A Baldwin man pleaded not guilty Friday in an ex-business associate's shooting death, with an attorney claiming the accused was defending himself when the gun went off during a struggle.
Nassau prosecutors said Nathan Barnwell, 46, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter. An indictment also charges him with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.
"It's absolutely a case of self-defense," Kew Gardens defense attorney John A. Scarpa Jr. said Friday.
But acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement that Barnwell's alleged actions leave the victim's three children to "grow up without a father."
Authorities said the shooting happened shortly before 1 a.m. on Sept. 5 outside Barnwell's home, where police found Winfield Gillespie, 39, of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, suffering from a gunshot wound.
Prosecutors said Friday the men were involved in real estate and car dealings before the business relationship soured, and hadn't spoken for months.
The night of Sept. 4, the pair "inadvertently crossed paths" at a restaurant, prosecutors said. When Gillespie later showed up at Barnwell's home to talk about a business deal, they argued and Barnwell fired a single shot into the victim's upper leg, according to prosecutors. Gillespie died hours later at a hospital after extensive bleeding.
But Scarpa said Barnwell was home in bed when his doorbell started ringing about an hour after Barnwell and his wife had seen Gillespie's car outside a restaurant where the couple had dinner.
Scarpa said Gillespie was intoxicated and argued with Barnwell outside the home about being disloyal to him in business matters. Scarpa said Gillespie pulled out a gun and pointed it at Barnwell. "My guy is struggling with him over the gun and the gun discharges," the attorney said.
Police said Barnwell, arrested on the charges Sept. 7, hid the gun after the shooting. Scarpa said Barnwell panicked after the shooting and went to Queens. He doesn't remember doing anything with the gun, which police found several blocks from the Baldwin home, the attorney said.
A judge in First District Court in Hempstead kept Barnwell's bail at $600,000 bond or $300,000 cash and records showed Friday he remained in jail.