Gun Fair Organizer Not Guilty In Uzi Death

Charges Against 2 Dropped In Uzi Death Case

January 18, 2011

SPRINGFIELD — A Massachusetts prosecutor on Tuesday dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against two men in connection with the death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself with an Uzi at a 2008 gun show, citing last week’s acquittal of a third defendant.Prosecutor William Bennett filed “nolle prosequi” — not prosecuting — motions in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield in the cases of Domenico Spano of New Milford and Carl Giuffre of West Hartford.

A jury acquitted former Pelham, Mass., Police Chief Edward Fleury of involuntary manslaughter and furnishing machine guns to minors on Friday in the death of Christopher Bizilj of Ashford. Fleury’s firearms training company co-sponsored the gun show.

“As a result, the Commonwealth does not believe further prosecution is in the interests of justice,” Bennett wrote in the two motions. He noted that Spano and Giuffre’s conduct was similar to Fleury’s.

Christopher was firing a 9 mm micro Uzi at some pumpkins at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club, about 10 miles west of Springfield, when it kicked back and shot him once in the head on Oct. 26, 2008. The jury in Fleury’s trial saw a graphic video of the accident, taken by the boy’s father, that led to a collective gasp in the courtroom.

Spano and Giuffre were machine gun license holders who brought the automatic weapons to the now-defunct gun fair. Bennett had argued that the reckless actions of Fleury, Spano and Giuffre led to Christopher’s death.

Giuffre’s attorney, Stephen Phillips, said he agreed with Bennett’s decision to drop the two remaining cases. He has maintained that Giuffre was not responsible for the boy’s death.

“This was a horrific, tragic accident — certainly nothing more than that,” Phillips said Tuesday. “My client is relieved that this dark cloud which has been looming over him for the past two years has finally been lifted.”

Thomas Rooke, Spano’s lawyer, had a similar response.

“Mr. Spano is very relieved that this two-year ordeal is now behind him and he’s looking forward to a good night’s sleep and putting his family’s interests back where they belong in his list of priorities,” Rooke said. “Neither the Bizilj family, the Spano family or the community needs any further prosecution of this tragic accident.”

A message was left Tuesday for Christopher’s mother, Suzanne Bizilj.

No one else was charged in the case.

Fleury’s lawyer, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, blamed Christopher’s father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, for letting his son shoot such a dangerous weapon and noted that he signed a waiver acknowledging the risks, including death, and absolving anyone of liability if something bad happened.

Scapicchio also pointed out during the trial that Spano’s then-15-year-old son was supervising Christopher when the accident happened, despite not having a firearms license or certification.

Charles and Suzanne Bizilj, who got divorced last July, filed a lawsuit alleging negligence and wrongful death against the Westfield Sportsman’s Club, Fleury, Spano and Giuffre. It was settled last month for about $700,000.

Last year, the Sportsman’s Club settled criminal allegations by agreeing to pay a $1,000 fine and donate $10,000 to children’s charities. http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ashford-boy-uzi-death-charges-20110118,0,464486.story

Gun Fair Organizer Not Guilty In Uzi Death

SPRINGFIELD — A gun fair organizer was acquitted of manslaughter Friday in the 2008 death of an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the head with an Uzi at a machine gun expo.

A Hampden Superior Court jury found former Pelham, Mass., Police Chief Edward Fleury not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing machine guns to minors in the death of Christopher Bizilj of Ashford. The charges carry up to 50 years in prison.

Fleury’s firearms training company co-sponsored the annual Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman’s Club, about 10 miles west of Springfield. Christopher was shooting a 9 mm micro Uzi at pumpkins on Oct. 26, 2008, when the gun kicked back and shot him in the head.

The 53-year-old Fleury, of Amherst, cried and hugged his attorney and his family after the verdicts were read, while several of Christopher’s relatives walked quickly out of the courtroom without commenting. Fleury said he regretted holding the machine gun shoot and will never do it again.

“I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the Bizilj family,” Fleury said in a courthouse hallway as a throng of TV cameras confronted him. “It was always meant to be an educational event.”

He said his arrest and the trial were devastating to him, and that he would rather be “dropped into hell than go through this again.”

Prosecutor William Bennett said he wouldn’t have done anything differently, saying he believed the organizers of the event were the people responsible for the boy’s death

“We had a fair trial,” Bennett said. “We were able to make our case. The jury has spoken. We will live with that verdict.”

Asked why Christopher’s father wasn’t charged, Bennett said, “I thought he was punished enough.”

Bennett said he will now consider what to do with the other two defendants, Domenico Spano of New Milford, Conn., and Carl Giuffre of Hartford, Conn., who brought the machine guns to the expo. Both have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Bennett said he will be meeting with a judge on Tuesday to discuss the other two cases.

Bennett had argued that Fleury was criminally reckless in running the event because he allowed children to illegally shoot machine guns under the supervision of a firing range officer who was 15 at the time and didn’t have a firearms license or certification.

Fleury’s lawyer, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, denied the allegations and blamed the boy’s father, emergency room Dr. Charles Bizilj, for allowing Christopher and his then-11-year-old brother Colin to shoot such a dangerous weapon. Scapicchio noted that Charles Bizilj signed a waiver at the expo acknowledging the risks, including death, and absolving anyone of liability if something bad happened.

The teenage range officer, Michael Spano, also wasn’t charged.

Jurors saw a graphic video of the shooting accident, taken by Charles Bizilj, that prompted a collective gasp in the courtroom.

http://www.courant.com/community/ashford/hc-ashford-boy-uzi-death-trial-20110114,0,1982166.story