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Plastic Surgeon Sentenced in Death

July 19, 2000

SALEM, Mass. (AP) _ A prominent plastic surgeon who shot his estranged wife’s lover to death in a hospital room avoided a maximum prison term and was sentenced Wednesday to a five-to-eight year term.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 12 to 20 years for Dr. James Kartell, who was convicted of manslaughter in the February 1999 slaying of Janos Vajda, 57.

After the sentencing, Vajda’s daughter Bernadett muttered: ``You’ve got to be kidding.″ The Vajda family had asked Salem Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein for the maximum sentence of 20 years.

``I don’t think ‘disappointed’ is the word,″ prosecutor Fred McAlary said. ``I feel sorrowful for the Vajda family and the people who have been traumatized by (Kartell’s) actions.″

The shooting came after the two men fought in a hospital room where they were visiting Kartell’s ailing wife.

Kartell, 61, begged for leniency and tearfully apologized to the victim’s family before his sentencing, saying, ``The profundity of my remorse is infinite.″ The defense had asked for probation.

Kartell had faced a first-degree murder charge, but a jury last month convicted him of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

He claimed he shot Vajda in self-defense because Vajda was beating him in a fight. Kartell’s attorney said he was on the floor when he fired blindly, but prosecutors said Kartell fired one shot, wounding Vajda, then killed him with a second shot.

Kartell’s lawyer, Andrew D’Angelo, called the sentence ``extremely harsh, considering the type of person Dr. Kartell was his entire life.″

Kartell’s wife, psychologist Suzan Kamm, had left him for Vajda six months earlier after a 33-year marriage, according to testimony.