Clinton Township man receives probation in manslaughter case

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 23, 2015

 Matthew Magdowski looks over at family and friends while reading a prepared statement prior to his sentencing Oct. 22 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Matthew Magdowski looks over at family and friends while reading a prepared statement prior to his sentencing Oct. 22 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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MACOMB COUNTY — A Clinton Township man was crying tears of joy when he heard his sentence Oct. 22 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Surrounded by family and friends, 32-year-old Matthew Magdowski was sentenced by Judge Diane Druzinki to a mandatory two-year sentence for possessing a firearm during a felony involving the death of his friend, 33-year-old Joseph Saroli.

However, in what both the prosecution and the defense deemed was quite unusual, Magdowski only received three years’ probation for a manslaughter charge that was punishable by up to 15 years.

He was credited with 283 days served, and he must pay more than $700 in court fees. Druzinski said Magdowski will also have to adhere to drug and alcohol testing and complete 200 hours of community service.

Prior to his sentencing, Magdowski addressed friends and family present in the courtroom, including the family of Saroli.

In a prepared and emotional statement, Magdowski said he has had nine months in jail to think about how Saroli died and how there is no way to pay back the remorse felt by all who loved him.

He admitted that it was his fault that Saroli is no longer alive, and he apologized to his family — including his fiancee and son, Hunter — for not being around to be the father and person he should be.

As several present shed tears, Magdowski also apologized to Saroli’s family for the loss they will forever have to endure.

“I think Joe was too young to die,” Magdowski said. “He was so cool, so charismatic, everybody liked him. I often wonder why it wasn’t me.”

When Magdowski was first questioned by police while Saroli was in the hospital, he was told that his friend was in stable condition. He said that relaxed him.

“I remember I laughed to myself, thinking he would say something stupid like, ‘Hey, remember when you shot me? Well, you’re going to buy me lunch forever,’” Magdowski said. “That’s the kind of guy that he was. He was my best friend. I looked up to him and I miss him every day.”

Following Magdowski’s statement was the reading of a letter written by Saroli’s mother, which listed reasons why Magdowski did not deserve a harsh sentence.

The letter stated that the Saroli family saw how broken Magdowski was following the incident, which indicated to them how much he cared. As hundreds of friends and family members walked through the funeral home where Saroli’s body laid, the family never thought that more time spent in jail was the right course of action.

Noted in the letter was how Magdowski showed remorse and accepted the consequences of his actions right after the incident occurred.

Druzinki admitted, “I’ve never heard anything like it,” after the reading of the family’s letter.

Stephen Rabaut, who was Magdowski’s defense attorney, said he’s never seen a sentence of that nature for manslaughter. He thinks Druzinski was really moved by the family’s letter.

“When you have the victim’s family saying we aren’t looking for you to do any more jail time, that’s going to have to a significant impact on a judge,” Rabaut said. “The judge’s role is also to protect society, but I don’t think she looks at Matthew as a threat to society because this was purely an accidental circumstance.

“I think she saw it that way, and I think (Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Steve) Fox saw it that way.”

Rabaut said many clients say they are apologetic in certain cases, though their levels of remorse are not as authentic in some regards. But in the case of Magdowski, people have spoken and written highly of him all along, and the grief is not fabricated.

“(Magdowski’s) been remorseful from the day I met him,” Rabaut said. “Completely remorseful, and it’s true remorse.”

He added that Magdowski’s family was “elated” at the judge’s decision.

The original incident occurred Jan. 12 in Fraser, in the 18000 block of Woodbine.

Officers from the Fraser Department of Public Safety arrived to find Saroli, of Macomb Township, lying on the floor of the residence with a gunshot wound. Saroli died one day later.

According to reports, Magdowski and Saroli had been drinking alcohol at a local establishment prior to stopping by the home of a friend of Saroli’s. At one point Saroli found a firearm in a kitchen drawer, pointed it at Magdowski, racked it and ejected two live rounds. Magdowski then grabbed the gun, pointed it at Saroli and shot him.

Magdowski, who will serve the rest of his sentence in the Macomb County Jail, was originally charged with second degree murder and felony firearm, but those charges were reduced by visiting Judge Theodore Metry in 39th District Court on Feb. 18.

The Rahim Lockridge case, which refers to a 2011 case in which Lockridge was charged with first-degree murder but later found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, may have possibly impacted this case’s sentencing. As a result, in July, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that judges should not always adhere to state sentencing guidelines as a means of judicial prudence and responsibility.

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