SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A man who took his son to a gun fair where another boy accidentally killed himself with an Uzi submachine gun was ordered by a judge to testify in a manslaughter trial Tuesday after a ruling by a justice on Massachusetts' highest court.
Hampden Superior Court Judge Peter Velis in Springfield had barred James Spielman's testimony for undisclosed reasons at the trial of a former police chief charged in the death of 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj of Ashford, Conn., at the 2008 gun fair in Westfield.
But Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford on Tuesday overturned Velis. Details of that ruling weren't immediately available.
Spielman, of Ellington, Conn., took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon in the trial of former Pelham, Mass., Police Chief Edward Fleury, whose company co-sponsored the gun fair at the Westfield Sportsman's Club. Spielman is expected to be the prosecution's final witness.
Velis, after Botsford's ruling, ordered Spielman to testify after Spielman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when prosecutor William Bennett asked him where he lived. Spielman and his lawyer declined to comment, and it wasn't clear why he tried to take the Fifth.
Spielman testified on the trial's sixth day that his son also shot an automatic weapon at the gun fair on the day of Christopher's death. He said he took video of his son shooting and other activities at the machine gun shoot, and the jury is expected to see a five-minute portion of the recording when the trial resumes.
Bennett alleges Fleury's reckless and illegal actions in organizing and running the machine gun shoot led to Christopher's death. Spielman's video may offer glimpses into how the event was run. Bennett says it's illegal for children to shoot machine guns in Massachusetts.
Fleury's lawyer, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, denies the allegations and has put some of the blame on Christopher's father, emergency room Dr. Charles Bizilj, who allowed his son to shoot the 9 mm micro Uzi and took video. Jurors saw the graphic video last week. Dr. Bizilj wasn't charged.
Fleury has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, which carries up to 20 years in prison, and other charges.
A major snowstorm was predicted for Wednesday. Velis told jurors to return at noon Wednesday, unless they're notified that the storm has forced a postponement to Thursday.
Velis also told jurors Tuesday that deliberations could begin on the trial's next day. The defense portion of the case is expected to be brief.
Two other Connecticut men, Domenico Spano of New Milford and Carl Giuffre of Hartford, were also charged with involuntary manslaughter and await trial after pleading not guilty. They brought the machine guns to the gun fair, and both had machine gun licenses.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects 6th paragraph to say witness's son shot an automatic weapon on the same day, not the day after, another boy's fatal accident.)
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