Court upholds murder conviction

Man shot and killed his brother in 2016

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/26/22

HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County District Attorney A.G. Howell recently announced that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld the murder conviction of Antonio Cilino, then 30, of Hawley for …

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Court upholds murder conviction

Man shot and killed his brother in 2016

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HONESDALE, PA — Wayne County District Attorney A.G. Howell recently announced that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has upheld the murder conviction of Antonio Cilino, then 30, of Hawley for a 2016 shooting that resulted in the death of his brother, Honesdale resident Joseph Cilino, 40.

A jury in 2018 found Cilino guilty of third-degree murder, simple assault and two counts of reckless endangerment. The Wayne County Court of Common Pleas sentenced him to between 16 and 34 years at a state correctional facility. Cilino appealed the decision, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, meaning that his attorney represented him so poorly that it deprived him of his constitutional rights. The higher court, however, has now rejected this claim.

“When a higher court upholds a conviction and sentence, it is an affirmation of the integrity of that conviction and trust in our judicial system,” Howell said.

The case

According to court documents, Antonio became romantically involved with Brooke Swingle in 2010. They had a child together, but split up in July 2016. After the breakup, she began dating Antonio’s older brother, Joseph. Throughout their relationship, Antonio made various threats against both the woman and his brother.

One witness reportedly overheard Antonio saying, “I’m going to kill her and whoever she’s with. I don’t care who it is. I have no fear.”

His ex-girlfriend obtained a protection-from-abuse order in August 2016, forbidding Antonio from having any contact with her, other than to bring him and pick up their child. Antonio was also forbidden from owning a firearm.

The next month, Antonio met his ex-girlfriend in a McDonald’s parking lot to exchange their nearly two-year-old son from his custody into hers. Court records say that he was angry during the exchange, telling her that if he couldn’t have her, then no one could.

With her son now in the car with her, Swingle left the parking lot and went to pick up Joseph, who asked to be driven to a gas station. On the way to the gas station, they realized Antonio was following them in his pickup truck. She attempted to dodge him by quickly turning onto a private driveway near Eighmy Road and turning off the headlights. Swingle stayed in the car with her son, while Joseph got out and left for the nearby woods.

Antonio soon pulled in and parked his truck behind her car. He approached the driver’s side door, trying to reach through the window while tapping the side of the car with a .22-caliber pistol. As Antonio approached the car, Joseph reappeared, at which point Antonio turned around and shot him.

As a physical altercation between the two brothers ensued, Swingle drove away with her son. She said that she later received a call from an unknown number, but recognized Antonio’s voice who asked, “How is my brother? Did I do a good job?”

Antonio, who reportedly then went to his mother’s house in Beach Lake, turned himself in to Hawley Borough Police later that night. Police discovered Joseph’s body at the end of the driveway, where the shooting took place.

Antonio later denied pulling the trigger, claiming that Joseph had wrestled him to the ground and got on top of him before he had a chance to shoot. He also claimed that the gun went off while Joseph was reaching for it. However, court records state that Joseph’s wound indicates that the bullet entered his chest at a downward angle, and that the weapon was fired at him from a distance, not in close proximity.

Given the low caliber of the weapon, it’s also plausible that Joseph would have been capable of getting into a fight with Antonio after getting shot, according to court documents.

The appeal

In reviewing Antonio’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the Superior Court noted several errors in his appeal, most notably that he failed to provide the sufficient analysis or argumentation to show prejudice.

“Based on our review of the record, we agree with the [lower court] that [Antonio] failed to demonstrate prejudice for the claims he now argues on appeal,” the court wrote. “For that reason, and because [Antonio] failed to establish that his prior counsel was ineffective, we affirm the court’s order denying relief.”

Some information for this story came from previous reporting; click here for that reporting.

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