thought I'd pass it along....
New charge added in Amato caseBy TOM GIAMBRONI
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LISBON - Murder suspect J.C. Amato Jr. faces another felony charge for possessing pipe bombs reportedly found in his bedroom during a search for the handgun that he used to shot his wife to death.
The Columbiana County grand jury handed down an amended indictment on Thursday charging Amato Jr. with possessing a dangerous ordnance, in addition to the five existing charges of possessing firearms while under indictment for a felony crime which were originally handed down by the October grand jury.
The new charge is a fifth-degree felony, which carries a maximum possible sentence of one year in prison. The gun charges are third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison on each count.
Amato Jr. is currently awaiting trial on Feb. 17 for allegedly murdering his wife, Tonia, on July 1, 2007. Amato Jr. has admitted shooting his wife but claims it was in self-defense after she shot at him with a handgun while they were arguing.
Since the shooting, Amato Jr. has been living with his parents in their Yellow Creek Township home. In September, investigators obtained a protection order to search the home for the handgun used to shoot Tonia Amato because the firearm in possession of authorities didn't match the bullet recovered at the scene.
During the search, investigators reportedly found various firearms in Amato Jr.'s bedroom, along with several pipe bombs and components. A month later, Amato Jr. was indicted for possessing firearms while under indictment.
But the grand jury was apparently presented evidence this week seeking to add the offense of possessing a dangerous ordnance - pipe bombs in this case - which resulted in the amended indictment with the additional charge.
Meanwhile, defense attorney James T. Hartford filed a motion seeking to throw out the search warrant and the evidence that was seized and resulted in the extra charges being brought against Amato Jr.
The detective in the case said they needed the warrant to search for the firearm used to shoot Tonia Amato because the .45-caliber bullet found lodged in the kitchen with her DNA did not match the handgun Amato Jr. told investigators he used to shoot his wife through the head.
In his motion, Hartford said the information provided to the court as the basis for obtaining the search warrant was misleading because there is no forensic evidence introduced to date proving the bullet with Tonia Amato's DNA was the one that killed her.
"The government was not seeking a warrant to search and seize but rather a 'fishing license' to explore and investigate, which is unconstitutional by its very nature," he wrote.
If the search warrant is thrown out, so would the evidence used as the basis to file firearms and pipe bomb charges against Amato Jr. Hartford's motion remains pending.
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