Curtis Byers first gained notoriety as the teenager responsible for the 2007 arson that nearly killed Buffalo firefighter Mark Reed. Byers is now 18-years-old and he went back before a judge Monday morning, this time to be sentenced for an assault. Byers' attorney says all the media attention given to Byers' criminal record is a big part of why Byers agreed to plead guilty to assaulting high school wrestling teammate Michael Lang, and thereby avoid a high profile trial.
"I know he feels very very sorry for what he did," Byers' attorney Francis Amendola told the judge, "He did consider Mr. Lang a friend. Still does?", Amendola asked Byers who was standing next to him. Byers nodded and appeared to be close to tears.
Byers stood and listened during the proceedings to the mother of Michael Lang. Lang was beaten up in the Williamsville South High School cafeteria last spring. His injuries required surgery to implant plates in his face. "We treated you as a friend," Edla Collora, Lang's mother, told Byers, "My son showed concern for your welfare. He would ask for rides home for you and I had no problem doing that. We cheered for you as a team player on the wrestling team and we consider you a friend and my question is how can you do that to a friend?"
When it was his turn to respond Byers said very little. "Mr. Byers, do you have anything you wish to say on your own behalf before the court imposes sentence?", asked State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang.
"No," Byers replied.
"You sure?", asked Wolfgang.
"Positive," said Byers.
With that, the judge sentenced Byers to three years in prison for second degree assault and that sentence will run concurrently with the 1 1/2 years he's already serving for a probation violation in a separate robbery case. "Everyone at this point is just hopeful that you are going to learn from this experience and come out a different person," said Wolfgang to Byers.
Byers will still be a young man when he gets out of prison and his sentence also includes 1 1/2 years of post-release supervision once he completes his prison term.