A Stillwater woman who killed her ex-boyfriend with an assault rifle was sentenced to 18 1⁄2 years in prison Tuesday — but not before causing a chaotic courtroom scene by interrupting the a pre-sentencing statement by the victim’s mother.
After the initial interruption, Joey M. Paul, 30, of Birch Lane, got into a profanity-laced shouting match with the family of Matthew Furlani that resulted in her being removed from Saratoga County Court by sheriff’s deputies.
After a five-minute recess, during which Paul could sometimes be heard shouting from a holding cell, she returned to court and apologized to Judge Jerry J. Scarano. Scarano then sentenced her to an agreed-on prison term for causing Furlani’s death, to be followed by five years of post-release supervision.
Paul pleaded guilty in November to one count of first-degree manslaughter, after initially being charged with second-degree murder.
Paul shot Furlani in the head with an assault rifle July 1, 2012, in an upstairs bedroom at 82 Church St. in Schuylerville. Neighbors had heard arguing just prior to the gunshot.
Paul was arrested immediately afterward and has been in custody since. She underwent an extended psychiatric evaluation after the arrest, but is now in the Saratoga County jail.
When she pleaded guilty, Paul admitted she committed the shooting while under “extreme emotional disturbance.” Until entering her plea, Paul had maintained the loaded AK-47 went off accidentally as she was handing it to Furlani. She said Furlani was concerned a knock at the door might be an ex-boyfriend of hers.
Prosecutors said Paul and Furlani had a tumultuous relationship.
“The history between the defendant and the victim indicated a long history of Ms. Paul instigating abuse and violence towards the male victim,” District Attorney James A. Murphy III said after the sentencing.
About a dozen members of Furlani’s family were in court for her sentencing, sitting in the front row. His mother, Christina Harwood-Downey, gave a victim’s impact statement, drawing quiet sobs from other family members.
She said her son had broken up with Paul, but agreed to take her in for a few days, an arrangement that culminated in the shooting.
“You couldn’t stand the fact that he was so much healthier and happier without you,” Harwood-Downey said, speaking directly to Paul and blaming the death on “you and your selfish ways.”
Paul appeared initially to tear up as Harwood-Downey spoke of how difficult it was to tell other family members what had happened to her son, but as Harwood-Downey spoke of the family’s desire to see Paul “rot in jail,” Paul interrupted with a tirade that concluded, “You didn’t care about him.”
She stood and a shouting match erupted.
“Who are you to judge me?” Paul demanded, speaking in the direction of the mother. She also shouted at the family, as relatives of the victim sitting behind her criticized her for interrupting.
As deputies tried to impose order and another officer pulled Paul from the courtroom, Paul directed a vulgar obscenity at one family member who had shouted at her.
Court personnel asked the family to move a row back in the courtroom for security reasons. After meeting for a few minutes with her attorney, Paul returned to the courtroom.
“I think her outburst said it all,” Assistant District Attorney Lynn Murphy told the judge, declining to make further motions or arguments before the sentencing.
“We all do the best we can,” said defense attorney Frederick Rench. “I think this disposition is fair.”
Paul then apologized to the judge for the interruption.
“I’m sorry for my outburst,” she said. “I just want to get on with my life.”
The district attorney called the incident extraordinary and praised Harwood-Downey for her courage.
“There is nothing more emotional than the sentencing in a homicide case, and I can’t imagine what Mr. Furlani’s mother was going through as she was reading the heartbreaking statement — and then to be screamed at by the defendant in such a caustic and vulgar way,” he said in a statement.
The sentence was agreed to when Paul pleaded guilty. She could have faced as much as 25 years in prison, the maximum sentence for manslaughter.
Outside the courtroom, upset family members indicated they didn’t think the sentence was long enough.
The plea also settled charges that Paul committed minor thefts in Ballston, Moreau and Stillwater, prosecutors said.