A 50 years-to-life sentence for the man convicted of killing 19-year-old Unishun Mollette and wounding another man in a separate incident was not harsh or excessive, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
Kenneth Portee, 40, appealed his manslaughter and assault convictions on several grounds, including the severity of the sentence.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, however, turned each argument back, letting his conviction and sentence stand.
“We do not find that the sentence imposed was harsh and excessive,” the court ruled. “Considering the defendant’s lengthy criminal history and seriousness of the crimes … we find neither abuse of discretion nor extraordinary circumstances.”
Portee was convicted in 2006 of Mollette’s killing three years earlier.
The Schenectady County Court jury found that Portee killed Mollette on Sept. 30, 2003, as she sat in the rear seat of a car on Stanley Street. Portee fired at the car, shooting at someone else he feared would attack him.
Portee’s status as a persistent felon allowed the judge to sentence him to 25 years to life, the same sentence he could have received had he been convicted of second-degree murder.
Portee also argued that the convictions were not supported by the evidence, saying witnesses were motivated to lie. The appellate court, however, noted that witnesses, including the man injured in the earlier shooting, identified Portee as the shooter and that testimony was consistent. The court also found that information about his past criminal activity was properly included.
Portee wasn’t arrested until June 2005 after an investigation marked by repeated trips by Mollette’s father, Steven Mollette, to Schenectady from his Peekskill home to keep the case in the public eye.
Steven Mollette called the latest decision “fantastic.”
“That means he’ll never see the streets again,” Mollette said. “That’s well-served for a callous, horrific, insensitive act of a person who didn’t have any morals or show remorse.”
Portee, who had a history of violence and drug dealing going back to the age of 16, is also serving a sentence of 7 to 14 years for felony drug possession and sale, a conviction that occurred after Mollette’s killing. He is expected to serve this term consecutive to his manslaughter and assault sentences.