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Etan Patz’s family wants judgment against pedophile vacated

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York on Nov. 15, 2012. Credit: AP / Louis Lanzano

The parents of Etan Patz have asked a judge to vacate a $2.7 million judgment they got in 2005 against a pedophile they suspected of killing their son, saying they now believe one-time bodega worker Pedro Hernandez did it despite a jury deadlock in his trial last year.

Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, said in an affidavit filed in state court in Manhattan that he had long believed imprisoned pedophile Jose Ramos was responsible for six-year-old Etan’s 1979 disappearance, but now is convinced that Hernandez was telling the truth when he confessed to cops in 2012.

“Despite the lack of resolution in the first trial, after reviewing all of the facts relating to the crimes against Etan, and after sitting through the trial and hearing all of the evidence, my wife and I — the parents of Etan Patz — now believe that Pedro Hernandez, and not Jose Ramos, was the perpetrator of this heartless crime,” Patz wrote.

The jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction of Hernandez last year, and jury selection in his retrial is scheduled to begin next month. The defense argued that Hernandez fantasized his guilt due to mental problems, and tried to blame Ramos, who knew a woman who walked Etan home from school in 1979.

Since the first trial last year, Patz has made no secret of his belief that Hernandez is the culprit. But Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez’s defense lawyer, complained Wednesday that the timing of the request to vacate the judgment against Ramos could influence jurors in the upcoming retrial of his client.

Fishbein, in a letter to Justice Maxwell Wiley, noted that Patz has “aligned himself with the prosecution,” and asked for a hearing to determine if prosecutors engaged in misconduct by encouraging him to make his Ramos court filing to affect the outcome of the Hernandez re-trial.

“It’s a blatant attack on his ability to get a fair trial here,” Fishbein said.

Stanley Patz’s lawyer, Brian O’Dwyer, said the decision to vacate the civil judgment against Ramos — which was entered because he refused to answer questions in a deposition — would have no significance for the criminal case.

He said Ramos never paid anything on the judgment, and the fear of Etan’s parents that he might one day make money off a book about the crime had evaporated with the charges against Hernandez and the jury’s 11-1 vote for conviction.

“It’s really just something they want to set the record straight,” O’Dwyer said.

Patz, in an email, said, “I am a private citizen and can express my beliefs. I did so right after the trial and have not changed my opinion since then.”

Ramos, 72, is imprisoned in Pennsylvania for lying on a sex-offender registration when he was released on a molestation charge. Hernandez, 55, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, has been in jail since his arrest in 2012. Jury selection in his retrial begins March 7.

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