A former Long Island man who claimed self-defense in the fatal shooting of his retired police officer father upstate in November 2010 has been found not guilty in a nonjury verdict, lawyers said Friday.
Matthew Taranto, 30, had been charged with second-degree murder after shooting his father, Salvatore Taranto, 58, a retired Glen Cove police officer, seven times inside their family home in Trumansburg, a village in rural Tompkins County.
The 49-page decision issued by acting Tompkins County Court Judge Judith A. Rossiter was sealed, as was the verdict, returned Thursday in Ithaca.
Defense attorney Scott A. Miller, who represented Taranto, told Newsday his client has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and argued he feared his father because of previous incidents of abuse. Hours before the shooting, Miller said, Salvatore Taranto entered his son's room, pointed a handgun at him and "told him he could kill him anytime he wanted."
Miller, of the Ithaca law firm Holmberg, Galbraith, Van Houten and Miller, argued that the father made two death threats toward his son before the shooting.
Assistant Tompkins County District Attorney Andrew Bonavia confirmed the verdict, telling Newsday, "We're shocked and disappointed with the judge's decision. We feel that the evidence never supported a self-defense claim."
Bonavia added: "We think that if anybody had a self-defense argument in this case it would have been Sal Taranto."
Matthew Taranto had waived his right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial. Closing arguments were delivered on April 13.
Salvatore Taranto was hired by the Glen Cove police on March 16, 1981, and retired on April 1, 2003, records show. The Tarantos lived in Oyster Bay before moving to upstate Trumansburg, records show.
In court, Miller said, Camille Taranto testified that her husband had started abusing her not long after their wedding in 1980 -- and she claimed he also had abused their son.