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Lovejoy father who started fire that killed his son gets probation


A Buffalo man who unintentionally set a fire which killed his 7-year-old son in their home in January will not go to prison. Joseph Conti, 54, was sentenced to five years probation Thursday in State Supreme Court.

Conti admitted to lighting a cigarette with a propane torch on Jan. 29 inside his Benzinger Street home in the city's Lovejoy neighborhood, then placing the torch on a bed, which quickly ignited and spread through the house.

Most family members were able to escape the blaze, except for Conti's son Anthony, who died from smoke inhalation.

Speaking in court, Conti said despite some opinions to the contrary, he was trying to protect his family.

"Your honor, I spent a long time trying to protect my family. As you know, I failed that with my son," Conti said. "That doesn't mean I'm not gonna stop. I'm gonna keep trying to protect my family and, honestly your honor, that's...I...I think I'm just gonna end it there. I'm gonna try to keep this tragedy private and, um, I think the less I say now the better."

Conti pleaded guilty in August to one count of criminally negligent homicide. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn addressed the sentencing Conti received.

"I am not outraged that he's not going to jail. I am not outraged by the sentence, at all. As a matter of fact, I told my prosecutor who went down there to let the judge decide on the sentence, so I wouldn't have got angry if he were jailed, but I'm not outraged either." Flynn said.

Flynn said Conti will have to live the rest of his life "with the knowledge that he killed his son."

"That guilt, that thought in your mind is not going to go away whether you're in jail or out of jail," he said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
Mark Wozniak, WBFO's local All Things Considered host, has been at WBFO since mid-1978.
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