Trials begin for 3 charged in cop murder

November 10, 2008 3:12:25 PM PST
Three men accused of killing a police officer and wounding his partner during a traffic stop went on trial on Monday, with prosecutors portraying them as ruthless criminals who were willing to execute the officer to avoid getting arrested. Dexter Bostic, Robert Ellis and Lee Woods are charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. The July 2007 shootings after a routine Brooklyn traffic stop sparked a manhunt that spanned several states and didn't end until the men were captured in the Pocono Mountains.

The three later made statements implicating each other in the crimes, and they are being tried with separate juries for each defendant at one trial. During opening statements for Bostic, prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi said he sat in the front passenger's seat of the stolen sport utility vehicle and shot 23-year-old Officer Russel Timoshenko twice in the face after he approached it.

He "waited, waited until Officer Timoshenko was so close that there would be no mistake, no chance for him to miss. He fired the gun twice into the unsuspecting officer's face," she said. The three acted as a team in plotting the shootings, she said.

The three didn't initially stop when the officers approached the SUV because they were figuring out how to get out of trouble - and decided to shoot the officers, Nicolazzi said. The SUV had stolen plates and three weapons inside, she said.

Defense attorney Edward Wilford said there was no evidence to show Bostic fired the shots or was even in the front seat, and he disputed the three men acted as a team. He asked the jury to keep an open mind.

"There is no videotape that shows Mr. Bostic with a gun in his hand shooting," Wilford said. "It doesn't exist."

Timoshenko's partner, now-Detective Herman Yan, was shot in the chest as he approached the other side of the SUV. His bullet-resistant saved his life.

Prosecutor Mark Hale said during opening statements for the jury hearing Ellis' case that he shot Yan but lied about it, claiming he was the driver and didn't fire on the officers. After Ellis was arrested and jailed, he confessed to a cellmate that he had done the shooting, prosecutors claim. The jailhouse informant was testifying in the case, prosecutors said.

Bostic and Ellis, who were roommates, were driven to Pennsylvania by a man who also was expected to testify in the case, and they had planned to hide in the woods and live off peanut butter and crackers, prosecutors said. They were captured after about four days in a patch of trees near Interstate 80. Woods did not go with them.

Hale suggested Ellis would not have gone to such extremes had he not been guilty.

Ellis' defense attorney Danielle Eaddy said Woods was the shooter and law enforcers bent on blaming her client refused to take evidence into account. She said DNA evidence would show he was the driver and didn't fire at the officers.

It is a case of "law enforcement wanting to be right rather than wanting to be just," she said.

If convicted, the men each would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Members of Timoshenko's family wore buttons bearing his likeness and wept during opening statements. The packed courtroom also included officers from the 71st Precinct.

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