would deter Fucci and “others in our community who might consider engaging in similar behavior.”

“The defendant’s conduct in this matter shocks the conscience of the court; the defendant must be severely punished,” Gerety said.

Clean-shaven and wearing a navy blue jumpsuit and shackled at the waist, hands and ankles, Fucci shook his head from side to side as the sentence was read.

Accounting for the time he’s already served, he will be eligible for parole in 2021.

Fucci, 56, pleaded guilty last March to three felonies — attempted conspiracy to commit murder, and two counts of inciting another to commit a felony — in a deal that included prosecutors dropping attempted first-degree murder charges.

Windsor County Prosecutor Robert Sand said lawyers, however, could not definitively determine whether a person could be convicted of an “attempted conspiracy” after Gerety raised questions about it last week.

A new deal announced yesterday nixed the attempted conspiracy charge and replaced it with a felony charge of obstruction of justice — essentially an even swap in terms of maximum penalties — to which Fucci pleaded guilty.

“There’s conspiracy and there are attempts; it’s not clear there’s an attempted conspiracy (under Vermont law),” Sand said in an interview after the sentencing. “And rather than holding up this case to sort out that answer — and it may be unanswerable — we substituted the charge of obstruction of justice. ... Since the reason Mr. Fucci had wanted to kill his first victim was because his first victim had sued him in a civil case, obstruction of justice was an accurate response to that.”

The two counts of inciting another to commit a felony were unchanged.

DeWolfe declined to comment after the sentencing.

Fucci, a dance party disc jockey known as “Rockin Lou,” has been lodged at Southern State Correctional Facility since his arrest in September 2011 on charges that he paid the hitman at least $9,000 to carry out the plot to kill Bruce Weissman, a former partner in Benning Street, and Joy Barney, Fucci’s former girlfriend. The would-be hitman notified Hartford police and then wore a wire to gather evidence against Fucci, who gave the man information about the duo’s whereabouts.

Court documents indicate that Fucci was motivated, at least in part, by financial difficulties relating to the sudden closing of the Benning Street Bar and Grill in December 2010.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.