Teen sentenced to probation for shooting friend

Family photo of 13-year-old Gary Cota
Family photo of 13-year-old Gary Cota
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Updated: 12/24/2013 7:32 am

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. – A Washington County teenager was sentenced Monday to 18-months probation for the accidental shooting death of Gary Cota.

The ruling came about a year and half after the June 2012 shooting.

The 14-year-old pleaded guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide in November. His plea deal stated that he would not be charged with manslaughter, and instead, he would be placed on 18 months of probation with strict guidelines.

In June 2012, 13-year-old Cota and his friend were playing with a shotgun when it accidently went off, police said.

"Whatever happened in that room, it was traumatic," Washington County attorney Roger Wickes said.

Cota was shot in the head. His parents pleaded guilty to Child Neglect for allowing a loaded shotgun to be in the hands of unsupervised teens.

"At the end of the day, what we could prove and where the investigation led us, the charges were appropriate and the disposition in-light of the charges was also appropriate," Wickes said..

Wickes said he recommended the teenager only be given 18-months of probation after concluding that 13-year-old Gary Cota's death was an accident.

 "[The] judge went along with that recommendation, and that's where the 18-months came from," he continued.

"I think this is a very fair resolution," the teen's defense attorney Martin Cohen said.  "Gives him a chance to get his life back on track."

Included in the probation terms are a strict curfew, not to break the law and avoidance of any social media sites.

"It's not just Facebook," Cohen said.  "It's getting to school on time. It's not getting in trouble at school."              

Prior to the sentencing, Judge Stan Pritzker called the case a "tragic event," and said the judgment "makes sense" and that there were "multiple tragedies."

He also said the teen defendant needs to attend counseling.  

"My client needs counseling," Cohen said.  "And this has been a very traumatic overwhelming event for him."

"There's going to be a learning experience," said Wickes.  "And the people are here to help him. He has to take advantage of that."  Wickes hopes "that he'll come out and be the best person that he can be in light of his experiences."  

Cohen said he’s hopeful for the future.

"Hope for the community to move on from this incident; hope for the Cota family to find some resolution as well," he said.

If the teen follows his probation successfully, the judge said he may be released from probation at an earlier date.

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