By Susan Saulny, New York Times
In a case that took 15 years to resolve, a Manhattan jury convicted
two men of murder yesterday in the death of a city police officer in
The men, Pablo Almonte and Jose Fernandez, were each found guilty of
one count of second-degree murder in the death of Officer Michael
Buczek, 24, who was fatally shot in Washington Heights as he and his
partner chased several men suspected of robbing drug dealers.
Mr. Almonte and Mr. Fernandez, who were brought to trial in April
after spending years as fugitives, face 25 years to life in prison at
sentencing, set for June 19.
After the verdict was announced in State Supreme Court, Officer
Buczek's father, Ted Buczek, addressed reporters in a corridor of the
courthouse, saying: "I waited 15 years for this. But I'd trade all
this to have my son back."
Before he was led out of court in handcuffs, Mr. Almonte, 51, turned
to the rows of onlookers and mouthed to his wife and son, "It's
O.K.," smiling slightly. Mr. Fernandez, 52, was expressionless.
The trial was long in coming because Mr. Almonte and Mr. Fernandez
fled to the Dominican Republic, their home country, after the murder.
Extraditing them took years of legal and political work, United
States officials have said, because Mr. Almonte's brother, an
official in the Dominican Army, helped him elude the authorities.
He was finally captured in November 2000, and Mr. Fernandez was
arrested last year. The police have said that an accomplice of the
men, who has since died in a Dominican prison, fired the shot that
killed the officer.
The jury deliberated for about six hours before reaching its verdict.
One juror, a publisher from Chelsea, said that there was some
dissension, but that for the most part, everyone on the jury thought
"the prosecution presented a very strong case."
A defense lawyer, Fred T. Bittlingmaier, said an appeal was likely.