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A hit man’s last job? Killer tells judge he’s a changed man

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — An aging hit man who recently pleaded guilty to the contract killing of a political consultant in New Jersey says he’s finally through living a life of crime.

George Bratsenis, 73, was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday for a Connecticut bank robbery. He told the judge a recent cancer diagnosis changed his outlook on life.

“I’m not the same man I was 91 months ago,” Bratsenis said, referring to his last, violent year out of prison, eight years ago. “I turned my life around because I had a rude awakening with this cancer and the fact that I’m getting older and my body is deteriorating in a couple different ways.”

“I had to, like, put my life on the firing line, indirectly, with the things that I have done,” he added.

The sentencing in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, came less than two weeks after Bratsenis pleaded guilty to accepting thousands of dollars to kill New Jersey political consultant Michael Galdieri, who was stabbed to death in his Jersey City apartment in 2014.

The killing was arranged and paid for by another political consultant, Sean Caddle, who has also pleaded guilty. Bratsenis’ partner in the bank robbery, Bomani Africa, has also pleaded guilty in Galdieri’s death.

Even with the guilty pleas, the slaying remains cloaked in mystery. Federal prosecutors in New Jersey have barely said anything publicly about the case, or explained why Caddle wanted Galdieri — once a close friend — dead.

Lawyers for Bratsenis and Africa aren’t talking, either.

Most puzzling of all, Caddle — the supposed mastermind of the plot — was released to house arrest after his guilty plea, something highly unusual in a murder conspiracy case.

Bratsenis, however, remains behind bars. He already has been detained for nearly eight years on the robbery charges, so the sentence essentially amounted to time served. He now heads back to detention to await sentencing in the New Jersey case.

The Stamford, Connecticut, native wore a tan prison uniform with a white, long-sleeve undershirt, black sneakers and thick glasses as he told U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer that he was a different person than he was at the time of the robbery because of his illness.

The type of cancer he has was not disclosed. He was diagnosed with it in 2016.

He ended his short speech by thanking everyone who helped with his case and added “Have a nice day,” similar to what he said when he pleaded guilty in New Jersey on March 24.

Meyer responded by saying he wished Bratsenis had decided years earlier to turn his life around.

“You’ve had a life that’s been marred by many criminal convictions,” the judge said.

Both Meyer and prosecutor Rahul Kale called the robberies very serious crimes that terrorized the victims.

Bratsenis and Africa robbed nearly $30,000 from a bank in Trumbull in September 2014, using a getaway car that they carjacked from a woman the day before, prosecutors said. They later burned the vehicle. Africa also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

The robbery was just Bratsenis’ last job in a long career of crime.

In the summer of 1980, according to Connecticut authorities, Bratsenis conspired with a former Stamford police lieutenant and two other men to murder a reputed drug courier, David Avnayim, whose body was found in the trunk of a car.

Bratsenis eventually pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy.

By the time he was charged with that murder, Bratsenis was already behind bars, the result of a conviction for robbing a jewelry store in Little Falls, New Jersey, in 1983. While jailed in New Jersey, Bratsenis hatched an escape plan, but it was foiled.

Prosecutors say Bratsenis befriended Africa, a Philadelphian, while the two were in prison together and the two began planning to rob banks when they were paroled.

Bratsenis is being held at a federal detention center in New York City. He declined to comment Tuesday while leaving the New Haven courtroom.

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