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Lawyer for Valley Stream man convicted of manslaughter alleges juror misconduct, asks judge to set aside guilty verdict

Orlando D. Ortiz, of Valley Stream, was convicted

Orlando D. Ortiz, of Valley Stream, was convicted on Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 on manslaughter and weapon charges for the December 2013 slaying of Richard Baccus, 50, of Rosedale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An attorney for a Valley Stream man convicted of manslaughter last month is asking a judge to set aside the jury's guilty verdict and order a new trial, alleging misconduct by jurors violated the defendant's right to a fair trial.

The Nassau jury also convicted Orlando Ortiz, 32, of a gun possession charge and acquitted him of second-degree murder in the 2013 shooting death of Richard Baccus, 50, of Rosedale, Queens, outside Valley Stream restaurant Ay! Caramba.

After the Dec. 22 verdict, Ortiz's attorneys got a call that day from a juror who reported alleged misconduct on the panel, according to a motion attorney JoAnn Squillace filed Monday.

Prosecutors will be "responding to the papers filed by the defense at the appropriate time," Nassau district attorney's office spokesman Paul Leonard said Tuesday.

The juror who spoke to the defense, Alice Perkins, 53, of Valley Stream, signed a Jan. 2 affidavit detailing her frustrations with what she described as "a clear bias by some of the jurors" and actions by some panelists that were contrary to state Supreme Court Justice William Donnino's instructions.

Perkins said several jurors, after hearing testimony but before deliberations began, "started discussing the case and making comments about the defense attorneys," including what they were wearing, how they approached witnesses and "how the defense couldn't speak proper English."

"It became very clear to me that the jurors were forming a conclusion even before they heard all the testimony," Perkins' affidavit said.

Perkins also cited an alleged comment from juror Jeff Greenberg in the jury room she said left her "flabbergasted" after defense attorney Stephen Drummond's cross-examination of the case's lead detective, Robert Brzeski.

"Boy, I felt for Det. Brzeski. I wanted to take his gun and shoot him myself," Perkins reported Greenberg saying while referring to Drummond.

"This statement alone, let alone in conjunction with the jurors' intentional choice to disobey this court's orders not to discuss the case pre-deliberation, is prejudicial," Squillace said in the filing, citing it among grounds for a new trial.

She said Tuesday Ortiz couldn't be retried on the murder charge, since the jury acquitted him of it.

Greenberg, 59, said in an interview Tuesday he "never, ever said" what Perkins alleged. "To come out and try to discredit certain members of the jury is just outrageous," Greenberg said, calling Perkins one of two jurors who held out against a conviction before the jury came to a verdict. "I think Alice is attacking people who were vocal, who didn't take her view."

Based on Perkins' affidavit, the motion also alleged juror Jeremiah Stulberger disobeyed the judge's order and in the jury room tried to zoom in on video of the shooting.

Stulberger, 36, spoke to Newsday after the verdict, saying the tape had been played at a resolution where it wasn't distorted.

In another interview Tuesday, Stulberger, who works in information technology, said the judge denied his request to zoom in, but granted his request for jurors to view the video in its original resolution and not as it was enlarged in the courtroom.

In the motion, the defense also cited Newsday's publication of a comment Greenberg made in an interview after the verdict about a shooting re-enactment in the jury room. The defense said that re-enactment, in which Perkins said a juror played the victim, was "improper testing of the plausibility of the witnesses' testimony."The motion also singled out other jurors the defense said discussed the case before deliberations.

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