Commuter Train Massacre Gunman Gets the Maximum Sentence
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ The man who gunned down six people on a commuter train and then cross-examined survivors of the massacre at his trial was sentenced today to the maximum _ six consecutive terms of life in prison.
Colin Ferguson also received consecutive prison terms of eight and one-third to 25 years on each of 19 counts of attempted murder. That most likely means the 37-year-old Ferguson won’t be eligible for parole, the judge said.
``You, Colin Ferguson, will never again return to society, but will rather spend the rest of your natural life in prison,″ Judge Donald Belfi said.
Ferguson, who acted as his own attorney at the trial, was convicted of killing six people and wounding 19 as he walked down the aisle of a crowded Long Island Rail Road train on Dec. 7, 1993, shooting a semi-automatic handgun.
``In my almost 21 years as a judge I have never presided over a trial with a more selfish and self-centered defendant than you,″ Belfi said. ``What could be more cowardly then to enter a train filled with unsuspecting homebound commuters and systematically shooting them at point blank range?″
Before hearing the sentence, Ferguson tried to rebut statements from survivors and relatives of shooting victims. As he started to speak, everyone in the courtroom except reporters and court officers walked out. They returned to hear Belfi’s sentence, and burst into applause when Ferguson was led out.
In his rambling statement, Ferguson compared himself to a martyred saint. ``John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, a humble man, and he was put into prison for no reason,″ he said. ``He was beheaded by a criminal justice system similar to this.
``After his death, we can look back and say with 20-20 hindsight, `This is a great man.′ And as much as I’m hated in Nassau County and America, I believe there are persons that are strengthened by me and my stand.″
The prosecutor, George Peck, objected several times as Ferguson tried to talk about alleged attacks on him in jail. The judge also repeatedly cut him off.
Before he spoke, Ferguson showed no emotion when shooting victim Marlene Francois stood weeping uncontrollably just a few feet away.
``You continue to cause me pain,″ said Francois, the last victim to speak. ``You refuse to accept responsibility for what you did. You continue to show disrespect to my life and the lives of others. ... You are nothing but a joker.″
On Tuesday, the second day of the three-day hearing, lawyers and spectators were reduced to tears as a dozen victims gave statements.
Ferguson ``was oblivious to it all,″ said his legal adviser, Alton Rose. ``I can’t figure out why nothing that the people said touched him.″
``I don’t believe you are crazy, Colin Ferguson,″ said Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed in the attack and whose 27-year-old son, Kevin, nearly died from a gunshot wound to the head. ``I believe you knew exactly what you were doing that night. ... Today you will be sentenced and you will be gone from my thoughts forever. We will learn to laugh again. We will learn to love again and we will all survive. But you will not.″
Kevin McCarthy also spoke Tuesday, sobbing, with his mother’s arm around his shoulders, as he pleaded with Belfi to deliver a severe punishment.
``I ask the court to take consideration of the fact I will have to endure painful ... and constant rehabilitation due to this madman’s actions for the rest of my life,″ he said.
Robert Giugliano, who was wounded, said he saw a woman die at his feet, her blood splattering his clothes.
``The fear and pain I felt I will never forget,″ he said. ``In my heart I feel this animal should suffer until the day he dies.″
Giugliano had to be restrained as he walked by Ferguson and screamed: ``You remember these eyes. You’re nothing but a piece of garbage.″
Another Ferguson legal adviser, Dennis Lemke, wept during Tuesday’s statements.
He said later that Ferguson turned to him and said: ``I see you crying.″
Lemke replied: ``Yes, but understand it has nothing to do with your guilt or innocence. These people have suffered.″