It’s like an episode of “Law & Order”: a well-liked policeman engaged to be married, a perp with a 12-year record for violent crimes, a struggle on the steps of a Brooklyn brownstone, and a seemingly accidental death. George Villanueva was convicted of manslaughter yesterday for the death of Officer Alain Schaberger in March. Schaberger, along with a few other policemen, had confronted Villanueva on the stoop of his house in response to a 911 call from a woman who said Villanueva was going to kill her. When Villanueva resisted arrest, a scuffle broke out during which Schaberger fell over the building’s railing, fell nine feet, and broke his neck. He had been on the force for ten years.
During the trial, which lasted one week, prosecutors argued that Villanueva had intentionally shoved Schaberger, meaning to kill him; the defense insisted the other officers on the scene had accidentally collided with Schaberger, and that that caused his fall. Taking into account his history of violent crimes (indeed, Villanueva was concurrently found guilty of aggravated criminal contempt for violating a restraining order held by the woman who placed the 911 call), the jury found Villanueva guilty of aggravated manslaughter, but acquitted him of the charge of murder. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
In a particularly cinematic moment, Villanueva’s mother was taken from the courthouse in a wheelchair after howling in Spanish that her son was innocent. In a written statement, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said, “We will pursue the case and see that he is given the maximum sentence that law allows.” (Photo: Jay Woodworth/Flickr)