Donnell Festus, 25, continued to maintain his innocence Wednesday despite being convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and second-degree murder for killing James DiMartino, 44, in 2008. Though court and police records say Festus' first name is Darnell, his attorney, Jason Bassett of Central Islip, said Wednesday his client's name is Donnell.
State Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs imposed the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole for the first-degree murder conviction and 25 years to life for the second-degree murder conviction.
Afterward, DiMartino's widow, Diane DiMartino, said she and the couple's four young daughters are condemned to live their lives without the man they loved and adored.
"I just want him [Festus] to feel some of the pain that we feel, if that's possible," Diane DiMartino said outside the Riverhead courtroom.
Despite Festus' assertion that he didn't kill James DiMartino, Festus' mother, Monica Festus, Wednesday asked to meet with DiMartino's widow. They embraced outside the courtroom.
"I am so, so sorry," Festus' mother told Diane DiMartino, who cried and nodded her head acknowledging Monica Festus' apology.
Festus was one of four people who Suffolk prosecutors said took part in a conspiracy to kill James DiMartino. Prosecutors said Ronald Thornton - James DiMartino's neighbor, friend and business partner - paid Festus and two accomplices $10,000 to kill James DiMartino. Prosecutors said Thornton, serving a life sentence for his role in the murder-for-hire conspiracy, had DiMartino killed to cover up mortgage fraud Thornton committed.
Hinrichs went ahead with Festus' sentencing Wednesday after a purported mystery witness, who the defense said could exonerate Festus, failed to appear in court.
Bassett had asked the judge to delay the sentencing to enable the defense to find the female witness who had claimed in letters to Festus and the judge that she saw the shooting and that Festus was not the shooter.
Bassett would not release the woman's name or discuss why she didn't come to court. "I don't wish to give that information to the district attorney and police department before we fully have a chance to investigate," Bassett said.