RIVERHEAD, New York – A young man convicted of murder after nearly beheading his stepfather with a samurai sword was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison.
Zachary Gibian, 20, of Hauppauge, was convicted last month of second-degree murder after testifying that his stepfather, Scott Nager, had sexually abused him since age 15 — a claim prosecutors termed "preposterous."
Gibian made no statement at his sentencing.
The victim's sister, Anne Leonardi, speaking on behalf of the family, asked the court to give Gibian the maximum sentence. Wearing a replica of her brother's NYPD shield No. 15901 on a necklace, she called her brother "the kindest husband and father a wife or son could want," and said she was disgusted by the allegations of sex abuse.
"It was all about money and greed," she said, not abuse.
Gibian, who took responsibility for the crimes in written and videotaped confessions to police just hours after the killing, changed his story on the witness stand. He insisted that it was his mother who inflicted the fatal blows after she discovered her husband sexually abusing him.
Nager was killed Feb. 27, 2005, as he slept on his living room couch.
Through her attorney, Laura Nager has insisted she was not the killer. She did not attend a day of her son's trial, and was never charged with any crime — although investigators say the case remains an open investigation.
After the sentencing, her lawyer, Steven Wilutis, said he was told by prosecutors to expect an arrest, although he was not told on what charge. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney John Scott Prudenti declined to comment, other to say "stay tuned."
Prosecutors have contended that Nager, 51, a retired New York City police officer, was not a sexual predator but a concerned parent trying to rein in a rebellious teenager.
"He is the one who committed this murder," Prudenti said of Gibian during closing arguments. "All the evidence points to it, all the witnesses point to it."
Gibian, the lone defense witness, made stunning allegations that Nager had sexually and psychologically abused him for years. He claimed that numerous times, beginning when he was about 15, Nager would get drunk and repeatedly force his stepson to perform a sex act on him — sometimes with a pistol against the boy's head.
He testified that Laura Nager learned of the abuse the night before the killing, when she walked in on her husband and son in the boy's bedroom. Gibian also said on cross-examination that investigators found no forensic evidence of the attacks because his stepfather always used a condom.
None of the abuse claims were made in Gibian's written and taped confessions.
A key prosecution witness at the monthlong trial was Gibian's friend Troy "T.J." Harrelson, the son of former New York Mets star and manager Bud Harrelson. The younger Harrelson, who managed to recall few specific details during testimony because of his admitted use of marijuana, cocaine and OxyContin, said that he went to Gibian's home after his friend called him for a ride on the morning of the killing.
He said when Gibian got in his car, he admitted he had just killed his stepfather and then asked Harrelson to help him dispose of the murder weapon and other items in a trash bin behind a shopping mall.
Harrelson cut a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one count of hindering prosecution. Harrelson faces 90 days in jail and five years probation, pending the outcome of court-ordered inpatient treatment for drug abuse.