Rochester, N.Y. -- Tyquan Rivera was sentenced to the maximum Friday.
Rivera, 15, received 3-1/3 to 10 years in prison -- the maximum sentence because of his age -- for shooting Rochester Police Officer Anthony DiPonzio in the head on January 31.
A jury found Rivera guilty in September of second degree attempted murder and first degree assault. The sentences of 3-1/3 to 10 years for each charge will be served concurrently. However, any additional sentences from family court will run consecutively.
At the sentencing, Judge Joseph Valentino called Rivera’s actions “vengeful and cowardly.” He said, “What you did, basically left an indelible mark on our whole community.”
“No one else is to blame for your crimes but you,” Valentino said. “You are responsible for your calculated decision on January 31, 2009.”
Valentino gave a strong recommendation that every day of his sentence be served. He said that he imagined legislators, when crafting law regarding penalties for juvenile, never imaged a 15-year-old being sentenced for shooting a police officer.
In his statements, District Attorney Mike Green argued that Rivera should not be granted youthful offender status. Green said Rivera “has had absolutely no remorse and taken no responsibility for his actions.”
Green attempted to portray Rivera as a danger and an “unacceptable risk to the community” and as someone with a lengthy history of problems, who was given every possible opportunity the system had to change. Green said, "he...has done absolutely nothing to reform his behavior for society."
“He pointed the gun at the back of a police officer and pulled the trigger,” Green said.
“You look at Officer DiPonzio; he’s fighting like crazy, but there’s no guarantee that he’s ever going to get where he wants to be,” Green said after the sentence was handed down. “And why? Because he was out serving and protecting us, doing what he was supposed to do. Some 14-year-old drug dealer decides he’s going to try and shoot...a...police officer. It’s tragic. It’s senseless. It’s heartbreaking.”
“This is not a victory for us. It’s closure,” Joanne DiPonzio, Anthony's mother, said. “We just concentrate on Anthony’s recovery, just getting better. Getting back to normal again."
Green, arguing for the maximum sentence with no early release, says that Rivera was the sole actor in the case, that there are no mitigating circumstances that would prevent the court from waiving youthful offender status. He said Rivera had been a drug dealer and drug runner for years, citing incidents dating back to when Rivera was 11 years old.
He went on to describe several incidents, including Rivera pulling a knife on one of his brothers and threatening to kill his mother, long-term suspensions for repeatedly sexually harassing girls at school, and being uncontrollable at home, according to statements from Rivera’s mother given in 2006.
Green says Rivera was placed on probation by the court in March 2007, but that he violated that probation within two months and was placed at St. Joseph's Villa but was never really there. His caseworker said Rivera could "only be managed in a secure setting."
Green said Rivera was unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions and repeatedly lied in his statements, including under oath. “At trial, he made a mockery of our system with an outlandish story,” Green said.
Officer Anthony DiPonzio spoke briefly at Rivera's sentencing. He said, "The most difficult thing I've had to endure is watching my family deal with this.... I ask that you impose the maximum sentence, sir."
Green described letters from Officer DiPonzio detailing his struggles recovering from the shooting; from DiPonzio’s parents, who say caring for Anthony ultimately cost his father his job; and from the other officers on the scene who said that “ten years isn't enough” and that “a message needed to be sent” to others that society won’t tolerate such violence--all of whom asked for the maximum sentence to be imposed.
Green described a letter from a police lieutenant watching the "lifeless body of one of his young officers” being carried off the street, certain he was going to die.
Defense Attorney Culver Barr said Rivera does understand the incarceration is mandatory but added that it was not “an open and shut case.” He said that the nearly nine hours of deliberations indicates there must have been some doubt.
Barr said that there was “hope and promise” for Tyquan Rivera, as well as Anthony DiPonzio. He pointed to certificates of conduct from the children’s facility where he has been housed, letters calling him “amazing” and an “intelligent young man” and asking for counseling, as well as a “Student of the Week” award that pointed to Rivera’s attempts to improve his education.
Tyquan Rivera also briefly addressed the court, saying he was not the shooter, “sent his heart out to the officer and his family” and thanked his lawyer for representing him.
13WHAM's Sean Carroll live-blogged from the courtroom during the sentencing. You can read his transcript below.