Statements teen made to police after deadly fire can't be used at trial
Posted at: 10/10/2012 11:57 AM
| Updated at: 10/10/2012 6:25 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
The attorney for a Webster teen charged with murder in the deaths of his father and two brothers wins a critical decision in court.
Michael Pilato, now 16-years-old, is accused of setting his house on fire last December.
The case centered on incriminating statements Pilato allegedly made to police. However, a judge has ruled those statements cannot be used at trial.
Michael Pilato’s mother was hospitalized when he was interrogated. His sister was at the police station with him acting as his parent. But the judge cited law that gives only a parent or legal guardian the right to invoke counsel on their child’s behalf. Mrs. Pilato was not immediately told that her son had been arrested.
Andre Vitale is the public defender representing Michael Pilato.
Andre Vitale, public defender, said, “Obviously we're satisfied with the judge's ruling. This is something we said should have happened from the very beginning given the way police conducted themselves when they interrogated Michael.”
At the time, police say Pilato used gasoline to set fire to his house. His father Carmen and two brothers, Joshua and Peter, died in the fire.
In his 17-page decision, Monroe County Court Judge Vincent Dinolfo ruled that simply having Michael Pilato's sister present at the Webster police station when he was questioned was not sufficient enough to protect his rights as a minor.
Hon. Vincent Dinolfo, Monroe County Court Judge, said, “Mrs. Pilato should have been advised of the arrest and location (of her son) as she had the paternal right to invoke his right to counsel or remain silent. Law enforcement was obligated to inform her of her son's status. The motion to suppress the recorded statement of Defendant is granted to the extent that the People may not seek to enter it into evidence in any subsequent trial."
Pilato defense attorney Vitale says it's a very complex case and that Michael Pilato maintains his innocence. When asked what his defense will be, Vitale said he will officially reveal that be closer to trial.
Ray Levato, News10NBC reporter, said, “How is he holding up with this?”
Vitale said, “It's always difficult when you're dealing with a 15-year-old boy. This is his first involvement with the criminal justice system. He's been essentially locked up, not in a jail but still in a confined setting since December, since he was arrested on these charges. He's been separated from his family and his friends, from what he knows as his way of life. And so it's very taxing on him. And you can see how it wears on him. But he's a strong young man and he's holding up as best as he can.”
Court papers recount a conversation Michael Pilato had with Nathaniel Blood, a man who lived with his older sister. They picked him up at Ellison Park later that night after he called.
Blood says Pilato admitted to him that he started the fire. When asked why Blood quotes the boy as saying there had been a fight at the house and he was mad at his father because his father told him that he was a disgrace to the family.
Pilato's defense attorney says he thinks it will go to trial. Jury selection is set to begin January 14. Pilato's mother and sister have made weekly supervised visits to see her son at the juvenile detention center and the boy's attorney says they seem just like any other family during those visits.