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Unremorseful Tait sentenced to 60 years in death of boy, 7

Friday, January 14, 2000

By Jim McKinnon, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Facing more than 60 years in prison for running over and killing a 7-year-old boy while fleeing police in Brighton Heights, Jamal Tait yesterday lashed out at the prosecutor and blamed racism in the media for his conviction.

Raymond Michelotti 

His remarks added insult to the emotional injuries of the victim's mother, Kathy Michelotti.

"My chin fell to the floor when I heard what he had to say," Michelotti said. "I was outraged, utterly flabbergasted by his statement."

Tait, 21, of Manchester, was convicted in November of a dozen counts, including third-degree murder and homicide by vehicle, for the June 22, 1998 death of Raymond "Ray-Ray" Michelotti, 7.

The boy was riding his bicycle near his home on Gas Avenue when Tait, fleeing police with two Bellevue teen-agers in a Chevrolet Blazer, sped and bounded down the hilly street and struck the child.

Tait, who is serving a separate six-year prison sentence for drug dealing, was not apologetic before he was sentenced yesterday by Common Pleas Judge David S. Cercone.

Tait, who is black, turned and singled out Deputy District Attorney Edward J. Borkowski, calling him a "bum" who, with the media, helped to railroad him because he hit "a little white boy."

Tait also complained that there were no blacks on the jury of seven women and five men.

Patrick Thomassey, Tait's attorney, said that Tait's outburst was unexpected.

"I don't know what happened to him in front of the judge today," Thomassey said. "I was very disappointed that he took a poke at the DA because Ed Borkowski is a good prosecutor."

Thomassey said he will file appeals on Tait's behalf.

Tait had been given a chance to speak after Kathy Michelotti and her 11-year-old daughter, Amanda, each delivered written statements.

The letters were accompanied by the mother's passionate comments about the impact of her son's death.

Michelotti pointed out two poignant, contrasting memories she said she forever will have of her son.

She told of a moment when, dancing in her kitchen with Raymond, she picked him up because he was so small.

"I remember looking in his eyes and thanking God that I have such beautiful children," she said.

She also recounted the heart-rending moments after the collision hurled Raymond's 38-pound body about 50 feet and she rushed out of the house to him.

"Then I was holding Raymond and he wasn't alive. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't kiss it and make it better," she said. "I'll never get over this."

Cercone sentenced Tait to 27 1/2 to 57 years, including the maximum 20 to 40 years for the third-degree murder conviction. He also ordered the time to be consecutive to the six years to which he already is sentenced.

Tait will be more than 50 years old before he is eligible for parole.

In April, he faces trial before Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman on robbery charges stemming from a carjacking on the North Side. A conviction could bring more jail time.

Tait's mother, Theresa Allen Tait, did not attend yesterday's sentencing. She spent much of the trial in tears and, in contrast to her son, has appeared remorseful.

Theresa Tait's sympathy did not go unnoticed by Michelotti.

"I think maybe his mom does feel bad, but he doesn't," Michelotti said.

"He'll be in prison. At least she can still visit him. She doesn't have to visit a stone."

Michelotti said she will continue to campaign for legislation that would make it routine for motorists fleeing from police to be charged with third-degree murder if they cause an accident in which someone is killed. Before Tait's case, such prosecutions were rare in Pennsylvania.

"I would welcome the opportunity to testify at [state legislative] hearings on the subject," she said.

She said the only satisfaction she gets from Tait's conviction and long sentence is that justice has been served.

"You'd think it would bring some kind of big emotion, but it doesn't," Michelotti said. "There's no way to make this right."

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