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Auburndale convicted killer freed over DA misstep

Anthony Vitiello, 38, of 43-60 163rd St. had been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder of John McDonnell on June 13, 1995, according to a spokesman for District Attorney Richard Brown. McDonnell had testified in court that Vitiello had shot him multiple times at close range in the parking lot of the Scobee Diner in Little Neck, the spokesman said. McDonnell's testimony was considered critical to Vitiello's conviction, according to the spokesman.In addition, Vitiello had been sentenced to prison for the manslaughter of 22-year-old Elizabeth Lusby at his home after contending he had acted in self-defense, The New York Times reported last week. In New York state, manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 8 1/2 to 25 years.Vitiello won an appeal of the Lusby conviction and it was revealed that prosecutors in the McDonnell trial did not disclose an investigation into McDonnell's role in a drug ring that operated out of Bayside and Flushing bars, according to The Times.McDonnell's criminal history raised questions about his credibility as a witness against Vitiello, Vitiello's Legal Aid lawyer Mitchell Briskey told the Times.The March 16 State Supreme Court ruling set the stage for Vitiello to be freed shortly after serving almost a decade in prison, the spokesman said.Given the circumstances surrounding the McDonnell trial, Queens Supreme Court Judge Randall Eng resentenced Vitiello last week to concurrent prison terms of four to 12 years. He was thus made eligible for release, according the DA spokesman."Since he has already served over nine years, he will be eligible for conditional release shortly," the DA spokesman said.A spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services said Vitiello was still an inmate as of Tuesday and did not know when he would be released.McDonnell was murdered in a 1999 execution-style shooting by Edward Paixao of Flushing in a drug-related dispute, the DA said in 2002. Paixao was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison in 2002 for the murder. Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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