Fine and Community Service for Dad Who Attacked Coach

CARMEL - A Mahopac man who could have faced up to 90 days in jail after being convicted of harassment and criminal mischief stemming from a confrontation with a high school lacrosse coach last year will serve no jail time.

He gave DiFusco a conditional discharge, which means he avoids probation.Instead, Carmel Town Justice Thomas J. Jacobellis Tuesday ordered 47-year-old Alfonso DiFusco to complete 50 hours of community service, continue the anger management counseling he has received for more than a year and pay $750 in fines, with surcharges bringing the amount to more than $1,000.

In February, Jacobellis found DiFusco guilty of second-degree harassment and fourth-degree criminal mischief but acquitted him of the misdemeanor charge of attempted assault, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove DiFusco was attempting to injure Mahopac High School girls varsity lacrosse coach Jim Lieto after DiFusco blocked his vehicle on the high school campus, reached inside Lieto's van and, according to Lieto, struck him multiple times.

The incident occurred the evening of March 13, 2015, after Lieto cut DiFusco's youngest daughter, Gabrielle, then a junior, from the lacrosse team.

Lieto, who was not injured, testified DiFusco cursed at him, hit him in the face with the palm side of a closed hand, spat at him and attempted to take his phone to stop him from calling police.

DiFusco's attorney, Joseph J. Tock, maintained at that time and repeated his contention Tuesday night that what occurred "was not a crime."

"We believe my client was certainly overly emotional and protective of his child," Tock said. "It's his recognition that he perhaps overreacted. As a parent, we all love our children and want them to succeed and sometimes we become overprotective."

While apologizing to the court for taking up its time, DiFusco appeared to defend his actions, saying, "I got a little emotional in regard to my daughter. I still feel she's the victim in this case."

Lieto, who did not attend the sentencing, said, "I think the judge handled it fairly. Mostly, I'm just glad it's over. It was hard on my family and I'm sure it was hard on his family. It was just an unfortunate thing. I hope all of us can move on with our lives."

He indicated, though, that while the incident was an extreme example of a parent reacting poorly to a coaching decision, interference is not uncommon.

"A lot of good coaches at Mahopac don't coach because of things like this," Lieto said. "I would love to see a system where there's more faith put in to who the district hires."

During his trial, DiFusco said he confronted Lieto, in part charging that cutting his daughter from the team jeopardized her chances of gaining a lacrosse scholarship.

He testified that his daughter, who also played club lacrosse outside school, ultimately received a partial lacrosse and academic scholarship to Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College in Rockland County.

Jacobellis, who issued a two-year limited order of protection that basically bars DiFusco from threatening, trying to intimidate or assaulting Lieto but allows him to be on school grounds and in other areas when Lieto is present, said, "I really think you went to the school that night intent on defending your daughter's character or position on the team."

But he admonished DiFusco, saying he had "set the wrong example" for his daughter, her friends and his family.

"Chalk that up to emotions getting the better of judgment," he said.

Tock noted that a Department of Probation report on DiFusco concluded he has a "very low possibility of recidivism."

But Jacobellis ordered that bi-monthly reports be submitted to the court for a year regarding DiFusco's anger management therapy.

He also advised DiFusco, "If you see the complainant, it's best to walk away."

"I think the judge's sentence was fair," said Tock, who was happy the order of protection's limited scope will allow DiFusco to attend Gabrielle's high school graduation in June.

DiFusco, who also has two older daughters, one of whom plays lacrosse for Mercy College, must pay his $1,080 in fines and state surcharge by July 12. He must complete his community service, which will be administered through the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, by the end of this year.

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