Man rejects 35-year prison sentence in fatal Preston shooting
Francis L. Giannelli, a 28-year-old Glastonbury man charged with shooting into a car and murdering a Preston man in 2019, has opted to face a jury of his peers.
Giannelli, cuffed and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit during a brief appearance in New London Superior Court on Tuesday, rejected an offer to serve 35 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. State’s Attorney Paul Narducci announced the offer in court.
“Yes, I understand,” Giannelli said after Judge Hillary Strackbein explained that, if convicted at trial, he faced between 26 and 65 years in prison.
Giannelli is charged in the Oct. 26, 2019 shooting death of 35-year-old Robert Thompson of Preston. Thompson was a union carpenter and bodybuilder who had exchanged words with Giannelli at Mohegan Sun Casino on the night of the shooting.
Both were passengers in vehicles that were stopped at a red light at the intersection of routes 12 and 2A in Preston at about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2019, when the shooting occurred. Thompson was shot in the side of the head. The driver of the pickup, who was not identified by police, was pulled over by a Ledyard Police officer on Route 12 several minutes after the shooting. The driver explained his “buddy” had been shot and the officer escorted the pickup to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital where Thompson died.
Giannelli turned himself into state police on Oct. 29, 2019, three days after the shooting. Police said Giannelli, in a signed statement, admitted firing six shots from a vehicle driven by a friend but claims he fired in self defense. Giannelli claims the unidentified driver of a pickup truck in which Thompson was a passenger pulled up to the right of the vehicle he was in and he saw the driver make a move as if he was reaching for a gun.
“Giannelli states that he didn’t wait to see what he was reaching for, and shot first,” the arrest warrant affidavit states. “He shot six times, emptying his gun but did it in self defense.”
Police said Giannelli used a .380 semi-automatic pistol in the shooting. He did not have pistol permit and the gun was not registered to him.
Police said Giannelli admitted he did not see the driver display a gun “and stated he probably shouldn’t have shot at him, but did in self defense.”
Giannelli and Thompson had crossed paths earlier that night in a comedy club where Giannelli told police he thought Thompson was taking picture of him with a cell phone. He told police he gave Thompson a look and may have said something. The two met again, first in a side foyer of the casino where the two exchanged words and were asked to leave by casino security. The men met again in the casino’s parking garage where Giannelli told police Thompson and the other man he was with made a “gun gesture” with their fingers before leaving.
Giannelli is charged with murder, criminal use of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit. He faces up to 60 years, and a mandatory minimum of 25 years, if convicted of murder. A conviction for carrying a pistol comes with a minimum of one year in prison and up to five years.
A trial date has not yet been set. Giannelli has been held in prison on a $1 million bond, since his Oct. 30, 2019 arrest. The drivers of the two vehicles were not charged in connection with the shooting.