A son serving 20 years in prison for killing his physician father in Westbury after enduring years of sadistic abuse at his hands was granted freedom Wednesday after a defense team that included law students successfully lobbied for a lesser punishment under new legislation.
Mulumba Kazigo appeared at his virtual court hearing from Sing Sing prison, saying he was “still in shock” after State Supreme Court Justice David Sullivan paved the way for his release by changing his prison sentence to 5 years.
"All I can do is try to pay it forward,” the 41-year-old Westchester man added after his Skype resentencing hearing ended.
Later Wednesday, one of Kazigo's attorneys confirmed state records that showed he'd gotten out of prison.
He spent more than 14 years in prison after his 2006 manslaughter plea in Nassau County Court.
Back then, he admitted using a bat to fatally beat his 67-year-old father, Dr. Joseph Kazigo, as the emergency room surgeon slept in an apartment he rented near his job at Nassau University Medical Center.
Nassau prosecutors said the son also sliced his father’s throat with a knife and used plastic and tape to wrap the man’s corpse before driving to Westchester and dumping the body in woods near the Kazigo family’s home.
The killing happened soon after the son realized his father, who physically and psychologically abused him and his six siblings for decades, also had been beating his mother, the Nassau district attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Two days before the slaying, the father beat Kazigo, then 26, for forgetting to mow the lawn before Kazigo’s siblings begged him to apologize to their father so he wouldn’t take his anger out on their mother, according to prosecutors. They said Kazigo then decided to kill the man to prevent any more abuse.
Kazigo had faced second-degree murder and other charges, but prosecutors agreed to a manslaughter plea after saying his August 2005 actions were mitigated “by years of physical and emotional abuse” that was “brutal, sadistic and ritualistic.”
Kazigo’s family supported him after his arrest, disclosing that the doctor had brutalized his children for decades, including by stringing them up to a basement pipe and beating them bloody with a stick.
Earlier this year, lawyers from Nassau’s Legal Aid Society teamed with Brooklyn Law School’s Criminal Defense and Advocacy Clinic to work on appealing for a new sentence for Kazigo under the state’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.
The law, enacted in May 2019, is aimed at reducing sentences for domestic abuse survivors who commit crimes to protect themselves.
“He is a survivor of abuse and this is exactly what this law is intended to recognize,” Brooklyn Law School professor Kate Mogulescu, who supervised students who worked on Kazigo’s case, said Wednesday.
“This is a huge thing for his family,” she added of Kazigo's release.
Legal Aid's Attorney-in-Chief N. Scott Banks said his staff “was thrilled for Mr. Kazigo and his family" and thanked the district attorney's office "for seeing this young man was a victim and he fit the standards of the act."
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement Wednesday that her office agreed Kazigo should be resentenced and released “given the overwhelming evidence of sustained abuse, and that the abuse was a contributing factor to the killing of his father.”
Nassau prosecutor Sarah Rabinowitz said during Wednesday's hearing that Kazigo had been the victim of a “sadistically abusive father” who “ultimately fostered his criminal behavior” and the change in the law "was clearly intended to benefit defendants precisely like Mulumba Kazigo.”
Kazigo thanked those who supported his petition for a new sentence and also spoke of his father during the court hearing.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could travel back in time to that fateful day,” he said.
Kazigo added that he was “sad and ashamed” for destroying “whatever hopes and aspirations” his father had, and apologized to those he hurt and taxpayers who paid for his incarceration.
“I am incapable of reversing history, as much as I would like to,” he added. “All I can do is use the lessons borne of this painful experience to fashion a brighter future, not only for myself but for others.”