Man convicted in officer's death gets prison

NYPD Officer Alain Schaberger was killed when a suspect allegedly pushed him over a railing, causing him to fall to his death on Sunday, March 13, 2011. (NYPD)

May 23, 2012 12:06:42 PM PDT
A man found guilty of shoving a police officer to his death during a domestic violence call said at his sentencing Wednesday on his manslaughter conviction that he was innocent and would have tried to help the officer had he known he was about to topple nine feet off a stoop.

George Villanueva was sentenced to between 28 ½ and 32 years to life in prison in a Brooklyn courtroom so packed by officers they stood standing along the back wall. He was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Officer Alain Schaberger, but was aquitted of the more serious charge of murder. Schaberger was responding to a domestic violence call made by Villanueva's girlfriend in 2011 when he fell and broke his neck.

Villanueva said he was no killer.

"The fact of the matter is I didn't push your son, all right?" he said, turning toward Schaberger's parents and sister. "I gain nothing by doing that. I'm not some idiot."

Villanueva said he never would have let a "simple domestic thing" turn into a murder.

"Had I know that guy was going to fall, I would've helped him, I would've grabbed him," he said.

Villanueva's mother began wailing and sobbing vehemently when the sentence was announced.

Villanueva's lawyer argued the death was an accident and Schaberger lost his footing because he was knocked by another officer. No one noticed he had fallen until after they were pulling Villanueva down the steps, attorney Kleon Andreadis said.

The prison term, which was the maximum, also includes punishment for violating the order of protection taken out by his girlfriend. Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale said that Villanueva, who had at least six prior convictions for burglary, didn't deserve another chance at leniency.

"His life is a pattern of criminality," the prosecutor said.

Schaberger, 42, was a 10-year member of the police department. He was assigned to the 84th Precinct and was engaged to be married. In tearful statements, Schaberger's father Paul and sister Tracey Wagner urged Judge Neil Firetog to impose the maximum sentence. They later said they were satisfied with the outcome.

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