Rizzuto on hunger strike to protest son’s sentence
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Peter Rizzuto says he’s on a hunger strike to expose what he considers injustices in his son’s prison sentence.
Rizzuto’s son, Anthony, has been in prison for almost three years. He was convicted for participating in the burglary of a Twining Flats home and in the armed robbery of the Aspen Alps Condominiums office. Anthony Rizzuto was part of the crime spree of 1999, when a dozen young men in the Aspen area took part in burglaries, armed robberies and auto thefts.
Anthony was sentenced to 12 years in the Department of Corrections for his role in the crime spree. Last week a district court judge denied his request for a sentence reduction.
Rizzuto is currently being held at Sterling Correctional Facility. His father spoke out last week to local newspapers, claiming that his son received a harsher punishment than most other participants in the crime spree.
With his hunger strike, the elder Rizzuto said he wants to expose the actions of the judge who presided over his son’s trial. He said that presiding Judge J.E. DeVilbiss sentenced his son using other factors than just the crimes that he was convicted of. He also claims that Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills “railroaded” his son by charging him with more crimes than he committed.
“My son is worth dying for to get the truth,” he said. “All I want is fairness and equality.”
He maintains that he wants both the assistant district attorney and the former judge – who retired in January – to take a polygraph test to prove that they were prejudiced in their dealings with the Rizzuto family during the investigation and trials for Anthony. Rizzuto said that when his son did not take a plea agreement, he was subsequently punished with a longer sentence just for using his right to due process.
“I’m challenging J.E. DeVilbiss and Lawson Wills to a polygraph test to show that they were influenced by other things than what my son was convicted for at his sentencing,” he said.
Wills said he would not comment on Rizzuto’s allegations of prejudice, or on his challenge for polygraph tests.
“I think he’d be better served to focus his efforts on the rehabilitation of his son,” Wills said. He encourages the younger Rizzuto to go through the parole process of the Colorado Department of Corrections, building up his own good behavior until he can be paroled.
Peter Rizzuto said the last thing he ate or drank besides water was a glass of juice on Sunday morning. “I’m hungry,” he said. “But what I’m losing in stamina, I’m gaining in energy – an energy that’s directed from a much higher place.” Rizzuto did say that his son is not aware of his hunger strike.
“Anthony doesn’t want me to do anything that would hurt myself,” he said. “I did mention to him that I thought about a hunger strike, but he doesn’t know about this.”
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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