A Copiague man told a Suffolk jury Thursday that he never tried to rob a taxi driver and certainly didn't shoot the man in the head.
Barry Yorke, 20, testified at his trial before State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro in Riverhead. Yorke is charged with second-degree murder in the Dec. 12, 2010, killing of cabdriver Juan Rosario, 19, in Copiague. Yorke faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
"On Dec. 12, 2010, did you shoot anyone to death?" Yorke's attorney, Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach, asked him.
"No, sir," he replied.
The case against Yorke rests largely on the fact that his stepbrother, Randy Roland, sold the weapon used in the killing to undercover police officers months later, and on the word of three men with criminal records who testified that Yorke admitted the crime to them.
When Russo called Yorke to the witness stand, one juror shouted, "Yes!"
Yorke testified that he never saw the gun before the trial began. He said the three men were Roland's friends, not his, and that he made no admissions to them at all.
Before Yorke took the witness stand, Ambro limited the ability of Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock to ask about Yorke's juvenile arrests, which included a weapons possession arrest and some theft charges. The cases were sealed in Family Court.
Ambro said there was no way to know Thursday how the cases were resolved. Because it's possible Yorke was exonerated, he said it would be unfair for the jury to hear about cases that had nothing to do with the murder charge.
Kurtzrock also wanted to ask Yorke if he was affiliated with the Red Lane Guerrillas, a street gang Kurtzrock said was associated with the Bloods. Although there has been no evidence of gang involvement throughout the trial, Kurtzrock said outside the presence of the jury that he believed the robbery "was to advance his status in the gang."
Russo said the gang information came from a police informant of "unknown reliability" and had no place in this trial. Ambro agreed.
However, when Yorke denied during questioning by Russo that he'd ever held a gun, Ambro ruled that Kurtzrock could then question him about two pending charges of selling handguns.
During cross-examination, Yorke denied selling the two guns in question.
Holding the Hi-Point 9-mm semiautomatic handgun used to kill Rosario, Kurtzrock asked him, "Isn't it true that on Dec. 12, 2010, you took this gun to do a robbery?"
"It's not true," Yorke replied.
Kurtzrock asked if Rosario recognized Yorke from Copiague High School, which both had attended. "Is that why you killed him?" he asked.
"No sir," Yorke said. "I didn't kill anybody."
Attorneys will make closing arguments Friday.