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Archive 2010 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Bookie avoids prison with plea deal in Norfolk

By Tim McGlone
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 24, 2010

NORFOLK

A longtime local sports bookie will avoid prison time and forfeit more than $1 million in cash and property under a plea agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday.

Howard “Moose” Amdusky, 82, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of operating an illegal gambling business. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 24.

The plea bargain is contingent on approval by U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. The judge said he will decide at sentencing whether to accept the agreement.

In court Tuesday, Amdusky admitted running a sports betting operation for the past five years and that he’d been involved in bookmaking since the 1960s. The Virginian-Pilot reported in a story earlier this month that the Amdusky family’s betting operations date back to the Great Depression.

His attorney had said that Amdusky had gotten out of bookmaking but grew bored in retirement and returned to his illegal operation. In court Tuesday, Amdusky admitted he had as many as 25 bettors waging on average $300 per sports event four to five times a week over the past five years.

In exchange for his quick guilty plea in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to a sentence of probation or a combination of probation and house arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Muhr cited Amdusky’s age, ill health, cooperation in the investigation and agreement to give up his savings, a Miami condo and other property.

An investigation that began with Virginia Beach police has linked Amdusky to a widespread sports betting ring, according to court records. A Virginia Beach grand jury this month indicted an associate, Ronald B. Freedman, on a similar charge that will be handled in state court. Federal authorities, however, have seized about $500,000 in suspected gambling assets from Freedman.

The authorities also seized more than $1 million in cash from Amdusky, as well as a car, the condo and five pieces of artwork. Muhr told the court Tuesday that other assets belonging to family members will remain untouched.

Morgan questioned Amdusky at length about whether he understood the consequences of pleading guilty.

Amdusky, leaning heavily on a podium, said, “I completely understand, sir.” At one point, he asked to sit down.

Morgan said he must wait to see a pre-sentence investigation report before agreeing to the terms of the plea agreement.

Amdusky’s lawyer said his client and his family agreed to a heavy financial loss in exchange for avoiding prison.

“They really have nothing left,” said the attorney, Franklin Swartz.

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Archive 2010 Quick STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Norfolk man pleads guilty to killing, avoids death penalty

By Michelle Washington
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 11, 2010

NORFOLK

Kentrell L. Sanderson pleaded guilty Wednesday to capital murder in the slaying of his 12-year-old stepdaughter, and the judge who sentenced him to life said the prosecution had been compromised because the state medical examiner involved had drug convictions.

Prosecutors previously said they would seek the death penalty for Sanderson at his trial, which had been set to begin in March.

The girl, Shatierra Sigler, died in September 2008 in the Pleasant Avenue apartment she shared with Sanderson, her mother, Robin, and her little sister.

Sanderson slit her throat and then raped her. He told police Shatierra’s fate was decided by a coin toss.

Revelations about the doctor’s history of drug and alcohol abuse led the case to end with Sanderson’s plea Wednesday to charges of capital murder, rape, sexual assault and unlawful wounding. Sanderson was sentenced to four life terms without parole plus five years.

Last month, prosecutor Philip G. Evans II alerted the court and defense lawyers that Dr. Gary Zientek, who performed Shatierra’s examination, was charged with three felony counts of obtaining drugs by fraud in Henrico County.

Court records show the charges were reduced to misdemeanors, and Zientek was convicted and received a suspended sentence. Zientek’s medical license had been revoked in 2003, but it was reinstated in December 2007.

Circuit Judge Junius P. Fulton III said Zientek’s history of substance abuse, including while he was working as a doctor, “has compromised the Commonwealth’s ability to prosecute this case.”

In accepting Sanderson’s plea, Fulton said that “life without parole is a sentence I can live with.”

Shatierra’s uncle, Marc Hinson, said he could not.

“I have not made peace with it,” Hinson said outside the courtroom. “I can no longer get that guy the death sentence. I want to know why the state hired someone who prevented that from happening.”

The state’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Leah Bush, said the Tidewater office was aware of Zientek’s history when he joined the staff in July 2008 for a year long fellowship.

Zientek had alcohol and drug abuse problems, Bush said, but he had been sober for years. He submitted to and passed random screens for drugs and alcohol, she said. He was always supervised by another doctor because of his fellowship status.

Doctors in the office discussed whether Zientek’s history would cause problems on the witness stand, she said, but because of his unrestricted medical license, his clean recent history and his stellar work record, it did not appear to pose an insurmountable hurdle.

If prosecutors didn’t try to present him as an expert witness, she said, “how would they know?”

Zientek, who now works for the state medical examiner’s office in Alaska, said he did not believe his convictions were relevant to his work on autopsies. Other prosecutors told him his past would not pose a problem for his testimony, he said. He had just completed his fellowship in forensic pathology, he said, and had not yet testified in any cases.

Commonwealth’s Attorney’s spokeswoman Amanda Howie said prosecutors understood the family’s frustration.

“While we had sought the death penalty in this case, several factors – of which Dr. Zientek is a significant one – resulted in the guilty plea,” Howie said in an e-mailed statement.

Defense lawyer B. Thomas Reed, who was not involved in Sanderson’s case but has defended several clients against capital murder charges, said Zientek’s history may have compromised his testimony but not trashed it.

Still, Reed said, capital murder trials require so much time and money to prosecute that “it’s an enormous amount of effort to put into a case that has a question mark.”

Zientek completed his fellowship with the Tidewater medical examiner’s office in June. His medical license in Alaska is probationary because of his convictions, and he must abide by conditions such as attending therapy and substance abuse meetings. Bush said he left the Tidewater office on good terms.

Howie said her office would review other cases in which Zientek conducted examinations as they come to light.

In court, Hinson testified that he had been like a father to the girl he called Shay since the day she was born. They shopped together, he said. When she was 5, he taught her sign language that she still remembered at 12.

“I always considered myself her guardian,” Hinson said.

Evans displayed a series of pictures of Shatierra: with her cousins at Christmas, on her grandmother’s lap at a Fourth of July picnic, mugging for the camera in front of the apartment on Pleasant Avenue. Teachers wrote letters about Shatierra’s quiet nature, but also her diligence, politeness and the hard work she gave to her classes.

In the week after Shay’s death, Hinson said, he collected the contributions to the makeshift memorial that grew in front of her apartment. Those items remain at his house, minus 17 teddy bears – each month since her death, he has taken a stuffed animal to Shatierra’s grave.

“You go ahead and enjoy your life in prison,” Hinson said, looking at Sanderson. “Hell will wait for you to arrive and begin to serve your true punishment.”

Sanderson spoke briefly, reading from a paper he unfolded.

“I want to say how sorry I am for what I did to Shay,” he said. “I’m sorry for the pain and grief and betrayal to her family. I accept full responsibility for what I did. I hope one day her family will forgive me for what I have done.”

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Archive 2006 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Charge withdrawn in homeless man’s death

THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT VIRGINIA BEACH — Prosecutors on Tuesday withdrew a murder charge against a Norfolk man who was accused of shooting a homeless man at the Oceanfront last year.

Lamar A. Sinclair, 22, of the 900 block of Lexington St. in Norfolk, had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ronald Wood Jr., 34.

Wood was shot May 26 near the intersection of Baltic Avenue and 24½ Street, police said.

Prosecutors did not explain either in court or after the hearing why they decided to withdraw the charge.
They said they could refile the charge against Sinclair sometime in the future.
He is expected to be released from jail this afternoon.
Another man also was charged in Wood’s murder.
Derrick D. Harrison of the 5200 block of Novella St. in Norfolk is scheduled to stand trial starting March 28.