An Amherst man who was captured on tape beating and humiliating his wife will remain in jail longer than some men convicted of murder.
The Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a 36-year sentence in the high-profile case against Ulner Lee Still, 51. The decision makes Still's sentence the longest in New York State history for a domestic violence case in which the victim wasn't killed.
In December 2004, State Supreme Court Justice John F. O'Donnell sentenced Still to 36 years for the brutal beating of his wife, Susan. Still had remained in the Attica Correctional Facility pending the appeal.
Still had rejected a plea deal from prosecutors that would have sent him to prison for four years. Throughout his trial and sentencing, he never accepted responsibility for his actions.
Key to his conviction was a 50-minute video, recorded by the couple's oldest son at Still's direction, that shows him humiliating and beating his wife as she begs for mercy. That assault on June 22, 2003, was one of three she suffered that day, Susan Still testified during the trial.
"Now we have closure," said Lisa Bloch Rodwin, head of the District Attorney's Domestic Violence Bureau. Referring to Susan Still, she said, "I'm relieved that there's no way she's going to have relive this tragedy at another trial. She and her children can go on rebuilding their lives."
During the trial, the couple's two sons testified to witnessesing the abuse against their mother. The boys are in her custody.
But an older daughter, who was estranged from her mother, testified on Still's behalf. "We had the Cosby household," Angel Steele had said. "That's the only way I can describe it."
The tape of Susan Still's beating will be released to more than 30 agencies that have requested copies, Rodwin said. The victim had consented to its release to legitimate court and police agencies for training purposes.
"If viewing it helps one judge, one police officer, or one person take steps to save one other woman or child, then it should be used as a positive tool to end a very heart-wrenching and devastating issue in our society," Susan Still had said.
The case was presented to the appeals court in January, when Still's lawyers argued the stiff sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
News Staff Reporter Janice L. Habuda contributed to this report.