The judge said the sentence was the right one. Family and friends of the victim said it was not.
In an emotional courtroom barely able to hold a wide, blue line of former New York City cops, Carole LaRossa pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Friday morning for the 2012 stabbing death of her ex-husband. James LaRossa was a longtime NYC police officer and a volunteer in a Charlotte-area support group for former officers from New York.
He died a year ago in April after being stabbed 19 times in his south Charlotte apartment. Carole LaRossa was originally charged with first-degree murder. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, however, offered her a manslaughter deal in January.
Family and friends of the dead man expressed outrage at the time the deal became public, describing the reduced charge as not adequate for the crime. Friday morning, they came from as far away as New York, New Jersey and Texas to fill Courtroom 5370 for the 9:30 a.m. hearing before Superior Court Judge Robert Bell.
Bell spoke to them before he sentenced Carole LaRossa. He told them the plea bargain was a fair verdict supported by the evidence in the case. He then sentenced LaRossa to 38 to 58 months in prison.
Attorneys on both sides said the couple had a long history of domestic violence, and that Carole LaRossa had stab wounds on the night of her former husband’s death. Her attorneys said they would have pleaded self-defense if the murder case had gone to trial. Prosecutors said Carole LaRossa acted in self-defense but used excessive force, thus the manslaughter charge.
James LaRossa’s friends and family wore buttons in the courtroom bearing his face. Afterward, several of them bristled that 15 uniformed deputies were needed to control a courtroom filled with former cops.
The victim’s niece, Lauren Cox, read an emotional statement to the judge in opposition to the lesser charge.
Afterward, she said police and the district attorney’s office, which met with James LaRossa’s family before the hearing, had mishandled the investigation of her uncle’s death.
“This was more about a conviction rate and not a thing about justice,” she said in the hallway outside the courtroom. “It was like they were doing nothing. They didn’t put any effort into this at all.”
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