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Woman who hired hitman sentenced.

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Papagni told a judge on Wednesday that he firmly believes a Florence-area woman who tried to have her ex-husband killed in a murder-for-hire plot deserves a lengthy prison sentence.

But not one that's as long as the sentence that the woman's children asked the judge to impose.

"They want the max, and the government says, 'No,' " Papagni said during Pamela Jean Gygi's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

After considering a number of factors - and hearing Gygi, 58, apologize and acknowledge needing psychological help - District Judge Ann Aiken sentenced the Westlake resident to 10 years in federal prison.

"I'm so, so sorry that I did this," Gygi said. "I've never been more sorry about anything in my life."

Gygi's public defender sought a five-year sentence for his client, while Papagni recommended she be imprisoned for 12 years.

Gygi faced a maximum sentence of 15 years. Four of her children, all of them adults, wrote letters to the judge expressing fear and disgust toward their mother's actions. One of them begged Aiken to impose the maximum prison term against Gygi, while another wrote of fearing being put in "extreme danger" if she's ever released from prison.

Gygi pleaded guilty in January to charges of using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime.

Gygi obtained a gun and paid a parolee to kill her ex-husband in 2015. The couple had divorced in late 2014.

Aiken, who worked extensively in family law before becoming a judge, told Gygi that while she understands that divorce can be very difficult, it's no excuse for hiring a hitman to kill a former spouse.

"That's still the father of your children," Aiken told Gygi. "Nobody has the right to do that."

As part of a divorce decree, Gygi's former spouse - a Utah resident who attended Wednesday's sentencing hearing but declined to offer any statement - was required to purchase a $150,000 life insurance policy that named Gygi as the sole beneficiary.

Papagni said access to the policy was Gygi's "primary motive" for her crimes, but that she also acted out of "greed, and anger, and hatred."

Authorities first learned of the murder-for-hire plot when Gygi's ex-husband reported to police in Utah that he'd been warned of the plan by a man who visited him to say that he had been paid by Gygi to carry out the killing.

The parolee - who was not charged and is identified only by the initials "KS" in court documents - subsequently told an FBI agent that Gygi had promised him a home, a car and the ex-husband's online business in exchange for his cooperation in the scheme. The would-be hitman also told the agent that he had no intention of actually killing Gygi's former spouse.

The parolee subsequently had several audiorecorded meetings with Gygi on her property in Westlake, south of Florence, authorities said.

Gygi was arrested in July 2015 after she gave the parolee an undisclosed amount of cash, a 9mm pistol, ammunition and a car during a meeting in Springfield.

Papagni on Wednesday called the parolee "a despicable person" but said it was Gygi who "relentlessly planned" to have her ex-husband killed.

Nonetheless, the prosecutor said that despite a number of aggravating factors, Gygi shouldn't get the maximum sentence in her case, primarily because she had no prior criminal history.

Gygi's public defender, Bryan Lessley, said he believes that his client is unlikely to commit crimes in the future. He also said that Gygi's children should not feel threatened by their mother.

"She may have done things to make them hate her forever, but she's never done anything to put them in fear," Lessley told Aiken.

Gygi spoke after Lessley addressed the judge. She said that she felt her "world tipped on its axis, and I was falling off" following her divorce from a man to whom she had been married 37 years. Gygi added that she is serious about receiving mental health treatment. "I need to change, and I will," she promised Aiken.

Before announcing her sentencing decision, Aiken commented that it seems increasingly common for people to unreasonably resort to violence while going through breakups.

"We have to give a strong message that we're not going to use weapons to solve domestic disputes," Aiken said. She called Gygi's "a very complex case" that is "emblematic of what we're seeing in society."

Follow Jack on Twitter @JackMoranRG. Email
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Title Annotation:Federal Court; Pamela Gygi of Westlake is given 10 years in prison for plotting to have her ex-husband murdered
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 4, 2017
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