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Anthony Pignataro, who is going to prison for close to 18 more years, also has been prohibited from contacting his ex-wife or their two children while behind bars.

On Friday, State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti imposed the maximum 15-year prison term on Pignataro, who pleaded guilty in November to attempted assault in the 1999 arsenic poisoning of his former wife, Deborah.

The 15 years will be added to the three years remaining on a four-year sentence Pignataro already was serving for violating probation.

At the request of Mrs. Pignataro, who almost died from the arsenic poisoning two years ago, prosecutors Frank A. Sedita III and Carol Giarrizzo Bridge got Rossetti to issue an order of protection barring Pignataro from trying to contact his ex-wife for the next 18 years.

The judge forced Pignataro, 42, to sign the order of protection and extended it to cover both of the couple's children, a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter who now live with their mother.

The issuing of the order of protection capped a brief courtroom dispute about the current relationship between Pignataro and his ex-wife.

Pignataro, jailed since last Valentine's Day, sent Rossetti a handwritten letter claiming his ex-wife of 16 years had reconciled with him.

But Mrs. Pignataro categorically denied his courtroom claims about any reconciliation, court officials said Friday.

Within the past week, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Makowski finalized the divorce of the Pignataros, who were married in 1985.

Pignataro will be shipped to a state prison in the next two weeks, court officials said. Pignataro spent four months in jail in 1998 on his criminally negligent homicide plea for the 1997 death of one of his surgical patients -- a death that cost him his medical license.

Mrs. Pignataro told the judge Friday that her former husband had put their two children "through a living hell."

Hospitalized for nearly three months after the poisoning, Deborah Pignataro told the judge she had loved her would-be murderer "unconditionally" for 20 years. But she condemned him for his lack of remorse and for forcing their two children to "watch me suffer."

His voice cracking at times, Pignataro told the court he was "genuinely sorry" for what he called "the great wrong" he inflicted on his family.

He conceded that he should have talked to his former spouse about the mental anguish he experienced over his 1998 jailing and the loss of his medical license, and told the judge he stupidly "struck out" at his wife.

"She was there for me, but I withdrew out of pride, and now I'm losing
the most wonderful wife a man could have," Pignataro told the judge.

Pignataro's chief lawyer, Joel L. Daniels, complained about what he felt was an improperly slanted sentencing report written by the Erie County Probation Department. But Rossetti assured him that the maximum sentence he was imposing was based on his own findings.

The judge denounced Pignataro for what he told doctors who saved his critically ill wife two years ago. Pignataro told doctors that his wife either had attempted suicide or been the victim of the vengeful relatives of the female patient who died after the cosmetic surgery he had performed four years ago.

Before Pignataro was taken away Friday, Rossetti gave him something else to ponder in prison. Rossetti said he was acting as "only a judge here on earth," while there exists a heavenly "judge we all face" some day.

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