Jury selection to begin in last Peter Figoski trial
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Jury selection was to begin Wednesday for the final two defendants charged with the murder of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, a West Babylon resident, in 2011.
Judge Alan Marrus will oversee two separate juries in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn who will hear the overlapping evidence against Nelson Morales, 28, and Kevin Santos, 32, both of Ozone Park, Queens.
Both men were alleged members of a loose-knit robbery crew based in Ozone Park who ripped off drug dealers and crossed the border into Brooklyn early in the morning of Dec. 12, 2011, to rob a marijuana dealer who rented the basement in a home owned by an uncle of Morales.
Figoski, 47, a father of four, was shot in the face by robber Lamont Pride after responding to a 911 call from the uncle, who said he heard a commotion in the basement about 2 a.m. that morning.
Pride, 28, is serving a sentence of 45 years to life after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in February in a trial before Marrus. A few days later, a separate jury in the same courtroom acquitted the alleged getaway driver, Michael Velez, 23, of all charges, but he remains in jail on a parole violation charge.
The fifth member of the crew, Ariel Tejada, 24, of Ozone Park, pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to a sentence of 18 years to life in prison in return for his testimony against the others.
All five were charged with murder on the legal theory that they were responsible for any death occurring during the commission of a felony -- in this case the robbery of the drug dealer.
Tuesday, Marrus finished pretrial hearings and ruled some statements made to police by Santos would not be admissible at trial. The judge said prosecutors can present two video statements by Santos -- with some editing to remove mentions of his criminal past and other matters.
In the first video, Santos insists he was across the street from the house at 25 Pine St. in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn, but never went inside. In the second video, he admits to entering the home, but says he fled before Figoski was shot.
On Monday, the judge ruled that statement made by Morales, the alleged ringleader of the robbery crew, would be admissible at his trial.
The judge said he hoped to pick a jury for the Santos case by the end of today, and the Morales jury by the end tomorrow. Opening statements in both cases were scheduled for Monday.