Formica argues for reduced sentence for former employee

State Sen. Paul Formica, R- East Lyme, attended a sentencing hearing Wednesday in New London Superior Court to speak on behalf of a friend and former employee who confronted a Lyme woman in her home with a hammer last summer and stole her cellphone and $75 in cash.

Christopher Levesque, 40, of Gales Ferry, who initially was charged with home invasion, burglary, robbery and larceny, which could have landed him in prison for decades, had pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery following months of plea negotiations between his attorney, M. Fred DeCaprio, and prosecutor Christa L. Baker.

The victim had been preparing to pick up her young daughter when she came upon Levesque inside the home, with towels over his head and wielding a raised hammer, according to the state. A struggle ensued, and the woman went to the kitchen and retrieved a knife and chased Levesque out of the home. The woman dropped her cellphone during the struggle and Levesque picked it up, according to testimony. He previously had gone through her purse and stolen $75, according to testimony.

His proposed sentence was 12 years in prison, suspended after seven years served, followed by five years of probation. Under the plea agreement, his attorney had the right to argue for a year off the prison sentence.

Despite Formica's advocacy, Judge Hillary B. Strackbein declined to reduce the sentence.

"I have to send a message to the community," Strackbein said. "I have to protect this victim and give her a semblance that the justice system works for victims."

Victim Service Advocate Stephanie Barber had read a letter from the victim in which she described her continued fear for her and her family's safety and asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. Strackbein said it appears Levesque has an alcohol problem he refuses to acknowledge, and his refusal to cooperate with probation staff during a presentencing interview was disturbing. He had two previous drunken driving arrests on his record, along with other minor crimes, according to the prosecutor.

Levesque has been held in lieu of $99,000 since state police arrested him a short time after the Sept. 21, 2017, incident.

Formica, Republican state senator for the 20th District, sent Strackbein a letter on behalf of Levesque and attended Wednesday's  hearing with Levesque's parents to address the judge in person. Formica said that since high school, Levesque had worked at his restaurant, Flanders Fish House, first as a teenage dishwasher and later as a cook, and became a friend. 

"This behavior Chris is accused of today is not the Chris I know or my family knows," Formica said. "I don't in any way condone any of the behavior, and there has to be repercussion. But with that being said, in Hartford we've worked very hard on giving second chances."

Formica said he is willing to serve as a mentor and employer for Levesque when he is released from prison.

Levesque's father, Richard Levesque, offered an apology to the victim and acknowledged his son has to pay for the crime. He hugged his son and told him he loved him. 

Levesque offered a brief apology.

"I feel terrible. There's no excuse for what happened. I made a mistake and unfortunately all I can do is move on with my life," he said.

The judge ordered Levesque to undergo anger management treatment while on probation, be employed full time and perform 100 hours of community services. He will be prohibited from contact with the victim or the victim's family.

k.florin@theday.com

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