A father who ordered his children to “buckle up” before mowing down their mother in his car shocked the courtroom at his sentencing Friday when he forgave his wife – for not having her enough honored.
Stephen Giraldo, 36, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder of his estranged wife Sophia Giraldo, 41, whom he addressed in court when she was not present after suffered “severe neurological damage” during his December 27 attack.
“Sophia, I forgive you for not respecting me as your pre-designated husband, I forgive you for not honoring me as a good and loving father,” he told a stunned Queens court.
Her victim’s family reacted with outrage to the rant, with Sophia’s father, Pastor John Brooks, telling the New York Post those close to him were “dismayed” by these comments.
Stephen Giraldo, 36, was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for the attempted murder of his ex-wife Sophia Giraldo, 41.
He shocked the courtroom by addressing his victim in his remarks, saying: “Sophia, I forgive you for not respecting me as your pre-designated husband, I forgive you for not respecting me honor as a good and loving father.”
Sophia Giraldo’s family said they were “appalled” by her ex-husband’s statement in court, but said it was “a hallmark of who he was”.
Giraldo was branded “manipulative, deceitful, self-centered” by Brooks, with his savage attack shocking the nation two days after Christmas last year.
The former MTA bus driver, who pleaded guilty in September, intentionally mowed down Sophia and their children in his Ford Explorer.
After the cold-blooded attack, Giraldo then leaned over one of his children and got out of the car to repeatedly stab his estranged wife with a knife, prosecutors said.
Sophia broadcast a podcast called “Unfiltered and Free” – describing herself as a “survivor of betrayal, trauma and abuse” – and spoke about her “toxic” marriage before the tragedy, a facet some have speculated was a motive for the horrific attack.
Giraldo was never allowed to contact Sophia and their children again during his sentencing, but he took the opportunity to speak to her before the prison sentence was handed down.
After heartbreaking statements were read by Sophia’s family, he first appeared to pay a touching tribute to her, saying: “To Sophia, I never thought this would be our new normal.
Sophia hosted a podcast called “Unfiltered and Free” – describing herself as a “survivor of betrayal, trauma and abuse” – and spoke about her “toxic” marriage.
“Please forgive me for this indescribable, unfathomable and unimaginable harm that I have inflicted on you.
“The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you in any way. I will always love you, you will always have a special place in my heart and I pray for your recovery.
But Giraldo then quickly changed his tune, telling the court he had “forgiven” the mother of three.
In a bizarre exchange, he also began providing “helpful suggestions” on topics his children’s new guardian should talk to them about over dinner, which the judge quickly interrupted.
“We are not going to make topics at the table. We don’t do that,” Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Yavinsky said.
Giraldo asked for forgiveness for himself before trying to “recommend two books”, which was again rejected by Yavinsky who told him: “We don’t need book recommendations”.
The 36-year-old’s insistence on presenting recommendations at the hearing was criticized by Sophia’s father, who said afterwards: “(Telling) his wife, ‘I forgive you,’ and then having all a list of… that’s characteristic of who he was.
Giraldo’s remarks he forgave Sophia “did not honor me as a good and loving father”, those close to him condemned his remarks and said he was “manipulative, deceitful, self-centered”
Giraldo hit Sophia with the car before ramming her into her home. He then “climbed on top of her son” to continue his frenzied attack, stabbing her three times with a knife.
Footage of the horrific incident shows Giraldo, a former MTA bus driver, waiting outside the building where his wife lived, with his headlights on before the Dec. 27 horror.
Footage of the horrific attack that landed Giraldo behind bars was captured on surveillance cameras, starting with the bus driver waiting outside his home in Flushing, Queens, with his headlights on.
Around 5:15 a.m., Sophia left her house and walked towards the SUV in which he was waiting for her.
With his children in the back seat, he told them to “keep their seat belts on” before speeding toward his wife.
He rushed towards her, then around the side of the property before crawling through the passenger side window and stabbing her three times with a knife.
According to prosecutors, Giraldo “crawled on top of his son” so he could continue his savage crime.
Although she survived the violent attack, Sophia suffered severe neurological damage, broken legs and a stab wound that pierced her liver.
The children were not injured in the crash and Brooks said during Friday’s hearing that they were doing “much better.”
In a statement after the sentencing, Prosecutor Katz called the crime “one of the most brutal cases we have prosecuted.”
“Telling your children to ‘buckle up’, deliberately hitting their mother, and then climbing on top of your son to continue your knife attack is unconscionable.
“By holding the accused accountable and securing a lengthy prison sentence, we hope to have achieved some measure of justice on behalf of the victim and her loved ones.”
The couple shared three children together, but Sophia filed for divorce in August 2022 and repeatedly spoke about their “toxic” marriage on her podcast.
Sophia also said the situation was “really out of control” before adding “something needs to change.”
Some linked the attack to Sophia’s podcast, as she had spoken out against her ex-husband days before and called their marriage “toxic.”
She had openly discussed the breakdown of their marriage and filed for divorce in August, months before the incident, and also ran a life coaching business for women.
His wife said she knew firsthand that she was “navigating a life upended by a toxic relationship” during a Dec. 12 episode.
She also explained why she decided to end her marriage, saying, “I was trying to figure out whether or not I was going to leave my marriage. I spent a lot of time in the middle of a lot of emotional turmoil, a lot of toxicity, a lot of abuse.
“It was almost like my brain was saying, ‘You have this, you have this, you have this.’ And I had it.
She called their relationship “really out of control” and said “something has to change,” speaking just days before Giraldo struck.