The strongest evidence against a Bronx man charged with taking part in the killing of a Brooklyn man on a West Babylon street is circumstantial, attorneys on both sides of the case agreed during closing arguments to a Suffolk jury.
Where they disagreed was on reliability of that evidence and what it means in the trial of David Belton, 26, charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 31, 2009 shooting death of Michael Sinclair during an attempted armed robbery.
Both defense attorney John Scarpa Jr. and Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Robert 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, and on a statement a detective said Belton made after his 2010 arrest.
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. A prior trial of Belton ended in a hung jury.
Scarpa said the phone records prove nothing about his client. He said Belton lost his phone that night and that Santos and Rivera likely used it before and during the crime.
"The assistant district attorney wants to make suggestions and innuendoes from shadows," Scarpa said.
He had a simpler description for a detective's testimony that Belton refused to sign paperwork, talk to detectives or give them his BlackBerry password, but said, "I didn't shoot anybody. I was there to rob him, and I didn't even get anything."
Scarpa told jurors, who began deliberating Monday in Riverhead: "Come on, ladies and gentlemen. This is pitiful. This is stupid. This is shameful."
Biancavilla said it was believable, because if detectives were fabricating a statement, they'd have come up with something better.
He said the phone records show Belton had his phone as it went east to Suffolk because calls were placed through the night to his two girlfriends -- one of whom lived near the crime scene. Belton told one of them to deny knowing him if police asked, Biancavilla said.
Scarpa moved for a mistrial after Biancavilla commented on Belton's decision not to testify and asked jurors what they would have done in that situation. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson denied the motion, but told jurors defendants have no obligation to present evidence.