Jury Returns Split Verdict in “Black Sunday” Trial

Rios not guilty of a more serious charge of manslaughter

A Bronx jury delivered a split verdict Wednesday against the building agent and the company that owns the building where two firefighters died in 2005.
The jury cleared the defendants of the more serious charge of manslaughter but convicted them of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
Weeping from the wives of firefighters who survived what has become known as the "Black Sunday" blaze greeted word of the verdict in Bronx Supreme Court.
It followed a previous jury verdict last Friday that cleared two building tenants of all charges for erecting makeshift apartment partitions that the prosecution argued had trapped the firefighters.
Fire Lieutenant Curtis Meyran,46,and firefighter John Bellew,37, died after jumping from a fourth floor window of 234 East 178th Street.
Bellew's widow Eileen, stoic after the split verdict said in a written statement that she was "satisfied" but criticized the earlier jury.
"I am satisfied with findings of the jury this afternoon but I am still shocked, saddened and disappointed by the findings of the jury on Friday.  To know that two people who are responsible for John's death will not be punished, while John serves the sentence for their crime is profoundly upsetting."

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said: "There is absolutely no verdict that can compensate the families of the deceased or the survivors of this tragedy for their loss, their grief and their pain. That being said, it is most appropriate that those who through their greed caused, this needless suffering receive significant punishment."
Building agent Cesar Rios remained free on bail and he and his attorney had no comment.  He faces up to four years in prison when sentenced but first the court will hear his motion to dismiss on June 1st.
Attorney Neal Comer, who represents the company who owns the building, said he was disappointed.
"I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that these two violated the law."
Firefighters who survived the January 2005 blaze were pleased.
"It's bittersweet," said firefighter Jeffery Cool.  "We obtained a verdict as far as this jury but it's never going to bring Curtis or John back."

Contact Us