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Father who ignited fire that killed son sentenced to 5 years probation

A Buffalo man who ignited a house fire that killed his 7-year-old son was sentenced to five years probation Thursday.

Joseph Conti, 55, pleaded guilty in August to criminally negligent homicide in the death of his son, Anthony. The second-grader at Lovejoy Discovery School died on Jan. 29 after his father set their Lovejoy residence on fire after lighting a cigarette with a propane blowtorch. Conti later told authorities that he had set the blowtorch on the edge of a bed, which ignited a mattress and the fire spread throughout the house.

Conti, accompanied by his lawyer, family members and friends Thursday, said little at his sentencing, beyond acknowledging that he had failed his son.

Imposing his sentence, State Supreme Court Judge Paul B. Wojtaszek said there was no question as to the unintended nature of Conti's actions that led to Anthony's death, but the judge stressed that Conti's actions were reckless.

"The victim here is Anthony. You're not the victim here," Wojtaszek said.

Anthony D. Conti, 7, died after a fire in his Lovejoy home on Jan. 29. (Photo courtesy of the Conti family)

"No, sir," Conti replied.

"It's your actions that brought you here," Wojtaszek added.

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. echoed the judge's sentiments.

Flynn said he is not outraged the judge did not send Conti to jail.

"I am not outraged by the sentence at all," Flynn said.

"I wouldn't have been angry if he would have gotten jail, but I'm not outraged that he didn't get jail because, obviously, this is a terrible situation and this father is going to have to live for the rest of his life with the knowledge that he killed his son," Flynn said. "What I am outraged by is the lack of compassion for this 7-year-old child."

Flynn said the victim impact statements submitted to the court on behalf of the victim barely mentioned Anthony.

"The victim here is the 7-year-old boy, not the father. He's the defendant," Flynn said.

"Not one person wrote a letter on his behalf — not one aunt, not one uncle, not a mother, not a brother — no one. In all the statements that were written today for the judge to consider, all the letters were on behalf of the defendant, and they were written by family members," he said.

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