LOCKPORT — David L. Alfonso couldn't answer the one-word question asked of him by Niagara County Judge Sara S. Farkas on Monday.
As in, why attack a child so viciously?
Alfonso was arrested after choking a 7-year-old girl so hard, she passed out, and of trying to tear away the girl's jaw and tongue. According to police, the girl's mouth was badly injured, and she lost a tooth.
Farkas sentenced Alfonso to 15 years in state prison for the New Year's Eve 2012 assault. Alfonso pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted assault, a class C violent felony, in July.
Alfonso's silence in court on Monday seemed to displease the judge.
"You can't answer (why). And that makes you a frightening man," Farkas told him.
In a pre-sentence report, Alfonso reportedly blamed his use of bath salts, marijuana and drugs for his behavior. At the time of the attack, Alfonso claimed, he was practicing Santeria and believed he was choking "evil spirits" out of the girl.
Alfonso's attorney, David C. Douglas, didn't endorse the Santeria claim, but he insisted that Alfonso must have been intoxicated in some way.
"You can't rationally explain irrational behavior," he said. "There's no rational explanation ... . There's no motive."
Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth R. Donatello asserted there was. Alfonso reportedly had been physically picking at the girl until her mother pushed him away and demanded he stop touching her daughter. Alfonso then picked up the girl and attacked her, not stopping until the mother stabbed him.
"He blames it on drugs, blames it on expelling spirits from her body, but none of it explains why he did it," Donatello said. "He didn't like the mother sticking up for the little girl, instead of siding with him."
According to Donatello, Alfonso never said he had used bath salts until he was interviewed after his July guilty plea.
Alfonso's behavior on the day of the assault was not consistent with those who are high on bath salts, she said, noting that Alfonso was able to converse with police and was in control of himself just an hour after the incident.
Douglas disagreed, noting that when officers found Alfonso on Monroe Street, he approached the officers and who twice used a Taser to subdue him.
"He was literally out of his mind," Douglas said, asking Farkas for less the maximum of 15 years behind bars.
The victim was not in court Monday, but her mother was. Donatello read a letter written by the girl in which she also asked, "why?"
"I was scared," the girl wrote. "I wasn't able to go home ... I want him to go to jail forever."
Alfonso received a 15-year sentence at the insistence of the district attorney's office, after trying to bargain for a 10-year maximum with his guilty plea to a lesser charge. Originally Alfonso was charged with second-degree attempted murder, assault and strangulation.
Prosecutors wanted more jail time for Alfonso because it's his second felony conviction, Donatello said. He was convicted of criminal sale of a controlled substance in 2008.
Prior to the attack on the girl, it's known that he slashed the mother's tires, Donatello added.
Alfonso was ordered to submit to five years of post-prison release supervision. The girl and her family were granted an order of protection.
Alfonso apologized, first to the court, then to the victim, turning around to face her family in the gallery. He said he didn't know the why, but he knew the who.
"I'm not blaming anybody but myself for my actions," he said.