BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The harassment case against a Lovejoy man whose son was killed in a house fire on Benzinger Street last week took another step forward Tuesday morning.
When Joseph Conti appeared in Buffalo City Courtroom, his attorney urged the judge to dismiss the 2nd degree harassment charge he’s facing, stemming from an incident New Year’s Eve.
Conti’s attorney argues the incident, during which Conti is accused of spitting on his wife in an argument that took place during the evening and into the following morning, does not rise to the legal criteria for the charge.
Judge JaHarr Pridgen said she’ll reserve judgement on that until Conti’s next court appearance on March 5.
In the meantime, she fully reinstated the order of protection barring Conti from contacting his wife, or coming within 100 feet of her, her work, or their home.
The order of protection had been temporarily lifted over the weekend to allow Joseph Conti to attend the wake and funeral for his son, Anthony, who died in the fire.
Joseph Conti was not legally allowed to be at his family’s Benzinger Street home at the time of the fire.
Sources close to the investigation say Joseph Conti may have accidentally started the fire when he lit a cigarette with a small blow torch early in the morning of January 29.
Joseph Conti, his wife, Lisa, and six of their children were able to make it safely out of the home. 7-year-old Anthony did not make it out.
He was found near his bedroom and was taken to Oishei Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Sources tell News 4 the surviving children have been staying with a foster family since then.
Joseph Conti, sitting separately from his family in Judge Pridgen’s courtroom Tuesday morning, held a heart-shaped photo of Anthony in his hands while he waited for his turn in front of the judge.
He declined to speak when asked for comment Tuesday, as did his attorney.
Conti is next due in Buffalo City Court on March 5 at 9:30 a.m.
There are also on-going proceedings in Family Court to allow Conti to see his children while the harassment case continues to unfold.