A jury was selected Thursday to hear the case against a former Suffolk County police sergeant accused of stealing money from Hispanic drivers he had targeted.
A man with a Hispanic surname became the 12th juror after Judge Fernando Camacho ruled in County Court in Central Islip that the defense had improperly tried to keep him off the panel because of his ethnicity.
Defense attorney Scott Gross, representing former Sgt. Scott Greene, 52, argued he had used his peremptory challenge against the man because of his youth and his “demeanor” in answering questions.
Camacho said the man appeared to be in his 20s, and age could not be used as a reason unless it was pertinent to the facts of the case. “This case has nothing to do with age,” the judge said.
The judge said the potential juror had answered questions from the defense and prosecution directly. “He looked everyone in the eye. . . . He was not vague about his answers,” the judge said.
The judge noted that of the 40 or so potential jurors first questioned by the defense and prosecution, only a few had Hispanic surnames.
One was excused by the judge and the defense used peremptory challenges to remove two more and attempted to remove the fourth, the judge said.
The 12th juror seated was the only one with a Hispanic surname. Four alternates also were seated.
The judge then dismissed the panel and told them to return Jan. 5 to hear opening statements and the start of testimony.
He said the trial could last up to three weeks, but could finish in as few as two weeks. He said he did not want to start the trial and have it interrupted by Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when courts are closed.
Greene retired after his arrest last year on charges of stealing money from Hispanic motorists in the Coram area.
The jury must decide 21 counts against Greene, including grand larceny as a hate crime and official misconduct.
He faces a sentence of up to 11 to 32 years in prison if convicted.
With Víctor Manuel Ramos