By Jim Fitzgerald
The Associated Press
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A former policeman was found not guilty Tuesday in the death of a homeless illegal immigrant who had a long history of arrests in the officer's jurisdiction.
Former Mount Kisco Officer George Bubaris, 31, closed his eyes and bit his lip as he was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He could have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The case has brought attention to the relationship between officers and immigrants as police departments nationwide consider whether to take on increased deportation duties.
Prosecutors claimed Bubaris killed Rene Perez, 42, with a blow to the abdomen soon after the Guatemalan immigrant called 911 from a coin laundry complaining of stomach pain. Bubaris has since left the force.
The defense said Perez's drunken, homeless lifestyle led to his injury on April 28, 2007.
When the jury forewoman read the second of the "not guilty" verdicts, Bubaris' supporters in the gallery said "Yes!" and sobbing could be heard.
The Westchester County Court jurors had heard a fellow officer testify that Bubaris told him - on the night Perez died - that he'd gone out "hunting" or "looking" for the immigrant. And when word of the death spread, the officer testified, Bubaris told him, "You're the only one that knows, bro."
The officer acknowledged on cross-examination that he didn't tell anyone about those statements until he had been granted immunity.
Medical experts gave conflicting testimony about when the injury that killed Perez - a tear in the mesentery, which carries blood to the intestines - could have happened. Prosecution witnesses said it had to have happened after the 911 call that Bubaris answered, but defense witnesses disputed that.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Andrew Quinn noted the absence of DNA or other forensic evidence and told the jurors, "You can't find anybody guilty of anything in this case based on the evidence."
But prosecutor James McCarty said a log of police calls, surveillance video and other evidence showed only Bubaris could have taken Perez to the lonely roadside where he was found dying.
"You can connect these dots," he said.
No bias crime was alleged, but federal authorities who had taken an interest in the case said they would observe Westchester County's prosecution and determine afterward whether a civil rights case was warranted.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.