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Acquittal in Jet Ski death
A 19−year−old facing manslaughter charges for a day of Jet Ski horseplay that ended in another teen’s death was acquitted of all charges Monday following four days of deliberations.
Aristotle Plagianakos walked out of criminal court a free man following the six−week trial over the 2007 Jet Ski mishap that ended the life of Bergen Beach resident Paul Zaccaria.
Prosecutors claimed that Zaccaria, 16, had his aorta severed after Plagianakos, also a resident of Bergen Beach, rammed his Jet Ski into the teen at a reckless speed as the two zipped around Mill Basin.
Zaccaria was thrown from his jet ski and fell under the waves.
Instead of calling for help, Plagianakos allegedly fled the scene and warned his passenger to keep quiet about what had happened, prosecutors claimed.
Zaccaria’s remains were recovered from Mill Basin a month later.
Plagianakos was initially charged with reckless operation of a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident, but a grand jury later indicted him on charges of manslaughter.
If he was convicted, he could have served 15 years in prison.
The jury found Plagianakos not guilty after determining what defense attorney Joseph Tacopina had said all along: that Zaccaria’s death, while tragic, was never a crime.
“We had a just verdict,” said Tacopina when contacted by this paper. “The jury had to work their way through a lot of emotional undertones, but they ultimately decided the case on the facts.”
During the trial, Tacopina alleged that Zaccaria was under the influence of marijuana and not wearing a life vest −− two factors that may have led to his demise.
He does not, however, believe that he was putting the blame on the victim.
“[Zaccaria] didn’t have the right of way and wasn’t wearing a life jacket,” Tacopina said. “I do not apologize for bringing that stuff up because it was relevant to the case.”
Tacopina said that his client is looking forward to getting back to his life.
“For three years his life has stood still,” he said. “It’s been quite a ride.”
Zaccaria’s mother, Joanne, was in tears after hearing the verdict.
“[Plagianakos] targeted him, and he killed my son,” she told reporters.
Kidnapper found guilty
A 21−year−old Orthodox man accused of trying to abduct an 11−year−old girl from her Midwood building faces is facing 15 years in jail now that he has been convicted of attempted kidnapping.
Prosecutors said that Bernard Mutterperl was also found guilty of burglary, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child for the 2007 Mother’s Day grab.
Officials said that the 11−year−old girl had picked up some nail polish for her mother and had just entered her Midwood apartment building when Mutterperl grabbed her as she ascended the stairs.
Mutterperl pulled her close to him and tried to quiet her by covering her mouth, but the girl managed to break free from Mutterperl’s grasp and ran outside for help.
A group of concerned neighbors – including the victim’s own brother – immediately began a search and stopped Mutterperl as he ran out of the building.
Prosecutors said that Mutterperl’s victim, now 13, testified against him at his trial.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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