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Matthew Coletta, Postman, Sentenced To 384 Years For Drive-By Shooting

COLLEEN LONG   12/16/10 06:36 PM ET   AP

Gun

NEW YORK — A man convicted of a deadly drive-by shooting spree using a gun police say he claimed came from the devil was sentenced Thursday to 384 years to life in prison.

Retired UPS driver Matthew Coletta was behind the wheel of a green Cadillac when the shootings began the night of Aug. 25, 2006, prosecutors said. He drove through Queens firing mostly at red cars for nearly six hours, killing one man and injuring 13 other people, they said.

Police say Coletta, who had been on a cocaine and alcohol binge, later told them he had "borrowed the gun from Lucifer."

Coletta, 39, drove across Queens starting in Maspeth and heading north before going back to Forest Hills, repeatedly firing a silver 9mm Ruger handgun, prosecutors said. An off-duty police lieutenant was injured by flying glass from one of the nine shootings.

The slain man, Todd Upton, was riding on a parkway in a red minivan with his wife on the way to their Long Island home after dropping their daughter off at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. A bullet struck Upton, 51, in the neck. Another daughter was uninjured in the back seat.

Coletta was arrested based on a description provided by the injured lieutenant and other witnesses. Before police found the green Cadillac and stopped Coletta, a manhunt that included helicopters and police officers from neighboring Nassau County was launched.

Coletta, whose lawyer said he was a paranoid schizophrenic, was convicted Nov. 22 of second-degree murder in Upton's death in the remote Bay Terrace neighborhood. He also was convicted of 13 counts of attempted murder and of lesser charges.

During Coletta's monthlong trial he was allowed to carry a Bible and a rosary to court, and he thanked God when he was sentenced. But he told the judge on Thursday the wrong man was convicted.

"What happened to those people on August 26 was despicable and horrendous," he said. "I'm not guilty of all these crimes."

Upton's widow, Mary Upton, addressed Coletta, saying he robbed her husband of the chance to see his three children grow up.

District Attorney Richard Brown called the shooting spree a senseless act of gun violence.

Upon sentencing, state Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise chastised Coletta for not taking responsibility for his actions.

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Filed by Jonah Green  |