LARGO — In tapes recorded by a confidential informant, Edward Graziano expressed fears that he would go to prison if he was caught plotting to kill his wife.
On Friday, those fears were realized.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters sentenced the 55-year-old to 10 years in prison for planning to have his estranged wife murdered.
"There is no doubt in my mind … you in fact intended to have your wife killed," Peters said. "You weren't coerced by anybody. That's what you intended."
Graziano showed little reaction to the judge's decision. He faced a maximum of 40 years. His sentence will run concurrently with a five-year sentenced Peters handed down on a probation violation.
"Obviously, the state was seeking 30 years, so we're extremely pleased," said Graziano's attorney, John Trevena.
In March Graziano pleaded no contest to a charge of solicitation to commit murder. Authorities said he offered $2,100 and a pizza shop gift card to an undercover deputy if he would kill his estranged wife, Debra.
The Grazianos had a long history of marital strife. Debra Graziano filed for several restraining orders, alleging her husband stalked her, punched her, put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.
On Friday, Debra Graziano, 58, said she feared for her safety and asked the judge to give her and her children as many years of "peace" as possible.
She said the worst part of the sinister plot was her husband's disregard for the pain that her death would've caused their children, including their son John.
John Graziano was severely injured in a car crash in 2007 and needs round-the-clock care. He was the passenger in a car driven by Nick Bollea, the son of professional wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan.
Debra Graziano also told the judge she is terrified of what may happen when her husband is released.
"He will finish what he began," she said.
Graziano received credit for the 27 months he's been in the Pinellas County Jail since his February 2009 arrest. With credit for good behavior, he could be out in roughly six and a half years.
Debra Graziano filed for divorce in 2004, but later dropped the case. The two are still married, though she re-filed for divorce in July and that case is still progressing.
Trevena had asked Peters to choose a sentence below the sentencing guidelines, which call for between 6.4 and 40 years. To make that case, he mentioned the character witnesses who had testified on Graziano's behalf, that his client was suffering from depression and post traumatic stress disorder that hindered his decision-making abilities, and that he pleaded no contest to save his family the stress of a trial.
Trevena said that his client was entrapped by authorities and that there was a lot of "wavering and vacillation" on Graziano's part that suggests he never intended to go through with the scheme.
But Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said the murderous plot was a culmination of years of abuse that started long before John was injured.
"When you listen to the tapes … there's only one person to blame and that's the defendant," he said. "The only thing the defendant worried about during this entire time was getting caught."
Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said Graziano was plotting to murder his wife as their son lay in the hospital in 2007. In fact, some of the conversations took place at the hospital, authorities said.
In recorded interchanges between Graziano and a confidential informant for the Sheriff's Office, he discussed plans to have his wife killed, officials said. According to court documents, Graziano told the informant that part of his motive for wanting to have his wife killed was to take control of a guardianship set up for his son's care.
In one of the taped discussions with the informant, Graziano is quoted as saying, "I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, you know this could destroy me … wind up in f------ jail the rest of my life, might as well f------ kill myself."
In another: "I don't even wanna end up in f------ jail for, say, f------ 6 years, I'll come out and kill all of yas."
After the sentencing, which includes 10 years of probation after his release, Rosenwasser, the assistant state attorney, said he was disappointed.
"I respect the judge's sentence in this case, however I felt that a longer prison sentence was warranted so that Mrs. Graziano wouldn't have to look over her shoulder in such a brief amount of time."