David R. Berkowitz was given maximum 25-years-to-life sentences for the six "Son of Sam" murders by three judges who all said they wished the law permitted them to be harsher.
Berkowitz, who appeared in court handcuffed and with his wrists linked to a restraining belt buckled outside his suit jacket, will be eligible for parole in 25 years although he pleaded guilty to the string of nighttime shootings that left six young people dead and seven wounded during the year before his arrest last August.
"It is this court's fervent wish that this defendant be imprisoned until the day of his death," Bronx Judge William Kapelman said in a sentiment echoed by the other judges and the prosecuting attorneys.
"It is not my purpose to scold you for these unspeakable deeds," Kapelman said to Bekowitz. "You have only judge who expressed concern that Berkowitz's attorneys might be right in their insistence that the 25-year-old former postal clerk was not competent when he withdrew his insanity defense and pleaded guilty.
Kapelman reminded the defendant of the demons that Berkowitz said sometimes controlled him.
"Did you make the plea or did the demons?" Kapelman asked of the decision to plead guilty.
"I took the plea," Berkowitz answered almost inaudibly.
"It was your decision?"
"They had some influence," Berkowitz said.
"But the ultimate decision was yours?"
Kapelman pressed Berkowitz to say that he decided to waive his insanity defense on his own, but the defendant said only that the decision was mine, but not alone.
Kapelman chose to ignore the demons' collaboration in Berkowitz's decision and went ahead with the sentencing.
Berkowitz set quitely throughout the hearing ringed by five uniformed court officers. Don Ruocco, the chief court officer, said he cooperated at all times yesterday.
At his first sentencing hearing May 22, Berkowitz attempted to throw himself through a seventh-floor window as he was being brought to the courtroom. He fought with court officers, sending two to the hospital for treatment, and he entered the courtroom chanting "Stacy was a whore. Stacy was a whore." Stacy Moskowitz was his last victim.
[The Associated Pres. quoting an unidentified court source, reported that Berkowitz was heavily sedated yesterday to guard against a repetition of last month's outbursts].
Just after Brooklyn Judge Joseph Corso pronounced the first sentences on Berkowitz, Daniel Carrique, a friend of the Moskowitz family, vaulted across a row of courtroom benches into the aisle in an apparent attempt to get at Berkowitz.
"You're going to burn in hell, Berkowtiz," Carrique shouted before he was subdued by several of the many security men seated throughout the courtroom. Carrique, who was taken from the first Berkowitz hearing after he interrupted Judge Corso by shouting, was charged yesterday with assault and obstruction of justice.
Berkowitz was hurried from the courtroom as soon as Carrique began to move. One of the court officers who escorted the defendant said Berkowitz remarked: "Why don't you let him kill me?" He remained calm, the court officer said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eugene Gold began the series of complaints that Berkowitz could not be incarcerated for life without chance of parole in a lengthy statement to Corso.
Unless life sentences without parole are made possible by the state legislature and unless the methods of examing a defendant's mental condition are improved, Gold said, "We shall not restore public confidence in the criminal justice process."
The district attorney said "whatever criticism there is" of the Berkowitz sentence "should be directed where it belongs, and that is at the legislature of New York."
Queens District Attorney John Santucci told the court that the year Berkowitz was killing with his 44-cal. revolver was "a reign of terror" in Queens.
He recalled that young women, believing that the killer aimed at women with long hair, cut their hair or put it up, and that many others stayed home in fear.
Queens Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas ordered that the sentences for the four Queens indictments run consecutively, but Kapelman and other lawyers believe the law is written so that the six 25-year-to-life sentences Berkowitz received for the six second degree murder charges to which he pleaded guilty cannot be made to take effect one after another, but merge into one sentence with a 25-year minimum term. It will be up to authorities in 25 years to decide whatto do with Berkowitz, if yesterday's sentences stand.