A schizophrenic Central Islip man who nearly sliced off a police officer’s nose was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years to life in prison for the attack.
Both Suffolk prosecutors and the defense agreed that Mark Caraway, 42, suffered from a severe mental illness on Aug. 13, 2016, but differed on whether he knew what he was doing was wrong. A jury sided with prosecutors last month and convicted him of aggravated attempted murder of a police officer, attempted assault of three other officers and other charges.
In a Riverhead courtroom filled with both police officers and Caraway’s family, State Supreme Court Justice John Collins told Caraway before imposing the sentence that he had “no place in civilized society.”
Collins noted that Caraway has been committing violent crimes since he was 13 years old — including shooting a man to death in Levittown in 1993. Collins said that although Caraway suffers from a severe mental illness, that is no excuse for stabbing Suffolk Police Officer Michael Cummings twice in the face.
“A civilized society needs to protect its protectors, and when they are attacked, the response must be swift and complete,” Collins said.
Caraway, now heavily medicated with antipsychotic drugs, apologized from his wheelchair. He was shot in the abdomen during the attack.
“I apologize to the officer,” Caraway said. “I didn’t know what happened. I heard voices in my head. The voices kept saying that somebody was going to kill me. That’s why I barricaded myself in the room.”
Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said the seeds of the attack were planted on July 27, 2016, when Caraway had an altercation with his girlfriend and smashed her television. Then on Aug. 8, while at a homeless shelter, he pulled a knife on a worker there, Newcombe said.
Two days later, Caraway threatened to burn down his parents’ home and smash all their mirrors, Newcombe said. They had him committed to Stony Brook University Hospital’s psychiatric ward, but he was discharged and then barricaded himself in the bedroom of a friend’s apartment, she said. That’s when Cummings and other Suffolk police Emergency Services Unit officers arrived.
Newcombe said that for his entire life, whenever Caraway didn’t want to do something, he reacted with violence. Officers likely were going to commit him to a psychiatric ward again, so he lashed out, she said.
“The defendant was fully aware of what he was doing and fully aware it was wrong,” Newcombe said.
Defense attorney Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge and Caraway’s family said they were glad that Cummings has recovered and returned to work.
Cummings attended the sentencing but did not speak.
Outside court, Gioe said his client “lacked substantial capacity to know right from wrong.”
Gioe objected to Collins imposing the 10-year sentence for attempted assault consecutively to the charge concerning Cummings. Normally, sentences for crimes that happened in a single incident must be imposed concurrently, but Collins agreed with Newcombe that these were distinct acts and he could therefore impose consecutive sentences.
Afterward, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini and Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart praised the sentence.
“This is the right result,” Sini said. He and Hart said law enforcement will always protect its own while protecting society.
Among those in the courtroom was Suffolk Police Officer Mark Collins, who was shot in the neck in 2015. His attacker, Sheldon Leftenant of Huntington Station, also was convicted before Justice Collins (no relation) and is serving 55 years to life in prison.
“I was happy to be here in support of another officer,” said Collins, who also serves in the Emergency Services Unit.