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Published: Thursday, November 03, 2011
SYRACUSE – Emmanuel Clothakis was sentenced to the maximum punishment after pleading guilty to an unprovoked physical assault on an Oneida mailman in March.
In federal court Thursday Clothakis said being off anti-depressant medication caused him to attack Oneida mailman John Thorna. The 46-year-old Sherrill man pleaded guilty May 24 to the federal assault charges.
Since then more than 20 letters have been sent to District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby on Clothakis’ behalf. His defense attorney, Jim Greenwald, asked the judge to consider the man’s positive attributes and actions, highlighted in those letters, while considering his sentence.
He called the assault, during which Clothakis repeated punched Thorna in the face, breaking his nose and causing cuts and bruising, a “truly reprehensible act.” Greenwald acknowledged his client’s “serious and substantial criminal history” and his tendency to steal and abuse drugs but said since Clothakis has been on a steady anti-depressant regiment he has seen a “remarkable” change in him. While he said being off his medication was no excuse for his actions, Greenwald explained that Clothakis has a “Jekyll-and-Hyde” personality where he can either be caring or aggressive.
His wife, Kim Clothakis, who was with him at Access Federal Credit Union in Oneida when the attack took place, said her husband was calm and had been singing along to the radio just minutes before he attacked the mailman. Greenwald emphasized that something must have triggered him to react so violently.
Greenwald asked the judge to consider how drastically different the case would be if it was not a federal worker that Clothakis attacked. He mostly likely would’ve been convicted of a mere misdemeanor and sentenced to a year in jail, he said, but because the crime falls under federal statues the punishment is more severe. He asked the judge for leniency.
Clothakis’ wife addressed the court, recounting how the couple had been just recently married prior to the assault. They had been living together for about 10 months before the incident and she had never seen him react to something the way he did on March 19. She recalled he was in a great mood that day and described him as a kind, caring and compassionate person.
She explained that since getting married, Clothakis had switched to her health insurance and the couple was in the process of finding him a primary care doctor. She said she now regrets not making that a priority so that her husband could’ve gotten back on anti-depressant medication.
His brother, Keith Clothakis also spoke. He recognizing his brother’s criminal history but said “that’s not who he is today.” Had he been on his medication the incident would not have happened, he insisted.
Clothakis took a turn himself, addressing the court. Through tears he apologized to Thorna, who was present, and his own family. Admitting that he hadn’t taken anti-depressants in the month leading up to the attack, he said it wasn’t an excuse.
“I did what I did and I’m paying for it,” he said. “I’m paying for it dearly. I just want to resume my life in a positive way. I just want to move on with my life and get home.”
The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence. With a “long and very criminal record,” he said Clothakis has been in trouble most of his adult life. Despite the fact that Clothakis previously justified the assault by claiming Thorna spit on his car, witnesses of the attack say that Clothakis was the one who spit on his own car, to make it look as though Thorna had before the police arrived on the scene. Video surveillance at the bank captured the entire attack, he said, most of which happened while Thorna was trying to leave the building and get away from him.
“It’s an absolutely appalling event,” Southwick said.
Thorna was simply trying to do his job and for the defense to lessen his status as a federal worker was inappropriate, he said. He called Clothakis “nothing more than a violent criminal” who truly needs to be punished.
Judge Suddaby said it was evident from the letters sent to the court that a lot of people care about Clothakis and know him as a loving person but a common theme in the letters troubled him. Many people commented that Clothakis would not have acted that way if he wasn’t provoked. Suddaby commented that he hopes Clothakis doesn’t look for or rely on that type of enabling behavior – being provoked – to justify his violent behavior.
“This was a horrendous, horrendous thing you did,” he said.
Even if the mailman “was the biggest jerk in the world,” Clothakis still would not have been justified to act so violently toward him, Suddaby said.
“You are dangerous,” he said. “There’s no question about it. You have a dark side to you that needs to be controlled.”
Suddaby sentenced Clothakis to SSRI Editor1 months in prison – the maximum sentence for the federal crime – along with drug treatment, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and three years of post-release supervision. He ordered him to refrain from any direct or indirect contact with Thorna.
Clothakis is also facing aggravated harassment charges elevated to hate crimes in Oneida County. He is scheduled to appear in Oneida County Court Friday to answer allegations that he used racial slurs and threatened his in-laws from December 2010 to March 2011 via telephone and Facebook.