A state appeals court has reversed a ruling that barred a paternity claim from Ronell Wilson, the convicted cop-killer on death row, to the child he fathered in jail with former federal prison guard Nancy Gonzalez of Huntington Station.
A panel from the Appellate Division Second Department said Suffolk Family Court Judge David Freundlich erred last year in finding Wilson's sentence made him ineligible to seek a paternity declaration under New York's "civil death" provisions.
If he is declared the father, members of Wilson's family could seek custody and visitation rights. Gonzalez had challenged Wilson's paternity petition.
The appeals panel Wednesday said the state law extinguishing rights of most convicted prisoners to sue did not apply to a prisoner serving a federal sentence, or one sentenced to death rather than life imprisonment.
But it said the Family Court will now have to consider a separate challenge by Gonzalez, asserting that declaring Wilson the father would not be in the child's best interests.
Wilson, now 32, was sentenced to death in federal court in Brooklyn for executing NYPD detectives Rodney Andrews of Middle Village and James Nemorin of Baldwin Harbor during an undercover gun buy in 2003.
Wilson's lawyer, Yusuf el Ashmawy, said he was happy with the ruling, but thought the inquiry into the child's best interests should not be part of a paternity determination, and should only come into play if there is an application for custody or visitation.
Gonzalez, 30, who conceived the child with Wilson while serving as a guard in the jail where he was awaiting trial, was sentenced in February to a year and a day in prison. The child, Justus, is 18 months old, and reportedly being cared for by Gonzalez's relatives.
Gonzalez' lawyer say he planned to consult with her about appealing the reversal of the civil-death ruling.