Jury acquits two men of shooting Clairton police officer
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The jury deliberating the case of two men accused of shooting Clairton police officer James Kuzak during a home invasion last year said it found the men not guilty of the shooting, but it found one of the men guilty of participating in the home invasion.
The jury said it found Marcus Andrejco, 19, of Rankin not guilty of all counts. The jury said it found Emilio Rivera, 27, of McKees Rocks guilty of burglary, robbery, unlawful restraint and reckless endangerment. But jurors found him not guilty of all other counts, including the shooting of the officer.
Mr. Andrejco could be released from jail later tonight.
His mother, Jaime Andrejco, said she was ecstatic that jurors confirmed what she said she knew all along.
"My son shouldn't have spent five minutes in that jail let alone 16 months," she said. "All I can say is, I told you so."
Officer Kuzak and his family left the courtroom in tears.
Mr. Rivera's attorney, Paul Gettleman, said he found it perplexing that his client was convicted on some of the charges.
"And nobody knows who shot the police officer, and that's the saddest thing of all," he said, "because that was the question we were all here to answer."
Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons referred questions about the verdict to the office's spokesman, Mike Manko, who issued a statement saying, "District Attorney [Steven] Zappala respects the verdict of this jury and would like to thank these men and women for their hard work and attentiveness during this long trial. The district attorney also commends Officer Kuzak for the performance of his duties and for the courage and dignity that he has shown since sustaining his injuries.
"With the return of the verdict, Emilio Rivera faces a maximum sentence of 69 to 138 years in prison and it is the intention of the office to request maximum time during his upcoming sentencing hearing."
Mr. Rivera and Mr. Andrejco were accused of breaking into a home on Miller Avenue in Clairton on April 4, 2011, in search of money and drugs.
According to the couple who lived in the house, the suspects terrorized them -- holding a gun to the head of their 4-year-old daughter, putting a gun in the mother's mouth and beating the man with a pistol.
Clairton police officers arrived, and officer Kuzak, who was stationed outside the back door of the home, was shot as the men attempted to flee.
Mr. Andrejco was arrested four days later, but Mr. Rivera wasn't picked up until October, after he admitted his involvement in the crime to a confidential informant who wore a wire to record the conversations.
During its 2 1/2 days of deliberations, the jurors asked to hear the recorded statement of Mr. Andrejco, in which he admitted his involvement in the Miller Avenue incident that led to the shooting and paralysis of Officer Kuzak.
The jurors at one point also returned to the courtroom asking to hear recordings involving Mr. Rivera.
Mr. Rivera also confessed in his statement. His fiancee, who told police of Mr. Rivera's involvement, testified at trial that she lied to investigators and simply told them what they wanted to hear so they would not take her young son from her.
Both defendants have claimed their confessions were coerced and that they were not involved in the incident.
First Published August 16, 2012 3:19 pm