A Bay Shore man whose 2015 manslaughter conviction was thrown out last month by an appellate court because of prosecutorial misconduct pleaded guilty Thursday to the same crime but got a reduced sentence that freed him from prison immediately.
But instead of walking free, Wilfredo Flores, 32, will be turned over to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which will likely deport him to his native El Salvador.
Flores was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of Carlos Velasquez, 40, of Central Islip.
Flores stabbed Velasquez in the abdomen during a party on March 9, 2014, cutting his liver and piercing his heart. During the trial, defense attorney Bryan Browns of the Legal Aid Society argued that Flores was defending himself against the much larger Velasquez.
The Appellate Division Second Department ruled last month in Brooklyn that Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl's closing argument went well beyond what was permitted.
"The prosecutor engaged in misconduct throughout his summation by continuously referring to the defendant as a liar, misstating evidence, denigrating the defense, shifting the burden of proof, attempting to arouse the sympathies of the jurors, and vouching for his witnesses' credibility," the court's decision said. "The cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper comments deprived the defendant of a fair trial."
On Thursday, a smiling Flores pleaded guilty to the same charge, but instead of getting the maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison, Browns and Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso negotiated a sentence of 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison. Flores has already served more than 4 years, 7 months in prison, so his sentence was complete.
Opisso told state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen that he discussed the deal with Karen Banegas, Velasquez's fiancee and mother of his young daughter. "She agreed to move forward with the case in this manner," Opisso said.
Shortly before Cohen imposed the new sentence, Flores said through a Spanish interpreter, "I just want to apologize to the family of Carlos Velasquez. I am very sorry, and I wish to have their forgiveness."
No one from the Velasquez family was present in the Riverhead courtroom, so Opisso said he would relay that to the family.
"This ends the case," Browns said afterward. "It's kind of tragic.There's a little girl whose father is dead."
And now his client's daughter, who lives in Brentwood, may never see him again, Browns said. Flores acknowledged in court that he is likely to be deported.
Of the case, Browns said this was "a more just resolution. I don't think he ever intended to stab Mr. Velasquez or kill Mr. Velasquez."
Opisso declined to comment outside court.
This is the second homicide conviction reversed because of Pearl's conduct. A judge set aside Gabriel Hubbard's 2012 murder conviction after finding that Pearl had withheld evidence that might have undermined the credibility of a detective who testified that Hubbard had confessed to him. Hubbard later pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the killing of Jaquan Jones.