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Dentist Pleads No Contest, Is Sentenced to 48 Hours; Son Gets Probation

December 24, 1996

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Judge Michael Martinez, who daily deals with gangs, teen drug dealers and killers in children’s court, is an advocate of school sports, believing youngsters will choose competition over crime.

Sometimes the theory goes awry.

Mike Cito, a former football player at an Albuquerque parochial school, admitted Monday that he wore a chin-strap buckle on his helmet that was sharpened by his father to the extent that it slashed five opposing players during a game Oct. 12.

The player and his father, a children’s dentist, were sentenced to probation and community service for charges of conspiring to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The father, Stephen Cito, also received a two-day jail term Monday.

Mike Cito, the former St. Pius X High School lineman, admitted in court that he knew the buckle could cause injuries in the game against Albuquerque Academy.

``I wore a helmet with a buckle that had been altered _ it was sharpened,″ the 17-year-old told the judge. ``It was sharpened to protect me from harm.″

The judge asked who sharpened it.

``My father,″ the boy replied.

Martinez told the boy that both he and District Attorney Robert Schwartz were advocates of bolstering school sports in New Mexico.

``You’ve set that program back quite a bit by your actions,″ Martinez said.

In an interview afterward, Martinez called the incident ``scary.″

``When we have incidents like this, sports, instead of having a positive connotation, takes on a negative connotation,″ the judge said. ``Kids will go out there with weapons basically on the playing field. What’s worse? Sending your kid out to get stabbed in the streets or maimed on the football field?″

Martinez sentenced Mike Cito to one year’s supervised probation, 100 hours’ community service and an 8 p.m. nightly curfew. If he breaks any condition of probation, Cito could be sent to the New Mexico Boys’ School at Springer for two years.

Cito’s father earlier pleaded no contest in a separate courtroom Monday. Besides imposing the 48-hour jail term, state District Judge James Blackmer ordered the dentist to perform 400 hours’ community service and to serve one year’s unsupervised probation.

The 48-year-old father will work out his community service with children who are HIV or AIDS positive and with a rural family dental program administered through the University of New Mexico.

His son also has been expelled from school and banned from competition until next Oct. 12 by the New Mexico Activities Association, the state governing body for high school sports.

The mother of the Academy player most seriously injured said she was satisfied with the sentence, but still angry with the Citos. Her son, Joe Paquette, required 10 stitches for a forearm cut.

``Joe has permanent scars on his arm, ``and it has caused my son to become more cynical and angry,″ Liz Paquette told Blackmer.

During the son’s hearing, the father silently mouthed ``I’m sorry″ to Mrs. Paquette. She acknowledged the apology.

The student also apologized to her, saying: ``I’m sorry that this incident took place.″ Mrs. Paquette replied: ``So am I.″

Mrs. Paquette, an Albuquerque elementary school teacher, read a statement saying: ``Sports are meant to build character, honesty, fair play and respect. For this situation to occur is unconscionable and reflects the attitude of win at any cost.″

A written statement from Joe Paquette says: ``I have permanent reminders of Cito’s ill judgment. I can forget about the incident momentarily, but I am constantly reminded every time I wear a short-sleeve shirt or something comes in contact with my left arm.

``The now-scarred skin’s sensitivity reminds me of seeing my left arm stuck to the side of Cito’s helmet .... The incident has caused a decrease in my level of hard play ... because of a fear that I will come in contact with this kind of sportsmanship again.″

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