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In SDNY Murder For Hire Jury Trial Is 1st Since COVID As Testimony Turns To Bronx Cell Sites

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Oct 16 – While many even most cases in the Magistrates Court of the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York are sealed, on June 13, 2019 then-US Attorney Geoffrey L. Berman announced the arrest and presentment of two middle aged men for murder for hire, and said they had already been presented in the Magistrates Court.

But even an hour later, the case file or docket for 19-cr-395 said "This case is under seal." Inner City Press asked, as to this and other murky Mag Court cases, Why? Then on July 26 Ramon Ramirez was denied bail by District Judge P. Kevin Castel, pending trial.

  On October 15, 2020 as the first criminal jury trial in the SDNY after months of COVID-19 modifications and CourtCalls, the trial began. Inner City Press live tweeted Day 1 here and below.

And on Day 2, October 16, here:

Defense lawyer Kluger: So you were committing a crime wave in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, correct?

CW1: Please rephrase the question.

Defense lawyer Kluger; I'll withdraw it. Count 9 was drug sale, 280 grams of crack? CW1: That's what it says.

Now co-defendant Vance Collins' lawyer Eric Breslin, of Duane Morris: Where did you meet my client?

CW1: In the Bronx. Breslin: Did he introduce you to Santeria? CW1: Yes.

 Breslin: Do you smoke pot in Orange County Jail? CW1: Yes. But I never got caught.

 Breslin: And you mixed crack and marijuana in a cigar? CW1: In a blunt. Breslin: Tell the jury what a blunt is. CW1: A cigar.

Breslin: So you've been selling drugs for 20 years? CW1: Yes. 

Breslin: Did you cooperate with the Bronx DA?

CW1: Yes. But this is my first time with the Feds. I don't know how it works. I need that 5K letter.

 Breslin: How long has it been since you saw your mother?

CW1: Two years. Breslin: Does you wife come to prison?


Breslin: No further questions.

 Then testimony turned dry, to cell site records in The Bronx (Barnes Avenue and Boston Road), Queens and Yonkers. The trial will continue and probably wrap up next week.

From Day 1, October 15:

The US Attorney's Office's witness is rattling off the crimes he's been in jail for since October 29, 2018 - drugs in the Bronx, firearms.

He has describing *trying* to commit a murder for hire in Queens. But the prospective victim would not leave his house

The government's cooperating witness says of course he's trying to get a lighter sentence. Now he's up for cross examination. 

First up is Ramirez' lawyer Matthew Kluger: Who decides if you're telling the truth? Cooperating witness (CW-1): I do

 Note: Inner City Press in covering the case reported "Ramirez came from Nicaragua in 1996 and does not have a passport now- but has an HVAC business, E & R Refrigeration Services." Now Kluger is asking about the business. 

CW-1 called co-defendant Collins "Big-AK" Kluger: You're not taking about David Green, you sold drugs with, but the David you shot in the head, right? CW1: Right.

Kluger: Sometimes you had a knife with you, because a gun would make too much noise? CW1: That is correct.

Kluger: You claim you were being extorted, but you were the Big Homie, right?

CW1: Not in Mount Vernon. I was just a regular drug dealer there. He wanted to get free marijuana from, and money. He disrespected me. Kluger: That made you angry, right?

CW1: Right.

CW1: I wouldn't call myself the victim. But I was victimized.

Kluger: They put you back in jail, right? You told the judge you changed your life, right? And he believed you, you were convincing, right?

CW1: I felt like that.  Kluger: But you committed more crimes.

Judge Castel: Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to break a little early. No emailing, no research. The weather seems to be with us today. Be here early tomorrow.

 Back in July 2019, Ramirez' lawyer Matthew J. Kluger argued that most of the case against his client is a cooperating witness with, he said, two gun charges against him in the SDNY and a VOSR. But Assistant US Attorney Celia V. Cohen said Ramirez gave a Mirandized statement in which he admitted to discussing putting the man his wife was having an affair with into a wheelchair, and to paying $2000.

  Judge Castel said that with Ramirez facing up to ten years in prison and possible deportation as a non-citizen, he is a risk to flee, and also a danger not only to the man who had the affair with his wife but also any possible witnesses against him. Judge Castel said he could not come up with any conditions to assure return to court and the safety of the community. So it's been detention until trial.

The case is US v. Collins, 19-cr-395 (Castel)


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