Little leniency granted for Utica man sentenced in stabbing death


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A 20-year-old Utica father is headed to prison for the next 14 years, for a crime that even the judge said will never be fully understood.

Willie Reed was sentenced to 14 years in state prison for manslaughter, in the death of Ambrose Smith. Smith was fatally stabbed in the early morning hours of November 27, 2009. The two men got into an argument inside of Spilka's Hotel on Stark Street and began fighting outside of the building.

"I suppose that none of us in this courtroom will ever really know exactly what happened that evening," said Judge Barry Donalty before the sentencing. "But no matter what triggered the incident, it can only be categorized as nonsensical and senseless."

Reed's defense attorney, Rebecca Wittman, asked for leniency before the sentencing. She pointed out that both of the men were severely injured during the fight. She said that Reed's mother was initially informed that her son was the one who had been killed.

Reed also made a plea for leniency, apologizing to Smith's family. "I want to say I'm sorry for the death of this life could have been taken too," Reed said. "I want to say sorry to the family and for the death of their son."

Meantime, the New York State Liquor Authority has canceled the liquor license of Spilka's Hotel, where the fight took place. The liquor authority shut the bar down a month after the stabbing. In addition to the stabbing, the liquor authority also cited the bar for serving alcohol to minors. We're told the owner has no plans to reopen the bar. He still rents out apartments above the bar, but does not plan to open the bar up again.

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