IS IT fair to make a criminal defendant convicted of planning three homicides that never happened spend four times longer in prison than defendants whose victim actually died? That’s the unspoken question before Stafford Circuit Court Judge Victoria Willis when she formally sentences ex-cop Cassie Crisano this fall.
The answer, in a word, is yes.
Last week, a Stafford County jury recommended an 81-year prison sentence for the 39-year-old Crisano, who was found guilty of three counts of attempted capital murder and three counts of soliciting capital murder—crimes she committed while she was already behind bars in the Rappahannock Regional Jail on other lesser charges, including insurance fraud and allegedly plotting to burn down the Stafford Public Safety Building to destroy evidence against her.
Contrast the jury’s recommended 81-year sentence for Crisano (six years higher than the 75-year state-mandated minimum), with the 20-year prison sentences (58 years, with 38 suspended) meted out to two MS–13 gang members last year by Stafford Circuit Judge Charles Sharp for the January 2017 shooting death of 26-year-old Jorge Leonardo Melo during a $250 marijuana deal/robbery gone bad.
While 20 years is far too lenient for a gang- and drug-related murder, the 81 years in prison recommended by the jury in Crisano’s case is just about right.
Although Crisano, a former member of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, didn’t actually murder anybody, she tried to hire a hitman to kill three potential witnesses. A cellmate wearing a police wire introduced Crisano to a fictitious stepson she was led to believe would carry out the murders, but was in reality a Stafford County detective who had multiple phone conversations with her during the sting. Other evidence against her included letters and thousands of dollars Crisano sent to the would-be assassin via a police-monitored post office box.
Prosecutors said her intended targets included Stafford County Police Detective Joseph Massine; Terry Linton, her former friend and partner-in-crime; and Anthony Hopkins, the father of her youngest child.
Crisano’s plot to lethally tamper with three potential witnesses against her in a murder-for-hire scheme was breathtakingly bold in its scope and attempted execution. Unlike other criminal defendants, she was a former law enforcement officer who knew exactly how damaging tampering with witnesses is to the administration of justice. That she would go to such depraved lengths to undermine the law she was once trained to enforce shows a disturbingly deep level of criminality that is incompatible with societal norms.
The irony is that Crisano would likely have received a much shorter or perhaps even a suspended sentence on the lesser charges if she had just admitted her guilt and taken her well-deserved punishment. She will have to live with the bitter knowledge that she was the architect of her own downfall for the rest of her life—which will hopefully be spent behind bars.
Judge Willis, who can reduce the jury’s recommended sentence but not increase it, should show Crisano no mercy and give her the maximum time allowed under the law when she sentences her on November 8th. And let the ruin of this disgraced ex-cop be a lesson to any others who might even think about following in her footsteps.