Friday, May 18, 2012

Road rage incident leads to jail sentence

Defendant also loses right to bear arms


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Leonard A Roscitto

A man who brandished a pistol and, according to a jury verdict, fired at least two shots in the direction of another motorist in a road-rage incident was sentenced in Blaine County court Monday.

Leonard A. Roscitto will spend 19 days in the Blaine County jail, pay a $1,000 fine and be on probation for three years. Roscitto, a gun aficionado, also lost his right to bear arms, perhaps permanently, a situation that his attorney described as the worst punishment of all for the 63-year-old Hailey man.

Fifth District Judge Robert Elgee also gave Roscitto a withheld judgment, a provision that could allow a felony aggravated assault conviction to be removed from his record if he successfully completes probation. However, Roscitto's attorney, Douglas Nelson, said that even the withheld judgment likely won't restore his client's right to possess or own guns.

"That important part of his life is gone forever," Nelson said.

The case against Roscitto arose on the morning of Aug. 24 when he and Hailey resident John Kauder, then 51, got into what Ketchum police described as a "road rage" incident that started on state Highway 75 near its intersection with East Fork Road. The confrontation continued north and through Ketchum and finally ended at the highway intersection with Clubhouse Road.

Then, according to court documents, both men stopped. Roscitto got out of his vehicle, pulled out a handgun and fired. He has claimed that he only fired once into the air, but a Blaine County jury in March determined that he fired at least two shots and concluded that they were fired in the direction of Kauder.

Elgee, who presided over the trial, addressed the jury's verdict at Monday's sentencing hearing, noting that the verdict "could have gone either way." Elgee said the jury accepted Kauder's version of events instead of Roscitto's because two shots could be heard on a 911 recording made when Kauder called police.

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"If they'd have thought he was just shooting in the air, they'd have probably let it go," Elgee said, noting that there was no evidence to suggest that Roscitto was trying to shoot Kauder or his vehicle.

Elgee said he was imposing a jail sentence to let the public know that use of a gun during a road-rage incident is not acceptable behavior.

"I'm not doing this to punish," the judge said. "I'm doing this to send a message that this is not all right."

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback described Roscitto as a normally law-abiding citizen who "overreacted in a way that led to a dangerous situation."

"He has lived a good life, but on Aug. 24 the worst side of him came out." Fredback said. "What was a small problem turned into a big problem that escalated once it got into Ketchum. I can't figure out how he thought it was a defensive action. They were parting ways and that's when the gun was pulled and that's when it got serious."

Roscitto apologized for his actions that day.

"I've never thought about doing anything like that," he said. "I would never premeditate anything like that, but it did happen. I am extremely sorry for what did happen."

Roscitto noted that because of a no-contact order, he's not allowed to talk to Kauder, but said, "If he were here today, I would express my apology and ask for his forgiveness."

"I've thought about it a lot and I'm sorry for the whole mess. I accept full responsibility for what I did."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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