A Los Angeles Superior Court jury determined late last month that a Venice transient was sane when he killed a Los Angeles Airport Police officer more than four years ago after carjacking his vehicle.
The verdict in the sanity phase of the trial came nine days after jurors found William Sadowski, 51, a former aerospace worker, guilty in the first-degree murder of Airport Police officer Tommy Scott. Sadowski faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is scheduled to be sentenced January 15th.
Sadowski had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Having been found sane by the jury, Sadowki will face life imprisonment instead of being ordered to a state mental facility. Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
Sadowski was convicted of carjacking the patrol car of Scott near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and killing the officer, who was clinging to the door of the vehicle when it crashed into a fire hydrant. Scott, who was on patrol on Lincoln Boulevard when he encountered Sadowski April 29th, 2005, was the first Airport Police officer killed in the line of duty.
Airport police who knew Scott said they were pleased with the verdicts in both the guilty and sanity phases of the trial, saying that they can finally offer them some closure in the loss of their fellow officer.
“We’re definitely satisfied that the jury heard all of the evidence that the district attorney’s office presented and we’re now anxious to get some closure come January 15th,” Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association President Marshall McClain said, referring to the sentencing date.
McClain said the Airport Police union had hoped for the sane verdict, believing that serving time in a state mental hospital was not the correct punishment for this crime.
Airport Police Chief George Centeno added, “We are relieved that the jury in the Officer Scott trial did serve justice by finding Mr. Sadowski guilty of the April 29, 2005 murder of Officer Scott. This has brought closure to a four and a half-year ordeal for the Scott family and our Airport Police family as well.
“The memory of (Scott’s) bravery will not be forgotten.”
Airport Police spokesman Sgt. Jim Holcomb also said he hopes the outcome of the trial will enable fellow police officers and Scott’s family to move forward.
“I’m glad that it’s brought closure and hopefully we can move on,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb, who had a locker right next to Scott, said the fallen officer was the first airport policeman to introduce himself to Holcomb by his first name and was a happy guy.
“He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. No matter how bad things were he always had a smile on his face,” Holcomb said.
Deputy District Attorney Linda Loftfield, who prosecuted the case, noted that trials in which the defendant’s sanity is questioned can be complicated because a person can have a mental illness but not be legally insane. While Sadowski was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, prosecutors sought to prove that he was not legally insane by showing that he knew right from wrong, Loftfield said.
“I’m very happy that the jurors were able to distinguish mental illness from legal insanity,” she said of the verdict.
One of the psychiatrists who testified during the trial said that he believed Sadowski showed signs of being insane, but Loftfield noted that the definition of the law says that the person must be found to be insane at the time of the crime.
During the trial, prosecutors disputed that the defendant was insane by playing taped interviews with police detectives on the day of the killing in which Sadowski indicated that he had an awareness of what he did and was sorry, Loftfield said.
Deputy Public Defender Irene Nunez, who represented Sadowski, did not return phone calls from The Argonaut seeking comment on the verdicts.
In the trial’s guilty phase, jurors found true the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed in the course of a carjacking.
Sadowski was additionally convicted of two counts of carjacking and one count of attempted carjacking. After crashing Scott’s car, Sadowski attempted to carjack a passing vehicle before carjacking another vehicle, which he crashed over an airport perimeter fence before he was arrested.
Jurors found true the allegation that the defendant personally used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a police vehicle, and found not true the accusation that the murder was willful, deliberate and premeditated.
Referring to the length of the conviction process, Loftfield said she hopes that the Airport Police and Scott’s family have some justice in the case.
“I think they feel reassured that our office took the case seriously and handled it skillfully, and that the right verdict was reached,” she said.