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Juror in trial of ex-Yankee Rusty Torres: I changed vote to guilty to help end deadlock

Former Yankee Rosendo "Rusty" Torres leaves a courtroom

Former Yankee Rosendo "Rusty" Torres leaves a courtroom in Mineola on July 17, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Hicksville woman on the jury in the sex abuse trial of ex-Yankee Rosendo "Rusty" Torres testified Thursday that she reluctantly agreed to change her vote to guilty out of fear she'd lose a new job because of potentially lengthy deliberations.

"It was something I needed to do for myself," Jean Sheehan-Kaim said during a hearing in a Mineola on jury misconduct allegations made by Torres' attorney Troy A. Smith. The hearing resumes Monday.

Smith has asked Nassau County Judge Tammy S. Robbins, who presided over the trial, to set aside the verdict.

Sheehan-Kaim said she "was dead set on not guilty for such a long time" but prolonged deliberations, a new job, and financial worries convinced her to change her vote. The jury had been deadlocked after deliberating for three and a half hours. Six jurors wanted to convict and six wanted to acquit. Smith has alleged that some jurors agreed to a "trade agreement," to change their votes to guilty on some charges in exchange for acquittal votes on others.

The panel found Torres, 66, of Massapequa, guilty of five counts of first-degree sex abuse involving a girl younger than 11 at the time at a Plainview baseball clinic. Torres was acquitted on charges involving a second girl.

Sheehan-Kaim was one two jurors who testified for the defense. The defense has said some jurors failed to disclose during selection personal or family experiences with sexual abuse or assault but talked of it in deliberations.

"I just felt pressured . . . I was like the last holdout," said the second witness Thursday, identified as Maureen. The juror, whose last name was not released, said jurors complained "about having to go back to work."

Prosecutors oppose the bid to set aside the verdict and included sworn statements from five jurors saying the verdict was based on evidence and no one committed misconduct by trading votes.

Sheehan-Kaim testified that during the trial, she was five months behind on her mortgage. The reality of that debt weighed heavily on her mind during deliberations as another juror told the group they were either "going to have to make a deal . . . or we're going to be here for another two weeks."

In cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney D.J. Rosenbaum, both jurors said they were not intimidated or threatened to change their vote. Rosenbaum said neither juror said they were uncomfortable with the verdict during deliberations, or before Robbins.

"You told [fellow jurors] that that was your verdict," she asked. "And you were comfortable with it, right?"

The juror later said other panel members "knew I wasn't comfortable."Rosenbaum said jurors usually share personal details -- sexual or otherwise -- as part of the deliberation process, not to sway a vote.

"It's what you do in conversation," she said to Maureen. "And it's what you do when you try to figure out the answer to something."

The juror acknowleged she couldn't recall details about the deliberation, including that jurors said they weren't deliberating long when they were deadlocked and suggested asking Robbins for guidance.

"There is a lot about the deliberations you don't recall," Rosenbaum said.

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