NIAGARA COUNTY COURT
- Cole W. Aydelotte's mother denounced her son's killer Tuesday as "a
bully, a walking time bomb" who had shown no remorse for the Grand
Island boy's death.
Moments later, Jack L. Lewis was sobbing as he turned to Nancy Aydelotte and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Aydelotte, for what happened." The victim's mother averted her eyes.
Lewis tried again as sheriff's deputies were leading him out of the courtroom. "I'm sorry," he said as he headed off to begin his sentence of 21/3 to seven years in state prison. He could have received as much as five to 15 years.
Lewis, 18, pleaded guilty Oct. 11 to second-degree manslaughter for the March 23 shooting death of Aydelotte, 16, in Lewis' home on River Road in Wheatfield.
Lewis told police that he and Aydelotte had been watching a movie when they started playing a kind of reverse Russian roulette with a handgun owned by Lewis' father. Lewis said they loaded it with one bullet and Aydelotte spun the chamber, pointed it at Lewis and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Lewis, who was 17 at the time, said he then took the gun, spun the chamber, and pulled the trigger, shooting his friend in the head.
"Some days they can't pay me enough to be a judge," said Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. He told Lewis: "You haven't made a lot of mistakes in your life. The first major mistake you made was horrendous."
"I think the judge said it very pointedly," said Timothy R. Lundquist, first assistant district attorney. "I believe he was very fair in his determination."
Broderick, who denied Lewis youthful offender status even though he had no prior police record, seemed to think Lewis wasn't being totally honest about the circumstances.
The judge said it was possible the shooting arose from "an attempt at intimidation or an attempt to scare this young man (Aydelotte). . . . Maybe someday you'll share that with us," Broderick told Lewis.
He noted that when Lewis called 911, he told the operator Aydelotte had committed suicide. Although Lewis later admitted he shot his visitor, Broderick said, "It appeared to me he was trying to shed responsibility."
Nancy Aydelotte charged, "From the beginning, Jack tried to hold Cole responsible." She said she had information that Lewis was less than remorseful over the death as he completed his senior year at Niagara-Wheatfield Senior High School.
"He acted like it was a big joke and he was going to get out of it," the victim's mother asserted.
"They were calling him "killer' in the halls," co-defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth told Broderick. "Was he an angel? No. . . . Apparently some of the teachers thought he was mouthy.
"There's not been a moment when there hasn't been total remorse and regret," Buth said. "If I thought for a moment there was any joking, I wouldn't have represented him, and neither would Mr. (Michael S.) Taheri," her co-counsel.
Buth urged Broderick not to send Lewis to a maximum-security prison to protect him from "grown men with lengthy criminal records, a lot of really bad people from around the state." Broderick said he would recommend assignment to a youth facility.
Buth said Lewis' parents have remorse, too. "They question whether they were right in leaving Jack alone that night. They question whether they should have done more to keep him away from the gun," Buth said. "(Lewis) gets his father's gun out, he knows he's not supposed to have it, but at 17 you sometimes do things you know you're not supposed to do."
"I'm so sorry," Lewis' father, Terry Lewis, whispered to the Aydelottes as he left the courtroom. Buth said she and Taheri tried three times to arrange a reconciliation meeting between the two sets of parents. Taheri said the Aydelottes "were not interested."