Charles "Max" Caprino turned and faced the mother of the Fairfax man he killed and told her he was sorry. As his voice cracked, he said he hoped she could someday, somehow, forgive him for what he did.
Judge David T. Stitt sentenced Caprino, Friday, Aug. 3, on four charges relating to the Dec. 10, 2006 murder of 24-year-old Orator "Jose" Wesley Hall, which happened in a car parked in the 6600 block of Old Blacksmith Drive, in Burke, during a drug deal.
Caprino’s extended family members asked the court to go easy on him, claiming he was a caring man who impulsively reacted to a bad situation. They begged the judge to allow him to serve his sentences concurrently, instead of consecutively.
"He’s a good person, and we all love him very much," said Francy Caprino, Max Caprino’s aunt.
Stitt sentenced Max Caprino, 20, to 15 years and nine months — the precise sentence recommended by the jury at the trial. The sentence includes consecutive sentences for the charges, which include second-degree murder.
Bonnie Hall, Jose Hall’s mother, said she was mad when she first heard the sentence. At first, she misunderstood and thought the seven-year portion of the sentence, for the second degree murder charge, had been reduced. Even when she found out that it wasn’t, it was still hard for her to take.
"That means they don’t think Jose would have lived past 31 [years old]," said Bonnie Hall. "But then I remembered that the second week after Jose’s death, going to church and praying for Max [Caprino] … I look at it as an answered prayer. I know I can’t bring Jose back; I just want justice to serve us."
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ian Rodway told the court the sentence was the right punishment for the crime, adding that it was perhaps a little too lenient. He responded to the family’s pleas for lesser punishment with little sympathy.
"There are millions of children in America [who have had tough upbringings] … those millions of children don’t go out and take a pistol and shoot someone multiple times," said Rodway. "He put himself in that situation … 15 years and nine months is not unreasonable."
Before Stitt read the sentence, Max Caprino took his opportunity to address the court. He apologized to the court, to the judge and to his family. He asked Stitt for permission to face Bonnie Hall to apologize to her.
"I’m so sorry for taking Jose’s life. … I know what I say won’t bring him back," Max Caprino told Bonnie Hall, the two standing and facing each other, separated by less than 10 feet. "I have to live with the fact that I took a man’s life, and that’s hard."
After the sentencing, Bonnie Hall and several family members and friends gathered outside the courtroom. Hall cried, and her loved ones circled around her offering their condolences, many of them also crying.
The sentence was not enough for most of them. They could never get Jose Hall back.
It hasn’t all sunk in yet, said Bonnie Hall. She said she hopes Max Caprino can someday forgive himself for what he did, and help other children on similar paths to get their lives in order. She hasn’t forgiven Max Caprino 100 percent yet. "It’s going to take some time," she said. But she knows that her son, Jose, would have been the first person to do so.
"Talk about a big heart; Jose had a big heart," she said. "He didn’t hold a grudge for anything."
THE MAY TRIAL offered conflicting stories about who was actually buying the drugs from Caprino: Dustin Edwards, the driver of the Plymouth Sundance where the murder occurred, or Jose Hall, the passenger. Everyone agreed that Caprino entered the car and sat in the passenger seat to sell less than a half ounce of marijuana, while Edwards sat in the driver seat and Jose Hall in the backseat.
Edwards admitted during testimony that they never intended to pay for the marijuana. They were going to intimidate Caprino, but Edwards never said how. Caprino said Jose Hall had a shotgun in the backseat and that he pulled out his borrowed revolver in an act of self-defense. Caprino fired multiple shots at the two men, hitting and killing Jose Hall — all while Caprino’s father sat in a car parked right behind Edwards’ car. Caprino had convinced his father to give him a ride to meet a friend because he needed to return a video he borrowed.
Police never found another gun, and the jury proved it did not buy the self-defense story when it convicted Caprino of second-degree murder.
"It has caused us a lot of hurt, a lot of hurt, on a daily basis," said Bonnie Hall, after the May trial.
Max Caprino’s family members claim he impulsively reacted, and has been remorseful since the incident. They said he’s a polite young man who needs structure in his life but begged the judge to allow the extended family to provide that structure, not prison.
"It’s a horrible situation," said Nina Roubin, Max Caprino’s aunt. "There’s no reason to make a horrible situation worse by taking this boy’s life for 15 years."
Max Caprino’s defense attorney, William B. Cummings, agreed with the family’s "heart-felt sentiments." He asked the court to consider his client’s "strong family network," when it weighed the option of concurrent versus consecutive sentences.
"I just hope and pray it sends a loud message to the young people in Fairfax County: you can’t just do things like this and get away with it," said Bonnie Hall. "Watch what you’re doing and redirect your life."
Bonnie Hall said she is especially grateful for Max Caprino’s mother, who has "really extended herself and showed some empathy."
"We realized both families have taken a plunge with this thing," said Bonnie Hall.
Francy Caprino said the family would definitely appeal the decision.
"I’m not convinced the prison system is going to rehabilitate him as well as we would," she said. "People go to jail, and that’s where they become criminals."
Connection reporter Ken Moore contributed to this story.