An upstate woman who was 20 years old when she helped her abusive husband commit a fatal kidnapping has had her murder sentence commuted by Gov. Cuomo on Friday.
Monica Szlekovics, now 43, was not slated to even see a parole board until 2046 for the 1996 Rochester crime in which she and her physically and mentally abusive husband had been convicted.
Currently at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County, she was one of 11 people Cuomo pardoned or granted clemency to on Friday.
Szlekovics has maintained that it was her husband who committed the crime and Cuomo’s office pointed to her traumatic background and good behavior while incarcerated as justification that her sentence be dropped.
“In New York, we believe in equal opportunity for all, and these actions will give this group of deserving New Yorkers who have proven their remorse and undergone successful rehabilitation a second chance,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“By giving these individuals a second chance … we are taking another step toward a more fair and a more compassionate New York.”
Szlekovics was physically abused by a number of men in her life, “including extreme, ongoing physical and psychological abuse from her husband,” according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.
Cuomo’s office said Szlekovics suffered from post-traumatic stress and trauma bonding when she helped her husband, Angel Luis Mateo, kidnap and kill Juan Rodriguez-Matos, a mentally ill handicapped man from Rochester.
The couple drank beer and smoked pot together as their victim suffocated with a plastic bag over his head, prosecutors had said at the time, in what was the first death-penalty trial in Monroe County in more than four decades.
While serving her sentence, Szlekovics completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology, worked as an administrator for the college program and volunteered in the parenting center, according to Cuomo’s office.
Former Monroe Country District Attorney Mike Green, who was DA at the time of Ms. Szlekovics’ crimes, supports the commutation of her sentence, according to Cuomo.
Szlekovics aspires to work for an organization involved in restorative justice to help domestic violence victims and former inmates.