Judge imposes maximum sentence on Taberg man for killing brother
UTICA — The mother of murder victim James Westcott asked the court for leniency Friday morning in sentencing her other son to state prison, telling the judge that she and her family knew what life was really like in their Taberg home.
For his part, convicted killer Matthew Westcott was not remorseful for killing his brother, telling the judge that he would always choose to protect his family.
Oneida County Court Judge Robert L. Bauer decided not to grant that leniency in light of Westcott's attitude and sentenced him to the maximum time behind bars — 25 years to life.
"My sense of duty is to protect my family," Westcott told Judge Bauer prior to sentencing. "I ain't gonna change. I don't regret what I did. I knew James would eventually do what he said."
Authorities said Westcott, 28, shot and killed his brother, James, age 30, at the family home in Taberg on Sept. 17, 2021. He took his case to trial in December and was found guilty by a jury of second-degree murder and third-degree possession of a weapon.
According to family members that testified at trial, James Westcott had called a family meeting that morning and threatened to burn the house down with everyone inside if they didn't start following his orders. Matthew Westcott told the authorities that he saw his brother with a can of gasoline later that morning, so he shot his brother before he could carry out his threat.
The District Attorney's Office argued successfully at trial that the gas can had nothing to do with Matthew's actions, and that he chose to kill his brother out of hate and anger.
The brothers' mother, Theresa Westcott, spoke on her son Matthew's behalf in court Friday morning. She asked Judge Bauer for leniency in sentencing Matthew, who she said "loved his brother" and tried to make him happy.
"James changed that day towards everyone," Theresa told the judge about the meeting, and how it revealed to the family how much James "hated" them.
Theresa said James "threatened me on a weekly basis" and only did so when they were alone. She said she believed in Matthew's claim that he killed James to protect the family.
"None of us blame or hate Matthew for what happened," Theresa told the judge.
"You might think us heartless, but no one knew James like we did. Matthew only did what he did out of fear...Yes, he did a terrible thing, but for all the right reasons...The person who gave us the most fear is gone. I believe James is finally at peace."
Westcott defends actions
When it was his turn to speak, Matthew Westcott defended his actions and said he knew his brother was mentally unwell. At the trial, the family testified that James Westcott had multiple mental illnesses and had not received any treatment or medication for more than a decade.
"I know what James was going to do and I knew he was determined to do it," Matthew told the judge. "I miss my brother, but I don't have remorse for killing a threat to my family. I don't care who it [expletive] is."
Matthew said he loves his family and was willing to do whatever it took to protect them, even if it meant throwing his life away in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Carville, who prosecuted Westcott at trial, told the judge that he still did not believe Westcott's story, even in light of his mother's pleas for mercy. Carville called the killing a "heinous" act, and told the judge that Matthew himself was "extremely dangerous" if allowed out of prison.
"James Westcott was a person, regardless of what his family thought of him. He had self-worth," Carville said on Friday.
Judge Bauer agreed with Carville and said Westcott's actions were done in "cold blood."
"You're framing yourself in terms of some sort of martyr, as though your actions were in some sense heroic," Judge Bauer told Westcott. "Your actions were the opposite of courageous. In cold blood, you murdered an unarmed man."
Judge Bauer sentenced Westcott to 25 years to life in state prison.
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