By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT -- A Niagara County Court judge has tossed six of a dozen criminal charges filed against a Falls businessman who tried, and failed, to kill his brother-in-law and then tried to hire a hitman to kill his relative and a witness to the first crime.
Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas dismissed six counts against Timothy Depetris that were tied to the New York SAFE Act. All the charges were weapons related and involved the possession of a "large capacity ammunition feeding device" also known as a bullet clip or ammunition magazine.
Depetris' defense team had argued that the SAFE Act exempted magazines manufactured before the law was enacted and claimed Depetris' clips fell under that exemption.
In reviewing the defense motion, prosecutors said they discovered that the definitions of illegal magazines were suspended by an action of the New York State Legislature on March 29. Depetris was arrested with a large stash of weapons, ammunition and magazines on March 30.
Based on that discovery, prosecutors moved to drop the charges and Farkas dismissed them.
The judge did, however, rule that ammunition and other evidence seized by investigators using a search warrant would be admissible if Depetris stands trial in either or both of his current cases. Depetris' defense attorney, Earl Key, had challenged the seizure of the evidence, calling the search warrant "too broad."
"(The search warrant) is very specific, very tightly drawn," Farkas said in rejecting Key's complaint.
Depetris has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of conspiracy and two counts of criminal solicitation in connection with his attempt to hire a hitman, while he was in the Niagara County jail, to kill his brother-in-law and a witness in the earlier shooting of his relative.
He had been jailed, without bail, since his arraignment on May 15 on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, six counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree criminal trespass in connection with the shooting of his brother-in-law in the early morning hours of March 26.
Depetris, the son of the founder of Electrodyn Choke Corp., is accused of shooting his brother-in-law in the doorway of the victim’s new business in the 2300 block of Hyde Park Boulevard. The 56-year-old victim, who had gone to the door for a pizza delivery, was shot in the upper chest, near his shoulder.
At the time, investigators said the shooting was clearly “an attempted murder.”
In addition to looking for a hit man to kill his brother-in-law, Depetris reportedly was also seeking to kill a pizza deliveryman who was with him at the time of the shooting and has since cooperated with police and prosecutors. Investigators have said the pizza deliveryman lured the victim to the doorway.
Prosecutors have turned over two CDs to Depetris' defense team which reportedly contain conversations Depetris had while looking for a hit man at the Niagara County Jail.
Farkas ordered Depetris held in "isolation" at the jail after the hitman plot surfaced.
Hoffmann had previously told Farkas that Depetris had "stalked" the victim at his home, before shooting him and repeatedly firing at him inside his business.
“All because of a business deal (Depetris) felt went badly," Hoffmann said.
The victim reportedly pointed investigators to Depetris as a suspect almost immediately after the shooting. A few days later, police stopped Depetris as he was driving through the city and found what one investigator called an “arsenal” inside his car.
Detectives said Depetris had a loaded semi-automatic 9-mm Baretta handgun in a holster around his neck and under his shirt at the time he was stopped. Police also recovered a fully automatic rifle and multiple, loaded ammunition clips in the back seat of the car.
At the time of his arrest, Depetris was reportedly living, without charge, in a penthouse at Seneca Niagara Casino. Sources have said that over the course of the last year Depetris had “gambled away over a million dollars” at the casino.