THE BRONX - Jurors at the "Black Sunday" trial have acquitted two Bronx tenants of all charges related to the deaths of Lt. Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellew during a 2005 blaze.
Caridad Coste and Rafael Castillo were tried on second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and second-degree reckless endangerment charges for allegedly erecting illegal partitions inside their apartments to collect more rent. Prosecutors claimed the partitions blocked the fire escape and forced the firefighters to jump four stories to their deaths.
The jury determined there wasn't enough evidence to prove the walls blocked the fire escape.
The firefighters' widows, who were present in the courtroom, bowed their heads and wept as the verdicts were delivered. Fire department officials called the verdict outrageous and disappointing.
A second jury continues to deliberate similar charges against the building's manager, Cesar Rios, and its corporate owner.
Closing arguments presented in 'Black Sunday' trial Surviving firefighter testifies in 'Black Sunday' trial Jurors hear radio transmissions in 'Black Sunday' trialTestimony continues in 'Black Sunday' trial Defendants in 'Black Sunday' case go on trial Tenant: 'Black Sunday' repeat possible at building