Bailed on manslaughter charge
Angelo Pat Russo is a free man after a magistrate decided there was not strong enough evidence for him to face trial for the murder of David Calandro.
But freedom could be shortlived for the Taturaman, 55, as he faces the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Magistrate Daniel Muling gave his ruling about 11.40 am on Thursday after the conclusion of the three-day committal hearing.
In summing up the evidence presented to him, Magistrate Muling said he was of the view that no reasonable jury could convict the accused of murder, but there was significant evidence for manslaughter.
Mr Russo pleaded not guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was bailed under strict conditions.
Dressed in the black suit he wore throughout the committal hearing, he walked free from Shepparton Police Station on Thursday last week after spending most of the year behind bars.
He will next face court for the manslaughter charge at Supreme Court in Melbourne on Thursday this week for a directions hearing.
In the magistrate’s detailed ruling he made pointed to two key pieces of evidence from the investigation, the statement from David Calandro’s son, 13, and the report on the examination of the gun Mr Russo had when he allegedly shot Mr Calandro.
Magistrate Muling found that the evidence from the ballistics expert, Leading Senior Constable Alan Pringle, helped back up the claim of Mr Russo’s innocence.
The report on the gun found there were two major faults in the safety and barrel, which could lead to the weapon firing accidentally.
Mr Russo claimed during the investigation the gun went off when he slipped on an eggplant on the ground.
‘‘In this case, I accept there is evidence that backs up what Mr Russo said,’’ Magistrate Muling said.
The statement from Mr Calandro’s son, 13, who was sitting in the car when his father was shot, was described as ‘‘the only real eyewitness’’.
In an interview Magistrate Muling quoted, the son told officers any claim Mr Russo slipped was ‘‘a lie’’.
He also said he did not see the barrel of the shotgun hit the window, further contradicting Mr Russo’s version of innocence.
There was emotional scenes in the courtroom when family and friends of Mr Russo realised he would walk free.
But for the family and friends of Mr Calandro, it could be a long time until they get closure.
Out of custody: Tatura man Angelo Pat Russo was bailed yesterday afternoon after a magistrate decided he would not face a murder trial over the shooting of David Calandro. Mr Russo, 55, will appear at the Supreme Court in Melbourne on Thursday charged with manslaughter.