DA: Cop admitted hunting for immigrant

May 23, 2008 4:31:41 PM PDT
A suburban policeman told a colleague that he went hunting for a homeless, troublesome immigrant who was found dying later that night under a rusting guardrail on a desolate road, a prosecutor said Friday.Assistant District Attorney Perry Perrone told jurors that Officer George Bubaris picked up the victim, administered a fatal blow to his abdomen and dumped him in another department's territory, then confided in a fellow Mount Kisco officer.

He said the colleague, Officer Edward Dwyer, will testify that Bubaris told him, "I went out hunting or looking for Rene Perez. I found him. I took him to Byram Lake Road," where Perez was found.

And the next day, as it became known that Perez had died, Bubaris told Dwyer, "You're the only one that knows, bro," Perrone said in his opening statement at Bubaris' manslaughter trial.

But defense attorney Andrew Quinn told the Westchester County Court jury that Dwyer "had demons of his own" and motivations to lie that will come out during the trial. He also derided the rest of the prosecution's case, including "medically absurd" claims that the injury that killed Perez occurred while Bubaris was with him.

He also noted that there is no DNA, fibers, fingerprints or other forensic evidence proving contact between Perez and Bubaris.

Quinn said Perez went through life with a "lethal amount of alcohol in his body" and repeatedly got drunk, fell down and injured himself over a 10-year period. He said video from a camera in a coin laundry will show Perez clutching his stomach, doubling over and asking to be taken to a hospital before he encounters Bubaris that night.

Bubaris, who has since left the force, is accused of second-degree manslaughter, unlawful imprisonment and official misconduct. The case has brought attention to the relationship between officers and illegal immigrants as police departments nationwide consider whether to take on increased deportation duties and legislation on immigration policy languishes in Congress.

Perez, an undocumented Guatemalan, was an irritant to the police in Mount Kisco and neighboring Bedord, who had arrested him, given him "courtesy rides" or taken him to the hospital scores of times. On April 28, 2007, he dialed 911 from the laundry, said his name and mentioned his stomach and the hospital, Perrone said.

Responding police officers, including Bubaris, reported he was simply drunk and left him there. But the prosecutor said video cameras from the laundry, neighboring stores and a Bedford estate show that Bubaris returned to the area about 10 minutes later as Perez was leaving and soon was driving up Byram Lake Road.

Perrone suggested that Bubaris intercepted Perez, put him in the police car and drove him to the place he was found fatally injured. A log of police radio calls shows Bubaris unaccounted for between 10:57 p.m. and 11:40 p.m., he said.

Perez was found unconscious by a caterer driving by, who called police at 11:42 p.m. Perez was treated at the scene and taken to a hospital, where he died the next morning. An autopsy found three quarts of blood in his stomach and a 2-inch hole in his mesentery, which attaches the small intestine to the abdominal cavity.

Such an injury would have prevented Perez from walking or even standing, Perrone said, so it could not have happened before Perez was at the coin laundry.

Quinn said the prosecution believes Bubaris is guilty because they started with that conclusion before investigating - a "cardinal sin" of homicide work.

"Faith is a beautiful thing when we're in church," he said. "But this is a courtroom."

State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler said testimony will resume Tuesday.