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DePetris to get new defense lawyer

LOCKPORT - Timothy C. DePetris, the Niagara Falls businessman who admitted shooting his brother-in-law in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him and then allegedly tried to hire a hitman to finish the job, will receive a new court-appointed lawyer who may work on DePetris’ desire to withdraw his guilty plea.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said she will choose an attorney to take over the case in the next few days.

That became necessary after the county Public Defender’s and Conflict Defender’s offices both said they had conflicts of interest that barred them from representing DePetris.

Farkas formally relieved DePetris’ private attorney, E. Earl Key, from the case. Key said April 2 he didn’t approve of attempts to back out of the plea deal. Key sent a colleague, Ann Nichols, to court today to handle the appearance.

Public Defender David J. Farrugia said his office faced a conflict because DePetris is going through a divorce, and one of the part-time assistant public defenders is representing DePetris’ wife in the divorce action.

Farkas said the Conflict Defender’s Office is out of the picture because two of its members are friends of the DePetris family, which includes the shooting victim.

DePetris was charged with firing three shots at his brother-in-law, Sandro Viola, March 26, 2013, at the latter’s business, Integrated Controls USA. DePetris and another man went to the Hyde Park Boulevard plant posing as pizza delivery men.

Viola, now 57, was shot once in the right shoulder. Two other shots missed him.

DePetris, now 45, was arrested four days later when Niagara Falls detective Patrick Stack followed a pickup truck from the parking lot of the Seneca Niagara Casino into a residential neighborhood, and pulled it over after the driver stopped to carry out what looked like a drug deal.

DePetris, the passenger, was found wearing a handgun from a homemade holster around his neck. The truck also contained an assault rifle and 16 magazines of ammunition. About 200 bullets were seized. DePetris was at first charged with violating New York’s SAFE Act, but those charges were dismissed on a legal technicality.

DePetris pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree criminal trespass.In exchange for the plea, a second indictment was dismissed, regarding attempts to hire a hitman, based on recorded telephone calls from the Niagara County Jail and information from an inmate turned informant. It could have added another 25 years to DePetris’ sentence. He faces a 25-year maximum on the attempted murder plea.

DePetris was a member of the high-rolling Chairman’s Club at the Niagara Falls casino, and Key previously said the defendant lost more than $1 million gambling there. email: