An Alpharetta man has been convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to 15 years in prison for grabbing a 4-year-old boy at a south Forsyth book store in 2018.
A jury in the Superior Criminal Court of Forsyth County returned from deliberations early on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, announcing to the court that they found Michael Brandon Fazio, 27, guilty of kidnapping.
Fazio was arrested and charged by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 7, 2018 after he was caught on security camera footage and later identified by co-workers as the suspect that “snatched” a 4-year-old at a Barnes and Noble off Peachtree Parkway as the boy and his father shopped.
During the multi-day trial, jurors heard testimony from law enforcement officers, witnesses from the Barnes and Noble and ultimately sided with prosecutors Sandra Ann Partridge and Courtney Moore’s case that Fazio intended to kidnap the boy and did not “mistake the child for his roommate’s son” as was put forward by Fazio’s defense attorney, Michael Katz.
Shortly after the verdict, Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley imposed sentencing in the case, handing down a sentence of 15 years in prison and a life-long probation sentence for the guilty verdict.
Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said that this sentence is a legal deviation from the mandatory minimum sentencing, which for kidnapping is 25 years, but that it was a sentence that her office recommended based on the circumstances of the case.
"I think given the facts and circumstances of this case it's an entirely appropriate sentence," Penn said. "I can't compare it to other kidnapping cases we've had because fortunately we have very few, few and far between.”
Fazio will receive credit for the time that he has spent in the Forsyth County Jail, which is about a year, according to Penn.
In her closing arguments, Partridge picked apart the video footage frame by frame, walking the jurors through the state’s timeline of the incident and the different elements that constitute a kidnapping charge.
"This is a kidnapping right there," she said, pointing to a frame in the video. "It is complete. It is complete when he picks that child up and starts to head to that door."
In his opening and closing arguments, Katz said that Fazio was intoxicated during the incident and mistook the boy for his roommate’s child.
Katz also stated that this incident is a case of “overcharging” by the state, the act of charging a suspect with crimes that exceed what is justified by facts, according to the Cornell Law School legal encyclopedia.
"The only people who think this was a kidnapping are the people who weren't there,” Katz said, explaining the minutes after the incident. “But he didn't have any intent to steal that child away, he didn't have any intent to do anything. He made a big mistake.”
In her second closing argument, Partridge rebutted the idea that no one thought the incident was a kidnapping at the time, bringing up statements from a store employee and the boy’s father about how uneasy they felt after.
Partridge also attacked the explanation put forward by Katz and earlier Fazio, asking the jury if Fazio had believed the child was a roommate’s, why had he not called out to the boy and why had he rushed toward the exit.
"That's how abductors treat victims. What you have seen a video of is an abductor stealing a child," Partridge said. “There is nothing about that that remotely suggests that he was going to do anything but take that child out of that store."
Attempts to reach Katz for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.