LISBON - A Jefferson County Common Pleas Court judge has been chosen to decide whether police were justified in obtaining a search warrant against a murder suspect that resulted in additional charges being filed.
The Ohio Supreme Court chose Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. to decide the issue involving J.C. Amato Jr., who is scheduled to go on trial next month for allegedly murdering his wife, Tonia Amato, at their Wellsville home 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 during a domestic dispute.
Since the shooting, Amato Jr. has been living with his parents at their Yellow Creek Township home. In September 2008, investigators obtained a court order to search the home for the handgun used to shoot Ms. Amato because the firearm in possession of authorities didn't match the bullet recovered at the scene with her DNA.
During the search, investigators reportedly found various firearms in Amato Jr.'s bedroom, along with several pipebombs and components. This resulted in Amato Jr. also being charged with possessing a dangerous ordnance (pipe bombs) and having firearms while under indictment.
Defense attorney James Hartford filed a motion seeking to throw out the search warrant and the evidence that resulted in the additional charges being filed against Amato Jr., saying investigators lacked the legal basis to obtain the warrant and Judge C. Ashley Pike erred in granting their request.
A visiting judge had to be appointed to handle Hartford's motion because it would be a conflict of interest for Pike to rule on a decision he made.