SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 10, 2012

Attorney sent to prison for firing gun near his girlfriend

By Julie Manganis
Staff writer

SALEM — A longtime North Shore defense attorney was sentenced to three to four years in state prison yesterday, a day after a Salem Superior Court jury found him guilty of firing a gun just feet from his girlfriend during a domestic dispute.

Leonard Mancuso, 57, who had just moved to Haverhill a few months before the Sept. 30, 2010, incident, was found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon (the handgun), illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition following a weeklong trial.

After his release from prison he will be on probation for two years, with conditions that include mental health counseling and a no-contact order with the victim and her daughter.

The jury cleared him of more serious charges, including kidnapping and witness intimidation and two other counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Mancuso, who had run a law practice in Saugus and appeared regularly in Salem Superior Court for nearly three decades until his arrest, had hoped to persuade Judge Douglas Wilkins to sentence him to 18 months in a county jail — a sentence he would have essentially completed, having received 526 days of jail credit while he was held before his trial.

The lawyer fired his defense team moments before sentencing yesterday, so that he could speak at length on his own behalf.

He used the opportunity to tell the judge that in the months before the incident, "I started feeling taken advantage of," alluding to troubles in his relationship with his girlfriend, Sally Ouellette.

"It was the best relationship of my life," he told the judge, after asking his family members to leave the courtroom. "I was crazy about her." But, he contended, he had been "threatened" by one of her former acquaintances. "That's what set this off," he told the judge.

Prosecutor Ashlee Logan, who had sought a three- to five-year prison term, suggested that Mancuso was blaming the victim for his own "reckless" actions.

She said Mancuso has shown no remorse for his actions that night.

"It's one thing to simply brandish a gun, but to take that next step and shoot it with such rage," Logan said. "The kind of rage exhibited on that 911 tape is precisely what this defendant needs to address."

Ouellette, in a victim-impact statement, said she lives in "constant fear and anxiety," and suffers from hearing loss as a result of the gunshot. Her daughter is also traumatized by what she saw.

"If Mancuso has any feelings at all," she said, "I hope he deeply regrets what he has done to us."

Courts reporter Julie Manganis may be reached at 978-338-2521 or at jmanganis@salemnews.com.