NEW HAVEN, Conn. (MCT) -- Courtney Meluzzi, who sustained a traumatic brain injury while serving overseas in the U.S. Army, was sentenced Thursday to serve 4 1/2 years in prison for assaulting his mother and stepfather.
Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford, who imposed the sentence, told Meluzzi it was "a sad situation," especially since "you fought for your country" and had no previous criminal record.
Clifford also noted Meluzzi had a difficult upbringing and clearly still has personal problems with his mother. But he added, "That doesn't justify you violently attacking your mother with a cane, knocking her dentures out and attacking her husband."
Meluzzi's mother and stepfather decided not to attend Thursday's sentencing, nor did they have victim statements read on their behalf. The mother was at an earlier court hearing three months ago during which Meluzzi shouted angrily at her as judicial marshals escorted him back to the lock-up.
During that session, Meluzzi pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on an elderly person and first-degree burglary in exchange for a 10-year sentence, to be suspended after he serves 4 1/2 years. He also will have three years of probation.
Police said Meluzzi, now 34, of West Haven, entered his mother's and stepfather's New Haven home Aug. 1, 2012 and attacked her with a metal cane. When his stepfather tried to intervene, Meluzzi also struck him with the cane.
Meluzzi's mother had her mouth bloodied and the stepfather suffered a serious laceration in his right forearm.
When Clifford offered Meluzzi a chance to speak during Thursday's sentencing hearing, he apologized for his verbal outburst at the June hearing.
But then he added, "That woman and that man are rotten and racist."
"This is your mom," Clifford interjected.
When defense attorney Wade Luckett tried to get Meluzzi to calm down, Meluzzi said, "I just want to put this behind me and get on with my life."
Clifford told him, "I can feel and hear the hatred you have of your mother...She says she still loves you. But she's afraid (of being attacked again). I'm worried too."
Clifford said he wished that, in light of Meluzzi's military service and injuries, he didn't have to send him to prison. "But it's difficult to come up with an alternative. I can't just put you on probation and hope you don't hurt your mom more seriously."
Clifford noted, "This was a vicious assault on two elderly people by a good-sized guy who I think has mental health issues. They could have been killed."
One of the conditions of Clifford's sentence is a protective order that Meluzzi stay away from his mother and stepfather for the next 20 years. Clifford also recommended a mental health evaluation and treatment for Meluzzi. After his release, he must do 10 hours a year of community service for two years.
After court adjourned, Meluzzi's brother, Andrea Meluzzi, said, "My brother's been through a lot. He's done a lot for our country. He's been to Iraq twice."
He said his brother was in a Special Operations Unit, which carries with it a great deal of pressure. He said when his brother, a paratrooper, jumped from a plane, he hit his head and suffered the brain injury. He added his brother has post traumatic stress disorder.
"I understand this was a brutal attack," he said. "But this was a black-out kind of moment. He's not violent."
He also said his brother has been "disconnected from my mother since he was 6."
Meluzzi's previous attorney, Walter Bansley IV, has said Meluzzi was put in foster care from ages 8 to 11; was cared for by his paternal grandmother from ages 12 to 14 until her death; and was then returned to the custody of the state until he was 17.
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