Skip to comments.At doctor's sentencing, wife collapses amid leniency pleas (Connecticut)
Posted on 04/22/2006 3:38:18 PM PDT by Graybeard58
WATERBURY -- Dr. James Copetto, a brilliant city eye surgeon, was sentenced Friday to more than two years in prison for possessing child pornography, despite passionate pleas from family members and patients that he receive probation.
Copetto's sentencing hearing lasted more than two hours, an exceptionally long time for such hearings, and was attended by an unusually large number of supporters, about 50. The judge said he received hundreds of letters in support of Copetto.
Copetto, a short man with a stout belly who wore a dark-colored suit and hair combed straight back, sat looking straight ahead and showed little reaction during his sentencing in Waterbury Superior Court.
Speakers, including his wife, two of his five grown children and former patients, told personal stories of Copetto's exceptional skill as a doctor and said society would be better served with him out of jail. Supporters described him as a family man of strong moral character whose obsessive compulsive disorder led him to amass a large collection of child pornography.
"Good people make mistakes and my husband made a mistake," said Maureen Copetto, a frail woman whose gray hair was tied in a bun on top of her head. "We love him; please, please don't put him in jail."
Upon saying that, she burst into tears and collapsed, unable to get up for several moments before her husband and two of her daughters helped her back to a court bench.
Copetto, 60, of 51 Oakville Ave., in the city's Bunker Hill neighborhood, was arrested last June after a computer technician tipped off police that Copetto had child pornography on his home computer.
At last count, police had discovered 3,000 images of child pornography that were imported from Internet sites and online bulletin boards, according to Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly.
The children in the images are believed to be as young as 1 and as old as 15. The children were, "forced to engage in the most repulsive, denigrating acts of sexual perversion that one could ever imagine," Connelly said.
Coppeto pleaded guilty in February to possession of child pornography and importing child pornography. The plea came under an agreement with prosecutors that spared Copetto a trial and a potential sentence of 40 years in prison.
Under the agreement, Judge Frank Iannotti could have sentenced him to 15 years in prison, suspended after he serves 7ÃÂ½ years, and 10 years' probation, the sentence Connelly recommended. Copetto's lawyer, William St. John of Waterbury, asked Iannotti to give his client probation.
Iannotti sentenced Copetto to 10 years in prison, suspended after he serves 27 months, followed by 10 years' probation. He ordered Copetto to register as a sex offender and barred him from possessing pornography.
"It's because of him those children have suffered," Connelly said, his voice rising while pointing at Copetto. "He's a doctor. He's supposed to help kids."
St. John, Coppeto's lawyer, said psychological testing determined Coppeto is not a pedophile and is not a risk to children. Coppeto is undergoing treatment to address his obsessive compulsive disorder that supporters said led to his fascination with child pornography.
He begged Iannotti not to send him to jail so he could go home to his wife of 36 years, Maureen, and read historical novels while she reads Dickens, watch mystery movies and walk on the beach together.
Copetto said he never had an impure thought about a child and never harmed a child.
"The mere fact that Dr. Copetto has not touched any of the children does not mean he hasn't harmed them," Iannotti said. "You exploited children."
By downloading child pornography, he's created a demand for a product that can only be made by sexually abusing children, he said. The judge said Coppeto's first step toward rehabilitation is admitting he's harmed children.
The judge said he did take into account Copetto's good deeds when determining his sentence.
More than a dozen former patients pleaded with Iannotti to give Copetto probation. His fierce commitment to helping his patients is beyond compare, they said. Several told stories of how Copetto simply looked into their eyes and was able to diagnose seemingly unrelated problems.
Judy Boughton said that beginning in 1980 she had a headache for 18 months. Several doctors had told her it was sinus problem. She went to see Coppeto, who looked at her eyes and said she had a tumor. Sure enough, she did and it was removed. She said doctors told her if they hadn't removed the tumor she would likely have died.
"This man saved my life," she said.
Dr. Joseph Esposito, a former emergency room physician, said Copetto was always willing to take calls from emergency room doctors. He said Coppeto often came to emergency room to see a patient, "which is almost unheard of in a specialist."
With her three sisters huddled behind her, Stephanie Coppeto tearfully implored the judge to give her father probation.
"Yes, he has a problem," she said. "We are helping him and we want the opportunity to keep helping him."
St. John, Coppeto's lawyer, argued no good would come from sending his client in prison. He said Coppeto's been humiliated, he closed his Wolcott Street practice last fall, the state has suspended his medical license and will likely take it away permanently.
The supporters who nearly filled the courtroom sat silently as if collectively holding their breath when the judge delivered his sentence. They left quietly after marshals cuffed Coppeto's hands in front of him and led him to the court's lockup before he heads for prison.
Oh they're not even claiming he's INNOCENT. They're saying "Good people make mistakes and my husband made a mistake," Fueling the business of child rape and molestation isn't a mistake lady.
Makes ya wonder why three of his grown daughters were "huddled" behind their fourth sister. This is just creepy.
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