BRENTWOOD, N.H. - A sniffling, red-faced William Flynn begged forgiveness yesterday for killing Pamela Smart's husband.
The sentence-reduction hearing capped a surprising chapter in New Hampshire's most notorious murder.
Bill Smart accepted the apology from his son's killer and wished him well. But he isn't ready to see Flynn leave prison yet. Flynn, 33, is serving a 28-year-to-life sentence.
"I surely feel very, very good about your apology, and I hope it helps you," Smart said before a packed courtroom in Rockingham County Superior Court. "But 17 years is not going to be enough."
Flynn was 16 when he sneaked into Gregory Smart's Derry condominium May 1, 1990, and shot him in the head while Flynn's friend, Patrick Randall, held a knife to Smart's throat. The execution was orchestrated by Pamela Smart.
Smart and Flynn became lovers when he was a 15-year-old student at Winnacunnet High School, where she worked as a media coordinator. She was 23. Gregory Smart was 24 when he was killed.
Two boys who waited in the getaway car - Vance Lattime and Raymond Fowler - won early releases from state prison in recent years by petitioning a judge.
If Flynn gets out, it could pave the way for Randall to make a similar request.
Flynn said it has taken him years to understand why he went through with the murder. He said he had placed little value on his own life at the time. His father was dead, and his bad behavior often went unchecked by his mother.
Pamela Smart was the first to give him the attention he craved, Flynn said yesterday.
"She was an adult I thought cared about me and nurtured me. I never felt important before," he said. "She was attractive. All the guys were attracted to her at school and, out of everybody, she liked me. She came into my life at a time when I was most vulnerable and filled me with these doubts."
Flynn pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1991 as part of a plea deal, which required him to be a star witness against Smart. She is serving a life sentence for her husband's murder.
Judge Kenneth McHugh said he needs time to consider what the Smart family said about Flynn's request.
"Whatever I decide, I hope you don't look at it as there's winners and losers," McHugh said. "For everybody who is involved, everybody loses."
But prosecutors argue Flynn has already received two breaks from the state. He was first charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence with no chance of parole. After the plea deal, his minimum sentence was reduced from 40 to 28 years.
If he were released early, he would remain on parole for the rest of his life.
Flynn said he thinks about Gregory Smart every day, "and what I'm going to do for the people I hurt."
"I'm terribly and deeply ashamed," Flynn said.
Inmates now are required to serve two-thirds of a sentence before applying for a reduction, but Flynn was sentenced before that law changed.
"Could 17 years be justice for the 50-plus years stolen from Gregory Smart?" Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell asked.
Emotions ran high through the hour-and-a-half hearing.
When a moustached Flynn stepped from a side door in Courtroom Two, he was met by a gasp from Gregory Smart's family. Flynn, red faced, his eyes brimming with tears, turned to the packed courtroom gallery to speak to Smart's family.
While Bill Smart was somewhat conciliatory toward Flynn, his other son, Dean, was outraged that Flynn would ask for a lesser sentence. Dean Smart said Flynn's plea for freedom was selfish.
"You said you don't want to be remembered for this, but you are going to be remembered for it," Dean Smart said. "I'm going to make sure of it."
Flynn's lawyer, Cathy Green, portrayed her client as a man who has undergone a near-miraculous transformation during the last 17 years in a Maine state prison. Flynn has volunteered and led numerous organizations. He obtained his GED and trained as an electrician. He married a woman who first came to prison on a public tour.
Smarts still suffer
Bill Smart said his family still suffers from how Flynn murdered Gregory Smart.
"He was grabbed by the back of the head, a knife stuck to his throat, and he was shot execution style through a pillow to muffle the sound," Bill Smart said. "He was rookie of the year in the insurance business for all of New England. Today, he'd probably be a CEO at some company."
Bill Smart said he regularly visits his son's grave. He speaks to him regularly and said he would have been 42 this year.
Smart said he would like to hear from Flynn when he turns 40. But it doesn't mean he'd support an early release then.
"I will fight you with my last breath and last heartbeat," he said. "I am not a well man, but I will go to every parole hearing, every court hearing ..."
Bill Smart held up his hand, showing the wedding band that once belonged to his son. It's the ring Gregory Smart begged Flynn not to steal moments before Flynn pulled the trigger.
"He said, 'Please don't take this from me. My wife will kill me. Little did he know she planned it,'" Bill Smart said.
McHugh did not say when he will reach a decision. Morrell said one may come in the next two to three weeks.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT FLYNN'S BID FOR EARLY RELEASE
* Lawyer Paul Maggiotto, who prosecuted Pamela Smart, testified yesterday he told Flynn's lawyers years ago that their client would be eligible to petition the court for a sentence reduction. Maggiotto said he was rebuffing requests by Flynn's lawyers for a lesser sentence.
"I kind of knew this day would come," Maggiotto said. "I feel the pain of the Smart family. I was fairly close to Bill Smart at the time, but you have to recognize what Billy Flynn has done.
"As a prosecutor, you're always looking for a cooperating defendant to minimize their role or B.S. you," Maggiotto said. "Bill came across as a serious person. It's hard to believe, but he was a gentle soul. ... In some ways, he was very mature for his age. The other part believed he could have a relationship with Pamela Smart and this had to be done."
* Bill Smart said the scores of letters Flynn's lawyers are using to say Flynn is rehabilitated mean nothing to him.
"I do not care about anyone's opinion, unless they've lost a child like I have," Smart said. "As far as your cooperation, I believe they had all the evidence they needed anyway - they had the gun, they had the wiretapping."
* Flynn's lawyer, Cathy Green, argued his client was an "emotional orphan" at age 15.
"He was 16 when he went to jail and spent 171/2 years in prison," she said. "He has spent half of his life in prison. He has spent more time there than he had been alive (when he entered prison). He will continue to be punished for this for the rest of his life."