Thursday, July 14, 2005

Crime and Punishment/Penitence/Penology

Trantino's public profile irks victims' kin

... After 38 years in prison, Trantino was paroled in 2002 and now runs a Quaker-financed mentoring program for ex-convicts out of his rented Camden home. Things are quiet for Thomas Trantino, but not for long.

Next month, the families of Voto and Tedesco are scheduled to get their long-awaited day in court against the paroled killer. Their wrongful death suit goes before a Superior Court judge and jury.

The suit was made possible by a recent change in law that lifted what had been a two-year statute of limitations for such lawsuits. A loss by Trantino in the civil case would be one of the first under the new law.

If the jury finds for the plaintiffs, all of Trantino's potential earnings as an author and artist - he became an accomplished painter in prison - might go to the families as compensation.

"It's bad enough he's walking the streets. But to profit from the pain he caused? No way," said Louise Voto-Clarke, a Paramus schoolteacher who is the niece of Peter Voto and daughter of former Lodi Police Chief Andrew Voto, Peter's brother. "Here's a man who murdered my uncle, but he might have well murdered my entire family because we never really were the same afterward.''

As New Jersey's longest-serving prisoner, Trantino was denied parole 11 times before the state Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of his release. During his many battles with the parole board and the politicians who fought to keep him in jail, Trantino became the darling of anti-death penalty activists and liberals such as Woody Allen, Henry Miller and Abbie Hoffman.

The surviving relatives of Voto and Tedesco, and others affected by the killings, note that Trantino continues to court this unique brand of celebrity.

"If he would just go away and live out his life in anonymity, I could accept that,'' said Lodi Police Chief Vincent Caruso. "But he's always got to be doing something controversial. Doesn't he realize that's a terrible reminder for the families?''. ...


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