A jury convicted a Valley Stream man on manslaughter and weapon charges Monday for the December 2013 slaying of a Queens man whose bullet-riddled body police found with his fake bounty hunter badge behind a restaurant.
The Nassau panel acquitted Orlando Ortiz, 32, of a second-degree murder charge after a trial that lasted more than a month. The mother of victim Richard Baccus, 50, of Rosedale -- a husband and father who had a car-painting business -- called the verdict "a terrible injustice."
Ortiz's defense lawyers "painted my son in the worst way possible," said Eliza Baccus, 77.
Prosecutors alleged Ortiz acted in anger on Dec. 23, 2013, when he shot Baccus in the head nine times after an argument the two had inside Ay! Caramba on West Merrick Road in Valley Stream spilled outside. Ortiz testified he fired into the BMW where Baccus was sitting after the Queens man, who earlier showed him the fake badge and said he was a U.S. marshal, pointed a gun at Ortiz and threatened to kill him. Authorities said Baccus was unarmed, but the defense said it was believable Ortiz saw a black flashlight in Baccus' hands, mistaking it for a gun before shooting in self-defense. Attorney Stephen Drummond had alleged police moved the flashlight from Baccus' hand to discredit a justification defense.
"We're disappointed in the verdict because we believe it's a compromise verdict," he said.
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement she appreciated the jury's hard work and the "conclusion that only this defendant was responsible for the bloodshed."
Juror Jeff Greenberg, 59, said the jury started with eight in favor of guilty on the murder charge. He called the claim police moved the flashlight "a major point of contention," but said jurors didn't believe Ortiz's testimony.
"We did not want to let this kid walk away and we certainly did not want to let another jury go through what we went through," Greenberg said.
Drummond said Ortiz faces up to 25 years in prison on the top conviction, but will appeal.