A 20-year-old Tulsa man received a 10-year suspended sentence after entering blind pleas to shooting at a vehicle.
Joseph Andrew Zannotti appeared in court Friday morning for a sentencing hearing on one count of shooting with intent to kill and five counts of use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon. He pleaded no contest Dec. 21 to the first charge and guilty to the others, all of which carried sentences of up to life imprisonment.
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler petitioned for Zanotti to receive 10 years in prison, but District Judge James Caputo granted a suspended sentence in accordance with a recommendation made in a pre-sentence investigation report. Caputo, whose time in office ends this month, had full discretion in sentencing because Zannotti rejected a plea recommendation.
Zannotti’s attorney, David Youll, argued for probation, saying multiple times that he thought the incident was less egregious to public safety than the case of Blake Hagin, the great-grandson of the founder of Rhema Bible Training College. Hagin pleaded guilty to committing a similar crime in Broken Arrow and, along with his co-defendants, received eight years in prison. Hagin and the co-defendants, Gordon McAuliff and Sevey Price, had the rest of their sentences suspended by a different judge during a judicial review in December.
Before announcing his decision Friday, Caputo told those in the courtroom he had limited professional contact with Zannotti’s father, Mark, who is a family lawyer and works at the same firm that handled Zannotti’s defense. He also lost a judicial race to Caputo in 2010.
The shooting took place near 51st Street and Yale Avenue on Jan. 19, 2018. No physical injuries were reported, but two of the occupants of the vehicle, a Suburban, addressed the court and said they suffer from panic attacks due to the nature of what occurred.
“It should never have happened. I hope you guys can forgive me one day,” Joseph Zannotti said, looking at the Suburban’s occupants in court. “What I did was wrong in so many ways.”
But Kathleen Saffa Mykeloff, who was driving the Suburban, said in her victim impact statement earlier that “Joseph Zannotti showed us absolutely no mercy. I think it’s odd to hear him ask this court for mercy.” She also noted a 7-year-old was in the Suburban at the time.
A probable cause affidavit indicates Mykeloff was attempting to get a tag number from a Toyota SUV she believed was driven by a man who in the past had threatened her son with a gun. Zannotti, a passenger in a Ford F-150, attempted to help the driver of the Toyota, revealed in court to be an acquaintance of his. As the Ford and Toyota occupants briefly met in a parking lot, Mykeloff, according to the affidavit, decided to stop following the Toyota and started to travel east on 51st Street. That was when her adult son, Joseph Saffa, said he saw Zannotti lean out of a window of the Ford and fire shots at them.
Joseph Saffa, in his impact statement, said his family lives “in constant fear of being shot at.”
A Tulsa Police detective said he saw at least one bullet hole in the Suburban and that surveillance footage from the restaurant matched Mykeloff’s statement to police.
Youll, in his arguments, questioned why the driver of the Ford wasn’t prosecuted even though police said he admitted taking the gun involved from his father’s house and fleeing the shooting scene.
When asked about the outcome of the similar Broken Arrow shooting case, Kunzweiler told Caputo he should only consider the facts of Zannotti’s case and that he doesn’t know of any shooting case that resulted in someone receiving no prison time.
Kunzweiler pointed to statements in the pre-sentence report that he said raised the question of whether Zannotti’s remorse was genuine. He also said the investigator who wrote the report said he suspected Zannotti’s treatment stint in Utah, where he was arrested in March, was at least in part done in a way to avoid arrest.