Off-Duty Cop Acquitted in Fatal Crash
Staten Island Advance
April 3, 2004
By REGINALD PATRICK
A Livingston police officer, charged with driving drunk while off-duty and fatally injuring a motorcyclist in Brooklyn, walked out of a Brooklyn courtroom a free man yesterday.
Victor Wilson of Davis Court, a 12-year NYPD veteran assigned to the North Shore-s 120th Precinct, was acquitted of vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the death of Stefanos Kiladitis, 21 of Bay Ridge.
Wilson faced up to seven years behind bars if convicted.
A Brooklyn Supreme Court jury deliberated a day and a half before returning the verdict. As the jury foreman, a stocky, gray-haired man, relied -not guilty- to each charge, shouts of relief rose from the half-dozen Wilson supporters in the courtroom. On the other side of the room, several members of the Kiladitis family broke into tears.
The parents of Stefanos Kiladitis called the verdict a painful miscarriage of justice.
-A police officer did this thing,- said Eletherios Kiladitis, the victim-s father. -He knows the law and he knows he-s guilty.-
Fighting back tears, the young man-s mother, Kalliopi Kiladitis, said, -My son died three days after his 21st birthday and we have to bear this pain forever.-
Both parents recalled their son, who had been working as a mechanic, as an affable outgoing young man with many friends and a great future.
-He was wonderful,- said Kiladitis. -He was always making people laugh, helping people out. He had friends of all nationalities. He was a great kid.-
Wilson declined comment as he left the courtroom with his family and friends.
Defense attorney Todd Greenberg, while clearly pleased by the verdict, said -there will be no celebration- of the decision, out of respect to the Kiladitis family.
-Victor was relieved and we were both crying at the verdict,- Greenberg said, adding that Wilson felt sadness and sympathy for the Kiladitis family-s loss.
Several of Wilson-s female family members hugged and kissed the defense attorney as he came out of the courtroom.
Greenberg said Wilson is anxious to put the case behind him, return to full active duty on the police force and move on with his life.
Wilson remains on administrative duty. The Police Department will review the case and see if a departmental trial is warranted, according to Detective Kevin Czartoryski, a police spokesman.
Wilson was accused of driving drunk and running a red light at the intersection of Fort Hamilton Parkway and 88th Street in Bay Ridge, striking Kiladitis- motorcycle. The incident occurred on the night of June 19, 2002.
Kiladitis suffered severe head injuries and died three days later.
Wilson was arrested after a Breathalyzer test taken two hours after the crash showed a blood alcohol level of .116, according to police. The legal limit was .10 at the time.
Greenberg mounted a three-pronged defense. He sought to convince jurors his client had not run a red light and that, in fact, the light had been changing when his client entered the intersection – which was hotly denied by the prosecution. The defense attorney also hammered away at the idea that Kiladitis, by speeding on Fort Hamilton Parkway, had triggered the crash.
But central to Greenberg-s case – since Wilson was accused of being impaired while operating his car – was refuting the charge that Wilson was drunk on the night of the crash.
The defense attorney suggested the Breathalyzer reading was inaccurate because the device had not been properly maintained and operated by the NYPD. He noted that the manufacturer of the device suggested monthly testing, which had not been done.
Greenberg also pointed to a number of witnesses at the bowling alley where Wilson had bowled before the accident and at the accident scene – including police officers – who reported that his client had not appeared to be intoxicated. And he blasted the prosecution, in holding up the blood tests, as pushing -bad science- to convict his client.
A key prosecution witness – one of two other motorcyclists who had been riding along with Kiladitis on the night of the accident – testified the light on Fort Hamilton Parkway was solidly green when Kiladitis entered the intersection at 88th Street, meaning Wilson-s light had been red.
But the jury apparently discounted that testimony.
Ironically, this prosecution witness, while testifying that Wilson had run a red light, said the veteran cop had not appeared drunk when he confronted him. The witness, Thomas Blachette, 22, of Bay Ridge, said Wilson appeared to be a daze.
Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick, her face flushed, seemed shocked by the not-guilty verdict. But she declined to second-guess the jury.
-The jury carefully weighed the evidence and rendered its decision,- she said. -We have to respect that.-
TAG – Advance news reporter Sam Dolnick contributed to this report.
Reginald Patrick is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at [email protected]