Judge declares mistrial in David Belton murder case

A second jury has failed to reach a verdict in the case of a Bronx man charged with taking part in the killing of a Brooklyn man on a West Babylon street five years ago.

After Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson declared a mistrial Friday, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said his office would put David Belton, 26, on trial for second-degree murder of Michael Sinclair a third time. The first trial in 2011 also ended in a hung jury.

This jury deliberated for about four days and sent increasingly insistent notes to the judge that it was unable to reach a verdict. In one note Thursday, two jurors complained of being subjected to verbal abuse and one of them burst into tears in the courtroom when Hudson asked them to deliberate with civility.


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As it became clear that a verdict was unlikely, Biancavilla offered a plea deal of 15 years in prison, but Belton rejected it. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life if convicted of murder.

In their closing arguments, both defense attorney John Scarpa Jr. and Biancavilla focused on phone records showing Belton's cellphone going from Brooklyn to West Babylon, where Sinclair was shot once in the chest and four times in the head.

Authorities say Belton, his friend Daniel Rivera and Rivera's girlfriend, Noriella Santos, lured Sinclair to West Babylon to rob him and killed him when his wallet was empty. Santos is awaiting trial and Rivera has not been arrested.

Scarpa said the phone records prove nothing about his client. He said Belton lost his phone that night and that Santos and Rivera probably used it before and during the crime.

After the mistrial, Hudson agreed to set bail of $500,000 cash or $750,000 bond for Belton, who has been held without bail since his arrest in 2010.

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