Monday, February 8, 2016

Lawyers say Spellman’s beer should be canned

By Aimee Kuvadia

Lawyers battled for more than a week over whether beer cans can be excluded from evidence in the trial of former NYPD detective Kevin Spellman, who is accused of striking and killing 66-year-old Kingsbridge resident Drane Nikac with his car while driving drunk on Oct. 30, 2009.

Police allegedly found beer cans beneath the back seat of Mr. Spellman’s government-issued Chevy sedan. But Peter Brill, Mr. Spellman’s defense attorney, argued the cans should not be allowed as evidence because they were discovered through an illegal search. 

The prosecution argued that the can was in plain sight, which triggered the legal search without a warrant.

First to testify was Sgt. Brian Lopez of the 50th Precinct, who said Mr. Spellman appeared intoxicated and mistook the woman he hit with his car for a man.

Sgt. Lopez said that when he approached Mr. Spellman immediately following the accident, the then off-duty officer said, “Hey Sarge, I didn’t see that dude. He came out of nowhere.” He later slightly changed the wording of his statement. 

Det. Carlos Pantoja, who was a member of the crime scene unit that investigated the interior of Mr. Spellman’s car after it was towed to the Internal Affairs Bureau garage at 3820 Broadway in upper Manhattan, testified that the beer can in question was visible to the public when he first saw Mr. Spellman’s car. 

“We were told at that time, that there was no search warrant needed,” he said. 

When Mr. Brill asked Det. Pantoja, who ordered him to search the car, he said it was his supervisor.

“We have no idea why they think they had the authority to do that,” said Mr. Brill after the Sept. 25 hearing. “You would think that you have an expectation of privacy in the car that you drive.”

Lawyers asked a slew of other witnesses to appear throughout the week, including Lt. Mercedes Fabregas, Deputy Inspector Brandon del Pozo, commander of the 50th Precinct when the incident occurred, and Lt. Leonard Servedio.

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