Globe and Mail

Prisoner apologizes to taxpayers

By DANIEL LEBLANC
The Globe and Mail
Friday, December 08, 2000

Ottawa — Sobbing as she stood in the prisoner's box, Teresa Bonacci apologized yesterday to taxpayers who have been footing her prison bill for 21 months, ever since she put a $300,000 contract on her parents and brother.

She went on to apologize to her Italian community, saying she had let it down.

Most important, she implored her sick father, her sometimes suicidal mother and her loving brother to forgive her sins.

Ms. Bonacci's parents, Frank and Maria, stood a few metres away, holding each other and crying. They simply want their 29-year-old daughter to be let out of jail, where they know she is suffering.

"For 92 weeks, I have endured 92 humiliating, degrading strip searches," Ms. Bonacci told Mr. Justice Robert Desmarais of Ontario Superior Court in a plea for clemency.

"For 92 weeks, I have had to show my most intimate parts of my body to female guards, that my mother has not seen since I was a child.

"For 92 weeks, I have felt shame, humiliation and degradation."

At the end of her address, Ms. Bonacci thanked Judge Desmarais for hearing "what I have kept bottled for the past 21 months."

Defence lawyer Robert Carew hoped Ms. Bonacci would be released immediately yesterday, saying her time in jail was appropriate punishment for her attempt to hire a hit man to beat up and kill her family.

But Judge Desmarais reserved his decision until Feb. 8, which means Ms. Bonacci will spend at least two more months in detention.

The Crown has called on Judge Desmarais to keep Ms. Bonacci locked up for another 2½ years.

The delay in sentencing floored Ms. Bonacci's parents. Ms. Bonacci's mother pleaded with the judge earlier in the day for a "fair sentence" that would allow the entire family to undergo therapy.

In yesterday's court appearance, there was no sign of the pent-up anger that led to Ms. Bonacci's incarceration. As Mr. Carew said: "There's been a complete reconciliation within the family."

Two years ago, Ms. Bonacci asked a family acquaintance to arrange the slaying of her overbearing parents and brother, saying she could not be free unless they were dead.

The family acquaintance, Joe Ieradi, eventually turned her in to the police. Mr. Ieradi organized a meeting at a Harvey's restaurant between Ms. Bonacci and undercover detective Gordon MacPherson, who posed as a hit man.

In the courtroom yesterday, there was much debate over Ms. Bonacci's intent and responsibility.

Crown attorney Donna Eastwood painted a picture of a daughter who admittedly suffered under her parents' strict and violent discipline, but who also wanted to exact painful revenge. Ms. Eastwood pointed to a statement made by Ms. Bonacci during her negotiations with the fake hit man. In it she said she wanted her parents to "meet their demise in a painful manner."

Ms. Eastwood also referred to a comment Ms. Bonacci made under police interrogation. She told police she had wanted her family members dead since she was 20.

"She was pretty determined to get it done," Ms. Eastwood said in calling for more jail time.

Mr. Carew countered that his client was anything but a cold-blooded killer. He acknowledged she had had a "bad idea," but argued that Mr. Ieradi had "given momentum" to her plans by helping her out initially.

He said that at that time, Ms. Bonacci suffered from emotional problems, and added that her family has booked a bed in an psychiatric institute.

"She cannot get the psychotherapy she needs in jail," Mr. Carew said. "The longer she waits, the worse it is for her."

He argued further jail time would be "almost a death sentence" for her parents, who want to restore their relationship with their daughter.

In her address to the judge, Ms. Bonacci assured him that she would never do anything to land herself in jail again.

"I have no intention, nor will I be swayed again to commit such a crime or any crime at all," she said. "I will and am willing to seek and continue with psychiatric and counselling help."

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