Possible plea deal in '03 cop slayings

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Jury selection in the federal trial of a Staten Island man facing the death penalty for the 2003 slayings of two undercover detectives has been postponed, prompting speculation that plea discussions are ongoing.

Potential jurors were scheduled to troop into the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on Monday to begin a vetting process that would allow a trial to begin in mid-October.

But in a letter dated Sept. 7, defense attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis to delay jury selection until Sept. 25, with a status conference for Sept. 21 "to address any unresolved matters concerning jury selection procedures and any outstanding matters." Garaufis has approved the adjournment.

Ronell Wilson, 24, is accused of killing Dets. James Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews on March 10, 2003, as they sat in a car with him to discuss a gun deal.

The detectives were investigating the crimes of a Staten Island gang known as the Stapleton Crew when they were killed. Prosecutors decided earlier this year to seek the death penalty against Wilson. Four of Wilson's co-defendants have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in the case.

A source familiar with the case, who asked not to be identified, indicated that prosecutors and defense attorneys had been discussing a possible resolution by a plea, but that both sides were far from an agreement.

A key witness slated to be used by the government against Wilson is former gang member Omar Green. But in a letter sent to defense attorneys last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Kavanagh said that Green had backed off from his previous claim that Wilson knew Nemorin was an undercover cop. This appears to create a problem for the prosecution's effort to seek the death penalty against Wilson, should he be convicted of the racketeering charges.

Neither Kavanagh nor Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Smith could be reached for comment about the delay in jury selection. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf declined to comment when asked whether plea negotiations are under way.

Kelley Sharkey, one of Wilson's attorneys, said that she requested the delay in jury selection because the defense wasn't ready and needed time to file additional pretrial motions.

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