MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) — The widow of a murdered NYPD officer is begging the parole board not to release his killer during a hearing Friday.
Late Officer Thomas Ruotolo was shot and killed by George Agosto on Valentine’s Day in 1984. At the time, Agosto was out on parole for another killing.
Now he is up for parole again and Ruotolo’s widow, Mary Beth O’Neill, is fighting to keep him behind bars.
O’Neill told the board that Agosto was in prison for manslaughter when he was first paroled in 1982. She said he was arrested twice more over the next year before he was released from Riker’s Island in September of 1983.
“I beg you not to disrespect my hero husband’s legacy,” she said. “I beg you to keep this city safe by refusing to let George Agosto continue his life of crime.”
Ruotolo and his partner were patrolling the 41 Precinct in the Bronx when they responded to a report of a stolen moped. Ruotolo pulled his patrol vehicle behind the moped and as he and his partner got out of the car, Agosto drew a revolver and opened fire, striking Ruotolo in the head.
His partner and a nearby off-duty officer returned fire and were both shot and wounded.
Agosto was caught when he showed up to a local hospital. He pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to 40 years to life.
PBA President Patrick Hendry said it should be an open and shut case for the parole board.
“This career criminal is living proof that when you release a cold-blooded killer from prison, he can and will kill again,” Hendry said. “This should be an open-and-shut case for the parole board, but unfortunately, we have reason to be concerned. At least 36 cop-killers have been granted parole since 2017. New Yorkers cannot afford to have another vicious cop-killer put back on our streets.”
Agosto, who is now 63, has served nearly 39 years in prison.
The director of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign released a statement:
“The purpose of parole is to evaluate people for release based on who they are today, not to extend sentences in perpetuity. Recent decisions the Parole Board has made based on this principle are the right ones, and bring us one step closer to justice. We only hope that the Parole Board adheres to this principle in every case. There is no doubt that many people who appear before them have committed very serious crimes. We believe that all lives are precious, and that the life of a teacher, a nurse, or a food delivery worker is no less valuable than the life of a police officer. A person who has taken any such life has caused tremendous harm that cannot be minimized. Yet we also value redemption & human transformation. People can and do rehabilitate themselves and others around them every day. That is why we oppose permanent punishment.”
The board will consider whether to grant or deny release to Agosto in September.
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