The city woman convicted of stabbing her neighbor to death in a dispute over loud music was sentenced Friday to a total of 20 years in state prison.
Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye handed down the sentence, saying Tina Karuzas’ actions were not consistent with her testimony that the knifing was an accident.
Hoye said she took into account Karuzas’ lack of a criminal history — the maximum for the first-degree manslaughter count Karuzas was convicted of is 25 years.
“However, based upon your unjust, illegal use of a knife to kill another person, you do deserve a significant sentence,” Hoye said.
As Hoye handed down the 20-year sentence, family members of Karuzas loudly sobbed.
Karuzas, 28, was convicted after trial in November of stabbing the 26-year-old Latoya Ebron during a scuffle inside Karuzas’ 203 Elm St. apartment Dec. 26, 2011. The scuffle was spawned by a party thrown by Karuzas with loud music. Ebron, a mother of two, was stabbed once and died hours later.
The fight came after an irate but unarmed Ebron entered Karuzas’ apartment and essentially started a fight, according to testimony. Karuzas testified in her own defense, calling the stabbing an accident, that she used the knife to scare Ebron away. The stabbing happened as Karuzas attempted to block a blow from Ebron, Karuzas contended.
Prosecutor William Sanderson argued Karuzas’ account didn’t make sense, that the wound Ebron suffered had to be intentional.
Karuzas’ attorney Mark Caruso, though, contended that, with the moving bodies during the fight, the account was entirely consistent with an accidental strike.
The jury — and Hoye on Friday — sided with Sanderson.
Caruso also indicated an appeal is expected.
Karuzas, in her own statement, also stood by her testimony. But she also acknowledged “bad decisions.”
Karuzas also expressed remorse for everyone involved, taking Ebron away from her children and herself away from her own.
“No matter what the sentence, this is something that I will have to live with the rest of my life,” Karuzas said.
Ebron’s family members had hoped to attend the sentencing, but missed it. They arrived at its conclusion.
Ebron’s mother, Tonya Daniels, later said that she was speechless after learning of the sentence.
She said she had lost faith in the judicial system after an earlier case ended in an acquittal. That case involved one of two men accused of shooting and seriously injuring two of her sons, one son just 11 years old, in 2010.
With the verdict in Karuzas’ case and Friday’s sentencing, Daniels indicated that trust had been restored.
“I didn’t think the judge would give her that much time,” Daniels said, “but I’m satisfied with it.”
As to what she would have told the judge, Daniels said she would have simply talked about her daughter.
“Every day we struggle with her not being here,” Daniels said. “It doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.”
In his statement to the court, prosecutor Sanderson did not ask for a specific prison term, but did asked for a sentence at the “upper end” of the range.
Sanderson said it was clear from the evidence, witnesses and medical records that the case was not the accident that Karuzas portrayed it as.
Karuzas also had no reason to fear for her safety that night, he said. Karuzas was in her own apartment, with her own friends around her and she was larger than Ebron, Sanderson argued.
Karuzas still armed herself with a “military-style assault knife,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson said Karuzas had other options, such as calling police, getting her friends to step in, or not having the party with loud music in the first place.
He noted that Karuzas’ children will get to visit her in prison, while Ebron’s children will never get that opportunity.
“That’s what Latoya’s mother has to deal with, as well,” Sanderson said, “because this defendant wanted to win that argument and she won it in the most tragic and most brutal way.”
Caruso called the case a “tragedy all the way around,” saying his heart goes out to both families.
While saying he respects the verdict, he said he had trouble understanding it. He cited statements that he believed were inconsistent and witnesses who he said admitted they lied on the stand. He also said he was not sure the prosecution’s main witness was even at the scene.
His client, Caruso emphasized, has shown “great remorse” since it happened, from the 911 tape to the police interview. Caruso asked for a sentence at or near the minimum of five years.
“Our position is she didn’t have any other options, except to try and scare her away,” Caruso said.