Virginia Court of Appeals Orders Review of Life Sentence in Loudoun Co Hammer Attack

The life sentence of Bradford Cellucci, accused of attacking a Leesburg employee with a hammer in 2015, will be reviewed by the court.

The life sentence of Bradford Cellucci, accused of attacking a Leesburg, Virginia salesman with a hammer in 2015, will be reviewed by the court.

The Virginia Court of Appeals ordered a review of the sentence, which was imposed by Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Fisher, in August 2020 after Cellucci, now 30, pleaded Alford.

Prosecutors said Cellucci attacked Bryan Pedroza, who was 18 at the time, with a claw hammer in the Ralph Lauren Polo store at Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. Pedroza was paralyzed from the waist down.

At trial, Cellucci’s attorney argued that his client had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, had no criminal history, and demonstrated the ability to rehabilitate.

Fisher sentenced Cellucci to life in prison and a $100,000 fine, despite sentencing guidelines recommending a sentence of between five years and eight months and 12 years and eight months of incarceration.

“The circuit court deviated from the sentencing guidelines because it felt the guidelines failed to adequately consider the severity of Pedroza’s injury and the ‘level of planning/premeditation’ of Cellucci”, according to the decision of the appeal committee.

Last week, the appeals panel ruled that Fisher erred in focusing solely on autism and substance abuse, and failed to consider all relevant factors in refusing to change his original sentence.

The unusual reprimand from the appeals court does not overturn the conviction or sentence, but orders the court to reconsider the life sentence.

“The circuit court ignored Cellucci’s lack of criminal history, both before and after the crime, his ability to be rehabilitated and his age as mitigating circumstances,” the panel wrote. “This Court cannot condone a trial court’s erroneous legal findings and failure to consider all relevant factors when deciding whether or not to vary a sentence. “

In reversing and remanding Fisher’s decision, the appeals committee suggested that the circuit court assign the case to another judge.

“Because of the circuit court’s necessary involvement in the facts of this case, it may have difficulty reconsidering its own determination that no mitigating circumstances existed, despite the clear record in this case,” according to the opinion of Judge Daniel Ortiz.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge CJ Decker said Fisher’s original decision was within his discretion: “The Supreme Court of Virginia has made it clear that ‘where a statute prescribes a maximum prison term and the sentence does not does not exceed this maximum, the penalty will not be waived as an abuse of discretion.

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