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Jury deliberations begin in Dominick Cruz murder trial

LOCKPORT - Jury deliberations began about 12:30 p.m. in Niagara County Court in the murder trial of Dominick Cruz, a Buffalo man charged with killing one man and wounding another in a North Tonawanda parking lot.

Cruz, 40, of Amherst Street, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 10 shooting death of Mark D. Sternin Jr., 25, of the City of Tonawanda, and with attempted murder and first-degree assault in the wounding of Tyler P. Sadaukas, 24, of Middleport.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann and Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer agreed in their summations that Cruz admitted his guilt in regard to the last count of the indictment, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, when he testified Wednesday that he shot the men using an unregistered 9-millimeter handgun. Cruz claimed he acted in self-defense after a fight in the parking lot involving six men. However, the jury still must vote on the weapons charge.

The jury has options. If it finds Cruz not guilty of murder for the intentional killing of Sternin, it could choose to convict Cruz of second-degree manslaughter, defined as reckless killing. If it doesn't think Sadauskas was shot with the intention of causing serious injury, it could choose second-degree assault for a reckless shooting.

The maximum penalty for murder is 25 years to life in prison, but the manslaughter count carries only a maximum penalty of 15 years. The same maximum applies to the weapons charge. Attempted murder and first-degree assault carry 25-year maximums, while second-degree assault is worth no more than seven years behind bars.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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