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Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico today ordered a Kenmore man to spend the next 3 1/2 years in prison for a violent attack on a Catholic priest last Feb. 14 in a North Buffalo church.

Frank Ciamarra, 27, who surrendered voluntarily a week ago in anticipation of today's sentencing, calmly told the judge he wanted to apologize to the Rev. Arthur J. Mattulke.

Mattulke had written to the judge asking him to show mercy in sentencing the mentally troubled defendant.

Ciamarra also said he wanted to express his sorrow to the priest's family for the grief he has caused them.

D'Amico told the defendant he hopes he receives all the professional counseling and treatment he may need in prison.

Ciamarra pleaded guilty July 13 to a violent-felony charge of third-degree attempted assault for stabbing the priest with several religious artifacts in St. Margaret's Catholic Church on Hertel Avenue at about 6:30 a.m. Feb. 14.

Barry Covert, Ciamarra's chief lawyer, stressed that he had dropped plans to launch an insanity-related defense at the request of Ciamarra, who has been undergoing psychological and substance-abuse counseling and taking medication for several months.

The judge said he will recommend that state prison officials provide the unemployed Ciamarra all appropriate professional help in prison, noting that at the time of the church attack he already was being treated by a physician for depression and anxiety attacks.

Prosecutors Frank A. Sedita III and Michael J. McHale stressed that Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark only approved the pretrial plea deal after getting approval from both the Mattulke and Buffalo Bishop Henry J. Mansell.

The prosecutors said Clark also took into consideration Ciamarra's mental history and his lack of what they called a significant criminal history.

Mattulke, 30, a former Marine Midland Bank teller ordained in 1997 and named parochial vicar at St. Margaret's in July 1998, was assaulted with a small perforated rod used to sprinkle holy water and a metal cross.

Buffalo Police Officers Obed Casillas and Anthony Figueroa arrested Ciamarra near the rectory after responding to a frantic 911 call.

Mattulke was hospitalized overnight and needed nine stitches for wound in his back. He also suffered a broken wrist in the attack.

The priest was not in court for the sentencing.

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