A prosecutor in the Etan Patz murder trial on Tuesday tried to discredit defendant Pedro Hernandez's effort to implicate another suspect in the boy's 1979 disappearance by attacking the motives of an ex-prosecutor who once tried to charge convicted molester Jose Ramos.
"This is all about your grandstanding and writing books, and not the evidence in this case, isn't it?" Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in a final question that caught the flavor of her daylong grilling of former federal prosecutor Stuart GraBois.
GraBois, a defense witness, admitted he made $30,000 for helping on a book about the Patz case, but also called into question the prosecution of Hernandez by making clear he still thinks Illuzzi-Orbon's office erred by not charging Ramos 20 years ago.More storiesComplete coverage: Etan Patz case
"I didn't have jurisdiction," he told the Manhattan Supreme Court jurors, because there was no evidence Etan was taken across state lines. "I was hoping the district attorney's office would prosecute. . . . As I've said all along, reasonable people can differ. I thought it was the wrong position."
Etan vanished without a trace on May 25, 1979, on his way to catch a school bus in SoHo.
Hernandez, 53, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, said in a disputed 2012 confession that as a teen working in a local bodega, he lured the 6-year-old into the basement and strangled him.
The defense contends the confession was a fantasy caused by a mental disorder, but has also tried to raise doubts by reviving the case against Ramos, a convicted pedophile of interest to law enforcement because he associated with a woman who walked Etan to school during a 1979 bus strike.
Ramos, now 71, told GraBois in an unrecorded interrogation in 1988 that he was "90 percent sure" that a boy he picked up and tried to have sex with on the day of the disappearance was Etan. He became a focus of news shows on the case, and was eventually sued by Etan's family.
But Illuzzi-Orbon spent Tuesday trying to poke holes in the Ramos theory. GraBois conceded, for example, that the chaperone never said Ramos had contact with Etan, Ramos never said he killed Etan, and parts of Ramos' description of the boy were not pursued -- such as his wearing a Western belt buckle -- and did not match that of Etan's parents.
GraBois said he placed two informants -- who are expected to testify -- in prison with Ramos to try to get evidence. Illuzzi-Orbon noted that some encounters were secretly recorded on more than 100 tapes, and Ramos said nothing incriminating on tape.
"That is my understanding," GraBois answered.
Illuzzi-Orbon also targeted GraBois' personal credibility, which could affect jurors' view of the relative strength of the cases against Ramos and Hernandez, repeatedly asking why he disposed of personal calendars from his 11 years handling the case.
She also sarcastically questioned his efforts to pursue a lead that came from a psychic's vision, and wondered why he authorized tests on a boy in Ohio to determine if he was Etan at the same time he was pushing for a murder prosecution of Ramos.
"You were not in your own mind of the belief that Jose Ramos killed Etan Patz, were you?" Illuzzi-Orbon asked.
"That's not correct," GraBois answered, adding that "we left no stone unturned."
Ramos is serving a Pennsylvania prison sentence. He has said he will refuse to testify in the Hernandez case. The trial resumes Thursday.