(13-WHAM, Sean Carroll) The lawyer for a teen expected to head to trial next week on arson and murder charges is asking the judge to delay that trial until April.
Michael Pilato, 16, is accused of setting a fire that killed two of his brothers and his father. His trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, January 14th.
Many of the same West Webster Firefighters and Webster Police Officers who responded to that December 2011 fire on Cardile Drive were also involved in the tragic events on Lake Road the morning of December 24, 2012.
The motion papers filed by Pilato’s lawyer reference the heightened media attention surrounding the events of Christmas Eve.
“The Christmas Eve tragedy has touched this community in a deep and emotional way. It has drawn extensive local and national media attention. Many reports from the Christmas Eve tragedy including references and discussion of the incident which occurred approximately one year earlier involving Mr. Pilato.”
The argument is made that finding a fair and unbiased jury may be more challenging in the immediate aftermath of that incident.
“The similar nature of the allegations and the fact that they occurred in close proximity to one another, involving the same police and fire department, raises serious question as to whether Mr. Pilato can receive a fair trial at the current time.”
Later on Pilato’s lawyer, Andre Vitale of the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office, further states:
“In the face of this type of publicity given how recent the Christmas Eve tragedy is in their hearts and minds, even the most conscientious jurors will have great difficulty making a dispassionate and reasoned decision about Mr. Pilato’s guilt or innocence or, importantly, what degree of guilt has been proven.
“However in several months, the healing process will have started and we will be far enough removed from recent events, so as to enable Mr. Pilato to draw from a well-reasoned and unbiased jury, able to decide the facts of the case and not be swayed by emotions or feelings of sympathy.”
Pilato is now scheduled to appear before Judge Dinolfo on Thursday, January 10.
A spokesman for Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley tells 13WHAM News that, “while she (Doorley) certainly wants to see it proceed to trial in a timely manner, the events of the last two weeks in Webster have made an adjournment practical in this case.”
He said she does not intend to oppose the motion made by Pilato’s lawyer.