CANANDAIGUA — “I can put you away for as long as I possibly can so you don’t hurt anyone else.”
State Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran did just that Monday, sentencing a Geneva man to 55 years in prison for charges related to the execution-style shooting of another city resident last April.
Erin Rhynes, 27, was sentenced in Ontario County Court to 25 years for attempted murder, 15 years for criminal possession of a weapon, and 15 years for criminal possession of a controlled substance. The charges are connected to the April 1, 2018 shooting of Michael Cosentino, 30. Cosentino was shot in the head three times in his pickup truck on Lewis Street, near Elmcrest Apartments. Geneva police, who arrested Rhynes later that day, believe Rhynes was Cosentino’s drug dealer and Rhynes shot Cosentino because he owned Rhynes money.
Despite being given just a 10 percent chance to live by doctors, Cosentino survived the incident — although he has life-altering brain injuries. His mother, Brenda, spoke at Monday’s sentencing.
“You took a healthy young man and did this to him. For what, $100?” Cosentino asked Rhynes. “Michael was going to get married and have a family. Now he won’t. He is actually much worse off living instead of dying.”
Also speaking was Cosentino’s uncle, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution.
“Michael actually died as we knew him. You left him in a puddle of blood in the street to die,” the uncle said. “You turned our family upside down. You are nothing but a predator and a menace to society. You need to be locked up until an untimely death or a very old age.”
First Assistant District Attorney Jason MacBride prosecuted the case. He said Cosentino was a respectful young man from a well-known, popular Geneva family.
“They and Michael were handed a life sentence by this act,” MacBride said. “Quite frankly, the defendant is a savage and cold-blooded would-be assassin.”
Another defendant in the case, Timetheus Merritt, recently pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the case. Police found the gun Rhynes used to shoot Cosentino in Merritt’s apartment — Merritt is a friend of Rhynes — along with clothing Rhynes was wearing at the time of the shooting, including a Chicago Bulls jacket.
Merritt will be sentenced May 29 by Doran to a prison term ranging from 3½ to 15 years.
MacBride noted Rhynes has a criminal history, including a robbery conviction from 2013 that MacBride described as a home invasion involving weapons and drugs.
“He’s an animal, and he needs to stay in prison,” MacBride said of Rhynes.
Rhynes’ attorney, David Morabito, said he will appeal the conviction. He asked Doran to sentence his client to the minimum sentence.
On several occasions, Rhynes objected while the Cosentino family and MacBride were talking. Doran admonished him each time, threatening to have Rhynes removed from the courtroom and sentencing him in absentia.
“I’m gonna say this one more time: Close your mouth,” the judge told Rhynes.
When Rhynes got a chance to speak, he objected to being called a “two-bit drug dealer.”
“I work five days a week and have a daughter,” Rhynes said. “What happened to (Michael) is unfortunate, but I didn’t do it. I came to this courtroom and fought for my life. This was not a fair trial.”
“You are pretty smart and understand the law,” Doran told Rhynes. “You have incredible potential, but unfortunately you have squandered it to render unspeakable havoc in your town.
“This could have been a murder sentence. If it were up to you, (Michael) would be dead.”
Rhynes could have more time added to his sentence. Shortly after he was convicted, Rhynes was charged with another felony, second-degree assault, for getting into a fight with another Ontario County Jail inmate. That charge will be addressed later this year.
The Cosentino family is asking Doran to have Rhynes pay about $19,000 in restitution to the family, covering medical bills, mileage to Strong Memorial Hospital and lost wages. Doran scheduled a restitution hearing for June 24.