A Bronx man accused in what Nassau police believe to be a record-setting bank robbery waived a trial by jury Tuesday, while his attorney also appealed for the dismissal of the decades-old case for reasons including lost evidence.
State Supreme Court Justice George Peck scheduled Claude Bird's bench trial on six counts of armed robbery to start Monday in Mineola, saying a top state court official believes it is the oldest case in New York that's still awaiting trial.
Authorities have alleged Bird, a 42-year-old Jamaican national, was one of two gunmen among a group that robbed a Lake Success bank in 1993 in a heist that netted $241,000 -- which police believe makes it the biggest bank robbery in county history.
Bird has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Toni Marie Angeli of Garden City, filed a motion Tuesday saying prosecutors violated her client's rights by losing evidence and "infringing upon his ability to effectively confront witnesses against him."
Angeli cited missing video footage from which she said authorities pulled a still photo allegedly depicting suspects casing the bank. She said a hair from the crime scene was also among evidence that was missing. Court records show police recovered a strand of body hair from a door to the bank's safe and a footprint left by an Air Jordan sneaker on a teller's counter.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Cepriano acknowledged in court that some evidence "somehow disappeared," and while she tried to find everything, the hair and footprint evidence "no longer exists."
Peck ordered the attorneys to return to court Thursday to address issues before the trial. He also said he had concerns about whether a 1994 confession Bird allegedly gave Nassau detectives in a Jamaican jail was voluntary, and that he believed he could consider during a non-jury trial if it was illegally obtained.
A hearing judge previously ruled that an alleged confession Bird gave Jamaican authorities in the jail couldn't be used because of conditions "that shock the judicial conscience," but said statements to Nassau detectives should be allowed at trial.
The defense also asked Peck to not allow the prosecution to claim that Bird escaped from a Jamaican jail before he could be extradited. Bird's lawyer claimed in court papers that a Jamaican judge released Bird after months in custody after failing to get justification for the detention.
Police arrested Bird in 2010 in the Bronx after he'd applied for a learner's permit under his real name, despite his previously getting a driver's license in a dead man's name, according to authorities. Court records show facial recognition software was instrumental in breaking the case.
Lawyers for both sides declined to comment Tuesday.