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Response to domestic violence noted in sentence for kidnapping

The case involving a Buffalo woman who threatened to shoot three people related to her estranged husband and wound up shooting herself during a police standoff is being treated by the court as a response to domestic violence.

Latisha Maxwell, 34, a nurse and the mother of five, was sentenced Wednesday to a term of 3 to 6 years in prison after having pled guilty to three charges of kidnapping and one of criminal possession of a weapon.

Under conventional sentencing guidelines, Maxwell could have faced up to 50 years in prison, but defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou argued that the case fell under state law that grants an exception when the defendant has been the victim of domestic abuse and commits a crime in response to that treatment. Assistant District Attorney Eugene T. Partridge III, who prosecuted the case, said his office supported the domestic violence consideration.

Eoannou briefly described for the court Maxwell’s upbringing and abusive marriage, calling it “about as tough a life as you can imagine.” She was raped at age 11 and repeatedly sexually assaulted by a person in her household. She escaped to a marriage equally as brutal – her husband went to prison for abusing her, and much of that abuse happened in the presence of their children.

Her spouse had been released from prison when Maxwell suffered an emotional collapse and took a loaded pistol to his family home. There, according to the district attorney’s office, she confronted three relatives of his and demanded to talk to her husband, who was away from the house. Once they reached him by phone, she told him that she would kill everyone in the house if he didn’t come home.

Police and hostage negotiators responded and secured the house. Maxwell stayed inside for several hours before firing one shot into the ceiling and wounding herself. No one else was injured.

Speaking on her own behalf Wednesday, Maxwell told Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio that she had struggled to care for her family while working as a nurse for 10 years and that, until she underwent an exam after her arrest, she did not know she suffered from bipolar disorder.

“I never knew I had a problem,” Maxwell said. “When you have five kids and an abusive husband, you don’t think about yourself. I always took the abuse as long as he didn’t hurt the children.”

Before pronouncing sentence, DiTullio noted, “I have never seen a presentencing report with a childhood as horrific as yours. … Somehow you’re a survivor. You just broke that day (of the offense).”

The judge said she would indicate that Maxwell should continue to receive medication for her mental illness and counseling while she is incarcerated.