The full Virginia Court of Appeals will review the life sentence in the hammer attack on Loudoun Co.
The life sentence of Bradford Cellucci, accused of attacking a Leesburg employee with a hammer in 2015, will be reviewed by the court.
Editor’s note: This report has been updated to clarify that the appeal panel’s quashing is on hold, pending an en banc hearing by a full appeals court.
The full Virginia Court of Appeals will reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision to overturn the life sentence of Bradford Cellucci, accused of attacking a Leesburg, Va. retail salesman with a hammer in 2015.
In May, a three-judge Virginia Court of Appeals panel overturned the life sentence imposed by Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Fisher in August 2020 after Cellucci, now 30, pleaded Alford.
This week, the Court of Appeals stayed the panel’s quashing and granted a request from the Virginia Attorney General for a rehearing en banc – meaning the full court will consider whether the judge erred in granting the life sentence to Cellucci.
Prosecutors say that in 2015 Cellucci attacked Bryan Pedroza, who was 18 at the time, with a claw hammer at the Ralph Lauren Polo store in the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. As a result, Pedroza was paralyzed from the waist down.
At trial, Cellucci’s attorney argued that his client had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, had no criminal history, and demonstrated the ability to rehabilitate.
Fisher sentenced Cellucci to life in prison and a $100,000 fine, despite sentencing guidelines recommending a sentence of between five years and eight months and 12 years and eight months of incarceration.
“The circuit court deviated from the sentencing guidelines because it felt the guidelines failed to adequately consider the severity of Pedroza’s injury and the ‘level of planning/premeditation’ of Cellucci”, according to the decision of the appeal committee.
The appeals panel ruled that Fisher erred in focusing solely on autism and substance abuse, and failed to consider all relevant factors in refusing to change his original sentence.
“The circuit court ignored Cellucci’s lack of criminal history, both before and after the crime, his ability to be rehabilitated and his age as mitigating circumstances,” the panel wrote. “This Court cannot condone a trial court’s erroneous legal findings and failure to consider all relevant factors when deciding whether or not to vary a sentence. “
In reversing and remanding Fisher’s decision, the appeals committee suggested that the circuit court assign the case to another judge.
“Because of the necessary involvement of the circuit court in the facts of this case, it may have difficulty reconsidering its own decision that no mitigating circumstances existed, despite the clear record in this case,” according to the opinion of judge Daniel Ortiz.
In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Marla Griff Decker said Fisher’s original decision was within her discretion: “The Supreme Court of Virginia has made it clear that ‘where a statute prescribes a maximum jail term and that penalty does not exceed this maximum, the penalty will not be waived as an abuse of discretion. »