WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A former medical researcher has been sentenced to 28 years behind bars for shooting the dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit sentenced Dr. Hengjun Chao to 23 years for attempted murder followed by five years for criminal use of a firearm in the August 2016 shooting outside Lange’s Deli in Chappaqua.
The victim, Dr. Dennis Charney, spoke at the hearing, choking back tears as his family cried in the first row, CBS2’s Marc Liverman reported.
Dr. Charney spoke about how much pain the shooting put on both him and the family. He told the judge, “My daughter had to tell my 5-year-old grandchild that someone tried to kill her grandfather.”
Shotgun pellets still inside his body, Dr. Charney recounted the moment he was shot.
“Imagine the fear my children experienced when they received panicked phone calls from my wife with the shocking news that their father had been shot,” Charney said. “No one knew if I was going to live or die.”
Dr. Chao spent most of the hearing staring down at the floor. He told the judge that this was a horrible act gone horribly wrong and that he’s never been a hateful person.
“I respectfully and sincerely apologize to all the residents of Chappaqua, the workers and the customers of the Lange’s Deli,” Chao said. “I also apologize to Dr. Charney and his family for his unfortunate injury. I also apologize to my wife and my family.”
In the end, the judge told Dr. Chao that he had a diabolical, irrational ability to take responsibility for his actions saying he ambushed Dr. Charney when he was most vulnerable.
Westchester County prosecutors said Chao drove a red Toyota from his home in Tuckahoe to ambush Charney as the doctor picked up his usual buttered bagel and iced coffee at the deli, leaving the front door full of holes.
Prosecutors said the motive was revenge for Charney firing Chao in 2010 over misuse of research data.
In the trial, Chao argued that he didn’t shoot at Dr. Charney outside the deli to kill him but to shed light on what he believed was medical misconduct and fabrication of research by Dr. Charney.
Chao’s lawyer told CBS2 moments after the hearing that he planned to mount a “vigorous appeal.”