A Nassau County jury needed only five hours to acquit a New York City police officer charged with hiring a hit man to kill his ex-wife.
As the jury foreman announced the verdict Wednesday, tearful cries of joy rang out from the family of Anthony Battisti, 43, of Franklin Square.
He was found not guilty of first-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Battisti was accused of hiring handyman Timothy Gersbeck, 39, of Levittown to kill his ex-wife, Patricia Battisti. Prosecutors said he was frustrated over child support and custody.
"I'm just glad the truth came out," Anthony Battisti said after the verdict. "I'm going to get my children back."
Battisti's attorney, Stephen Scaring of Garden City, said, "It was a case that nobody ever looked at carefully enough. It shouldn't have been brought."
He added, "The corroborating evidence was innocent conduct that they were just putting a negative spin on."
Carole Trottere, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County district attorney's office, said, "The detectives worked hard in putting together a strong case, as did our prosecutors. We are disappointed with the outcome; however, we accept the jury's verdict."
Patricia Battisti, 46, said she remains convinced of her ex-husband's involvement.
"I was shocked" at the verdict, she said Wednesday at the Franklin Square house where Gersbeck attacked her at the front door on Jan. 23, 2009.
"I am scared for my life," she added, and vowed to continue fighting her ex-husband on custody issues. The two divorced in 2006 after more than 10 years of marriage and have two teenage children together.
The member of the jury, which deliberated a total of about five hours on Monday and Wednesday, pointed to a lack of evidence and said detective work came up short.
"We didn't feel there was enough evidence to convict him," juror Tunde Banhegyesi said. Juror Anna Gerzon said the prosecutors did a good job in the summation, but that "the detectives got an 'F' on the way they did the investigation."
NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves said Battisti will remain suspended with pay because he still faces departmental charges.
Gersbeck stabbed Patricia Battisti with a sharpened screwdriver and wounded her neck. He fled but was caught by her boyfriend and one of her sons, who had been inside the house.
Gersbeck pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder last year and will serve at least 8 years in prison. He told investigators that Battisti paid him $5,000 for the hit, and he cooperated with prosecutors.
Patricia Battisti said she has moved out of state and is selling the Franklin Square house because of her memories of the attack. "I can't stay here," she said. "I get flashbacks."
With Gary Dymski