Salvatore M. Vacanti, described as a major local marijuana dealer, pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter in the execution-style slaying of Monty V. Massimi.
Jailed since his arrest in September, Vacanti, 24, told the judge he "fired shots" at Massimi, 44, on April 3, 2007, as the former convict was getting into a car in the parking lot of Jacobi's Italian Family Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue. Massimi was shot repeatedly in the back of the head.
Vacanti, of Colvin Boulevard, Town of Tonawanda, had been indicted last September on charges of second-degree murder. Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman told Vacanti that under the plea deal, which the victim's family accepted, she plans to impose a 17-year prison term. Vacanti, who is scheduled to be sentenced March 16, had faced to up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors Paul E. Bonanno and Mark A. Sacha told the judge Massimi's relatives had consented to the pretrial plea deal because of the stiff sentence Vacanti faces despite the reduced charge.
Prosecutors claimed Massimi was shot in a drug dispute. But Andrew C. LoTempio, Vacanti's attorney, said he believed the case raised a viable self-defense issue. He conceded, however, that "the number of shots" fired at Massimi would have complicated a defense case. LoTempio called the manslaughter plea "more than fair."
After Thursday's court session, Vacanti was remanded to custody.
Buffalo Homicide Detectives Mark J. Lauber, Mark J. Vaughn and William C. Donovan had arrested Vacanti, whose only previous run-in with the law had been a 2002 disorderly conduct conviction.