Saturday, January 13, 2001
Burn Expert Gets Probation for Lying in Court;
Perjury Case Could Lead To
by Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
years of testifying across the country as a self-professed expert on burn
injuries, Gary S. Stocco will never again offer his opinions in a
Stocco -- the former executive director of the National Burn Victim
Foundation -- was sentenced to 10 years' probation and ordered never to testify
again after Prince William authorities uncovered a trail of fraud that they say
stretches across several states. Stocco was convicted of perjury and obtaining
money by false pretenses for trying to testify in a 1999 Prince William murder
trial, using his fake credentials in an attempt to offer expert testimony for a
Stocco was also ordered to pay almost $8,000 in restitution to Casey
Stocco, 33, of New Jersey, had tried to testify in Prince William County
that 2-year-old Sade Naomi Hatfield's scalding death was purely accidental,
an opinion that was in stark contrast to a number of legitimate medical experts.
Both of Hatfield's attackers were convicted in her death.
sentencing Thursday marked the end of the local case against a man authorities
say has been repeatedly lying about his past, and it might set the stage for a
number of other prosecutions. The New Jersey attorney general's office is
investigating Stocco and his former
Although Stocco will do no jail time for falsifying his credentials,
prosecutors said this week that they have put a stop to "a monster"
who was diligently working to subvert the criminal justice system.
"He was trying to take the truth and justice out of the
system," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Sandra Sylvester, who
initiated the push to expose Stocco. "We were so offended that this guy was
going to come in and take away the only thing we could give to Sade: the truth.
According to court documents from Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana and New
Jersey, Stocco had been playing himself off as a highly qualified expert on burn
injuries, testifying several times that he had extensive experience and
education. In some cases Stocco was hired to gain convictions and in others he
helped defendants go free.
Prince William authorities who questioned Stocco's background learned
that he did not have a college degree and had lied a number of times about his
past, including claims that he had been a "state police officer" in
New Jersey and that he investigated burn cases. Prince William detective Gary
Gardiner discovered that Stocco instead had patrolled parking lots and had no
experience with burn investigations.
"It's really dangerous what he was capable of doing," Gardiner
said after the sentencing. "I'm glad I was in a position to put a stop to
it. People need to come to court and tell the
Stocco's attorney, David Shertler, said after the hearing that his
"This was a mistake that he made in life," Shertler said.
"He was somewhat insecure about his credentials and wanted to embellish
Woodbridge lawyer Stevens, who hired Stocco in 1999 as an expert, said he
finds Stocco's actions "personally and professionally offensive."
scary thing is that it threatens our trust in the system," Stevens said.
"If people lose faith in the system, it can't work at all."