Three months after he was convicted of murdering his wife, Anthony Passaro Jr. remains in an infirmary at the Ulster County Jail, unresponsive and unable to face justice, at least the justice of this world.
On March 16, following a non-jury trial State Supreme Court, visiting Judge Roger McDonough found Passaro guilty of second-degree murder, felony criminal possession of a weapon and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. On Sept. 26, 2007, Passaro, 41 gunned down his wife, Tracey Passaro, at the couple’s West Saugerties home. The couple’s two children, then aged 6 and 9, were home at the time. In his verdict, McDonough rejected the defense’s claim that Passaro was in the grip of a psychotic episode brought on by mental illness and prescription drugs and lacked the capacity to understand what his was doing when he shot his wife.
When Passaro’s April 20 sentencing date rolled around, his attorney, Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover, told the court that his client had been taken to Kingston Hospital and was in an unresponsive state. Since then, two more sentencing dates have come and gone as Passaro remains under medical care and, according to Kossover, lacking any awareness of his surroundings.
“I’m not going to use the word ‘coma’ because I’m not a doctor, but he is non-responsive,” said Kossover.
Kossover declined to elaborate on Passaro’s ailments, except to say that his client had “multiple medical problems.” During the trial, however, Kossover presented evidence that Passaro suffered from diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Passaro’s father said that his son’s condition grew worse after he was confined to the Ulster County Jail in September 2007 and that he suffered a broken hip while incarcerated. In the courtroom, Passaro was confined to a wheelchair and fitted with a catheter. He appeared alert, however, answering clearly when McDonough asked if he understood the verdict and crying when a tape of a 911 call by his son on the morning of the murder was played for the court.
In April, shortly before he was to be sentenced, Kossover said his client was taken to Kingston Hospital where he lapsed into an unresponsive state and was eventually given a tracheotomy. On June 15, Kossover said, Passaro was returned to the county jail where he remains confined to a medical unit. On June 25, McDonough delayed sentencing again. On July 7, Passaro’s physicians are expected to submit statements regarding his condition and prognosis.
Kossover said that Passaro’s condition presents a difficult legal challenge, one that he has never come across in his career. “It would be inhumane to sentence somebody who’s is completely non-responsive,” said Kossover. “The law requires that anyone being sentenced has the opportunity to meaningfully participate in that part of the case and Mr. Passaro is simply unable to do that at this point.”
Passaro faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison on the second degree murder charge.