Westminster man who shot his brother pleads guilty to assault, receives probation

The Westminster man who shot his brother in the abdomen during an altercation in December pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and received a three-year suspended sentence and two years of probation Wednesday.

Reno Louis Valianti, 38, of the 600 block of Sullivan Road, pleaded not guilty with an agreed statement of facts - tantamount to a guilty plea - to second-degree assault as a part of a three-party plea agreement between the state, defense and judge.

Valianti was charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder among other charges for shooting his brother, Michael Valianti, in what he claimed was self defense. The state dropped the remaining charges as a part of the agreement.

"We think it's fair. It's just," defense attorney Joshua Insley said.

According to Senior Assistant State's Attorney Adam Wells, Valianti's brother and his mother did not want the case against Valianti to proceed.

"This was a very difficult, tragic case," he said.

Michael Valianti was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center Dec. 12 after the incident and released within 36 hours with minor injuries, according to the statement of facts read into the record by Wells.

According to Wells, police responded to the home where Reno Valianti and Michael Valianti lived with their mother, Rebecca Valianti, for a reported shooting. When they arrived, they set up a perimeter and Rebecca Valianti exited the home followed by her sons, with Reno Valianti assisting Michael Valianti, who appeared to have a bullet wound.

Reno Valianti cooperated with law enforcement and told police that he had shot his brother, where the gun was located and that it was stored with the registration to assist them, Wells said. Michael Valianti refused to cooperate with police and would not give a statement once he was stable at shock trauma.

Reno Valianti waived his Fifth Amendment and Miranda rights to remain silent, to not incriminate himself and to have an attorney present in his interview with the police, according to the statement of facts.

He appeared remorseful when speaking with police and repeatedly asked about his brother's condition.

According to Wells, Reno Valianti told police that he woke up to a fight between his mother and brother.

He said he was afraid because his brother had a history of violence in confrontations with family. The fight died down and Reno Valianti went back to his room.

Reno Valianti later heard the fight escalate again and grabbed his gun before going to investigate, according to the statement of facts. Reno Valianti told police that he suffers from myositis, a condition that causes muscle weakness and would potentially affect his ability to defend himself.

Reno Valianti told police that he found his mother and brother in the garage and that his brother appeared out of control, according to the statement of facts.

When Michael Valianti began approaching, Reno Valianti said that he displayed the weapon and told him to stop.

Due to his condition, Reno Valianti said that he was unable to retreat and shot Michael Valianti in the abdomen, according to the statement of facts.

Michael Valianti submitted a letter to the court in which he assumed the blame for the events that occurred.

"I hold myself fully responsible for instigating this unfortunate incident," he wrote.

Michael Valianti was allegedly high on a synthetic cocaine-like compound often called "bath salts" at the time of the incident and did not want his brother to go to prison, according to Wells.

Reno Valianti told Judge J. Barry Hughes: "I'm sorry. I wish it never would have happened."

Hughes recognized that Reno Valianti was cooperative with police, never hid or misstated his actions and acted reasonably, "apart from the bad judgment of bringing a gun into this volatile situation."

Wells said a shooting of an unarmed victim initially appears to be attempted murder.

However, as the facts emerged, he said that it became clear that this was a case of "imperfect self defense," which is an honest but unreasonable belief that the defendant was facing serious bodily harm or death.

Insley said he respected that the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office took the shooting seriously but chose to exercise its discretion and not "over-prosecute" when the case did not call for it.

"We all got the conclusion that we wanted to get to," Insley said.

Wells said, "In the interest of justice, this was the equitable solution for all involved."

Along with the suspended sentence and probation, Hughes ordered that Reno Valianti forfeit the weapon he used in the incident and that he have no adverse contact with the victim.

Insley said he will file a motion for modification that the court will hold pending resolution of Reno Valianti's period of probation.

If he completes probation without incident, Insley said he will seek to have the sentence modified to a probation before judgment so that the conviction is removed from Reno Valianti's record.