Defense: Suspect coerced into confessing role in Officer Peter Figoski's death

Kevin Santos sits by his lawyer in court

Kevin Santos sits by his lawyer in court in Brooklyn during a hearing prior to going to trial in the murder of police officer Peter Figoski of West Babylon in 2011. (April 29, 2013) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

A Queens man was browbeaten by police into falsely confessing that he played a role in the 2011 murder of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, a West Babylon resident, his defense attorney said Thursday at the opening of the man's murder trial in Brooklyn.

Kevin Santos, 32, at first told detectives, and a prosecutor in a videotaped statement, that he never took part in the burglary that led to Figoski's death. He said in a follow-up videotaped interview that he was in the house, but was not a willing participant and never saw Figoski and his partner arrive.

"Then, miraculously, Mr. Santos proceeds to confess to every element of felony murder," attorney Howard Baker told the jury in his opening statement in State Supreme Court. He said Santos changed his story because he was "badgered, yelled at, cursed at, told he was a killer" by police.

Baker said Figoski's partner, Glenn Estrada, "fudged" his account of the incident early on the morning of Dec. 12, 2011, because he might have felt in some way responsible for Figoski's death. Estrada is expected to testify Friday.

Baker also questioned the expected testimony of one detective, as outlined in pretrial hearings, that Santos asked him as he was being led to Central Booking whether he could be charged with murder if he did not pull the trigger.

"Suddenly, he's going to ask the officer for legal advice?" Baker told the jury. "Does that make sense to you?"

Outside court, the president of Figoski's union said Baker was "weaving a tale, whether true or not, to blame everyone else for this killing" in an attempt to get his client off.

"The reality is he was there . . . and that day he participated in the killing of a New York City police officer," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

After Baker finished his opening statement, court broke for lunch. When it resumed, testimony began against Santos and Nelson Morales, 28, both of Ozone Park, before separate juries in front of Justice Alan Marrus.

Prosecutor Kenneth Taub presented five police witnesses who introduced a schematic of the basement area of the private house and a map of surrounding streets in the Cypress Hills neighborhood of Brooklyn. Santos and Morales were charged with being part of a five-man robbery team from Ozone Park that went to the house at 25 Pine St. because Morales knew the owner, his uncle, rented the basement to a marijuana dealer.

One of the robbers, Lamont Pride, was convicted in February of fatally shooting Figoski as the officer came down the stairs to the basement while responding to a report of a robbery in progress. The suspected getaway driver was acquitted and one of the robbers pleaded guilty and agreed to testify.

The current trials are expected to last until the end of the month.

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