Amid another show of tight courthouse security and with more than half of the jurors who convicted him looking on, Richard Matt was sent to prison for 25 years on Friday.

The convicted killer of North Tonawanda businessman William Rickerson received the maximum possible prison time, concurrent sentences of 25 years to life behind bars for his conviction on three charges of second-degree murder, two charges of first-degree robbery and three charges of first-degree kidnapping. Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza told Matt before she sentenced him, “This isn’t difficult.”

After listening to almost four weeks of testimony from more than 30 witnesses, the nine women and three men who made up the jury took just four hours to find Matt guilty of the December 1997 robbery, kidnapping and dismemberment murder of Rickerson.

Seven of the 12 jurors returned to Sperrazza’s Lockport courtroom for the sentencing. As Matt entered the courtroom, surrounded by a team of heavily armed corrections officers, one of them said — with more than a little sarcasm — “There’s our sweetie.”

The jurors said they came to see Matt sent away to “get some closure” from what they all called “an emotionally draining experience.” They said the weeks of graphic and gruesome testimony in the case had “bonded them together.”

“We came here today for justice,” one woman juror told the Gazette.

The victim’s son, William Rickerson, Jr., and his wife were also in court. In addressing Sperrazza before she handed down her sentence, Rickerson thanked special prosecutors Lou Haremski and Joseph Mordino and “the jury who is here today.”

“Myself, I’m not a terribly vindictive man,” Rickerson Jr. said. “But we all have to benefit from this and the only way to benefit is for this person, Matt, to never do this again. He should never see the light of day.”

Mordino, a veteran prosecutor from Erie County who has handled more than 250 homicide cases, told Sperrazza Matt should have a faced a much stiffer sentence than 25 years to life in prison.

“The facts speak for themselves, this defendant’s record speaks for itself and (this case) cries out for the maximum sentence,” Mordino said. “If New York had not abolished the death penalty, I’d have a lot more to say. Of all the cases I’ve tried this would top my list for the death penalty.”

Matt’s defense attorney, public defender Christopher Privateer, complained that Matt’s conviction was the result of “overwhelming press coverage invading the jury” and courtroom security that was “excessive, bordering on ridiculous.”

Privateer continued to argue that Matt was not Rickerson’s killer, blaming the murder on his co-defendent Lee Bates.

Bates, who is serving a 15 years-to-life prison term for his June 1998 guilty plea to a charge of second-degree murder as an accomplice, was the prosecution’s star witness in the case.

“This was a horrendous crime,” Privateer said. “A crime committed by the man who first pled guilty. This is not the first time the wrong man got convicted.”

During his trial, Matt insisted he had only helped Bates get rid of Rickerson’s body by cutting it up and throwing the parts into the Niagara River.

Members of Bates’ family, who attended almost every day of the trial, were also on hand for the sentencing.

“The (Bates) family is happy (the case) has been concluded,” said Bates’ father, who is also named Lee. “The facts have come out and a predator is going to be where he should remain forever.”

Outside of court, Privateer said “the large article on the front page of (the Gazette April 7 detailing the extreme security precautions surrounding Matt) that was viewed by at least one of the jurors” was an example of the media influence he said tainted the jury.

However, members of the jury said they were not influenced by either media coverage of the case or the large security detail that surrounded Matt.

“We thought (the large number of deputies in the courtroom) was for the judge,” one juror said.

Another said, “I didn’t watch the news, I didn’t read anything. We did what we were told (by the judge) to do.”

Another juror reacted sharply to Privateer’s comments in court.

“(Media coverage) wasn’t a factor,” the juror said, “He’s trying to spin things. The things he’s taking about, they didn’t affect us at all.”

Matt declined to say anything before he was sentenced. Asked by Sperrazza if he wished to speak, Matt replied, “No ma’am, but thank you for the opportunity.”

His lawyers confirmed that Matt will appeal his conviction.

“He checked the box and signed to papers (to appeal), “ Privateer said.

At the same time, Rickerson Jr. said he knows what he’ll be doing in the years to come.

“I’ll make every effort to make sure the parole board understands this guy shouldn’t get out,” he said.

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