We’ve always supported the notion that justice must be blind—to both those factors that can unfairly damn a defendant with an undesirable background or family name, and to those that can confer impunity and immunity on the powerful and connected.
Indeed, that’s the allegation that we’ve heard these past two weeks against a 23-year-old girl from North Tonawanda who, after a night of celebrating, got behind the wheel—and then found a degree of leniency in the courtroom that raised some eyebrows. But then hyper-partisan bomb-thrower Dennis Virtuoso had to turn the matter into a political witch-hunt. And that act alone reminds us why we so often find the Niagara Falls Democrat so detestable.
However, documents that have wandered into our possession reveal Virtuoso is not merely detestable: He’s also a hypocrite. Or, actually, something far worse than a hypocrite. If a hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another, what do you call someone who says one thing and then does something ten times worse?
Some readers may recall that Virtuoso’s pride and joy, his son Vincent J. Virtuoso, had a bit of a brush with the law himself back in 2002. Only Vinnie Virtuoso didn’t stand accused of having one too many cosmopolitans out at a bar. This would-be scion of the Virtuoso political dynasty instead got in trouble when he decided to compete with the Medellin Cartel. Word is he was making a pretty good buck, until he sold a pound of marijuana and an ounce of cocaine to an undercover officer. Then, the 20-year-old’s world came crashing down.
We might be sympathetic for his father. After all, for Dennis Virtuoso, then majority leader of the Niagara County Legislature, this had to be a rather significant embarrassment. And, knowing how passionate Dennis is about seeing those accused of law-breaking punished to the fullest extent of the law, having to condemn his son to life in prison must have been tough.
Oh, wait, but that’s not quite what happened. As you will see by the documents below—the indictment against Vincent J. Virtuoso—young Vinnie was accused of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Third Degree.
At the time of Virtuoso’s arrest, this constituted a Class A-II felony in New York State. That means he could have been given a sentence of up to life in prison. To make matters worse, Virtuoso could have been given consecutive sentences because his criminal acts occurred on two separate dates—something we are told is quite common in criminal prosecutions.
Fortunately for Virtuoso, Democratic District Attorney Matt Murphy and Assistant D.A. Robert A. Zucco decided that life in prison was too harsh for Dennis Virtuoso’s baby boy. So, they gave him a plea deal.
For selling .92 ounces of white powder and 15.29 ounces of marijuana, Vincent Virtuoso received the absolute minimum sentence then allowed under New York State law: 1 1/3 years in prison. They also gave him concurrent terms for the counts he faced, rather than consecutive. And, mind you, Section 220.10 of the state’s criminal procedure tied their hands and prevented them from going even lower, thanks to minimum sentencing rules.
Now, we’re not saying anything illegal happened here. After all, it appears that Virtuoso was, in fact, held to the absolute minimum standard the law required. We’re also not going to make any insinuations about the Democratic Majority Leader of the County Legislature’s son getting a very lenient plea deal from the Democratic District Attorney and his Assistant D.A., who just happened to be best friends with Paul A. Dyster, then an up-and-coming Democratic councilman on the Niagara Falls City Council—the same city council that Virtuoso, a building inspector for the city, worked for. What we are saying, though, is that Vincent Virtuoso was a lucky young man to get the most lenient sentence available to prosecutors.
We hope Vincent Virtuoso, now free from state prison, is working to become a model citizen. Unfortunately, though, we must wish the same thing for his father, as he engages in one of the grossest examples of hypocrisy we’ve seen in a long time.