Hunter gets probation in pal's death
Man's sentence includes six months of weekends in Cayuga County Jail.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
By John Stith
Staff writer
A Port Byron man who admitted killing a friend in a hunting accident in 2003 was sentenced Tuesday in Cayuga County Court to five years' probation, with the first six months to include weekend work release at the county jail.

Thomas Calescibetta Jr., 40, of 8386 W. Loop Road, pleaded guilty Nov. 18 to criminally negligent homicide in the shooting death of Jerry Sylvester, 43, of 7805 State Street Road, Throop.

For the next six months, Calescibetta must report to the jail at 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and work until 2 p.m. each day, when he is released. He must also pay a $270 surcharge and $50 DNA testing fee.

The men were hunting shortly after 8 a.m. Dec. 9, 2003, - the last day of deer-hunting season - on Sylvester's property when the shooting occurred.

"I have no doubt that it wasn't his intent to kill his friend," District Attorney James B. Vargason said outside the courtroom after the sentencing, "but he nevertheless did by virtue of the fact that he took no precautions against it.

"He never confirmed what the target was," Vargason said. "It was the last day of the hunting season, so he had what is known as 'brown and down' fever. He wanted to shoot a deer no matter what."

Calescibetta made no statement at the sentencing.

Before the sentencing, Calescibetta's lawyer, James Leone, told Judge Mark H. Fandrich that Calescibetta is remorseful and is sorry for causing the death of his friend. Leone asked Fandrich that his client be sentenced to probation, homebound detention or weekends in jail.

Vargason said after sentencing that even though the shooting was an accident, Calescibetta had to be punished for killing Sylvester.

"My position from the very beginning," Vargason said, "was that some form of incarceration was needed here in order to express the outrage that we have when somebody fails to take even basic safety precautions when they are out hunting in the woods with a deadly weapon."

Calescibetta was the key witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Thomas Bianco, accused in the 1981 killing of Julie Monson, of Auburn. Bianco was convicted, but the conviction was overturned in 1993, and the case remains open.