September: the month of retrials

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, the courts are back in full swing with a host of new cases … and some more familiar ones.

Not one, not two, but three defendants are being retried this month in Westchester County courts, and jury selection for all three starts this week. That means the line to get into the courthouse is going to be very, very long, so if you’re called for jury duty or have an appointment at 111 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., arrive early or be prepared to wait.

Here are the three defendants:

1. James Pileggi. The former Eastchester police officer is charged with second-degree manslaughter for the Nov. 3, 2009, shooting death of a friend. Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli declared a mistrial after the jury was stuck at 10 to 2 for conviction after four days of delibertation. Jurors never even got to discussing two lesser charges that the judge allowed them to consider: criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. Pileggi, 31, shot and killed his friend, Andre Everett, 27, with the Glock 26 in Everett’s driveway on Albert Place in New Rochelle. He testified that he unintentionally shot Everett while taking the gun apart to show him its laser device. Pileggi said he thought the gun was empty. Prosecutors contend he’d never fully examined the weapon before pulling the trigger and therefore was criminally reckless.

2. Selwyn Days. This is Day’s fourth trial and second retrial in the murders of an Eastchester millionaire and his home health aide. Jurors were stuck at 9-3 in favor of acquittal. Days, 46, has been incarcerated for 10 years, since confessing on video to killing 79-year-old Archie Harris and 35-year-old Betty Ramcharan, who were found stabbed to death in Harris’ home Nov. 21, 1996. Days had said he went to Harris’ home to confront him about sexual abuse allegations made by Days’ mother, who had been Harris’ aide before Ramcharan. Days said that, after Harris cursed, used a racial slur and swung a small bat at him, he grabbed him by the neck and beat him. Days said he then grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Harris, then turned on Ramcharan when she stumbled on the scene. Days claims the confession was coerced; no physical evidence linked Days to the slayings, and several alibi witnesses said he was in North Carolina at the time of the killings. Prosecutors insist that the witnesses fabricated their stories at the behest of Days’ mother, Stella, who had worked for Harris before Ramcharan. His first trial ended with a hung jury; he was convicted at a second trial in 2004, but a judge threw out the verdict in 2009 after a wrongful-conviction hearing.

3. Mildred Didio. A Manhattan attorney who was one of eight people charged in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud that stripped homes from families in Croton-on-Hudson, Yorktown, Cortlandt and Mount Vernon; and swindled two mortgage lenders out of $1.4 million. According to prosecutors, the group found their victims through notices of public auction or foreclosure. They reached out to the cash-strapped homeowners and gained their trust, saying they could transfer the deed to an investor, who would hold the title for 12 to 24 months so they could save money and reclaim their home. But once the “investor” took title, phony checks were presented to the lenders for much higher amounts than what the straw buyer paid for the home. Those checks allowed the group’s members to get inflated mortgages, which they used to pay off the original mortgage and keep the remainder for themselves. Didio is accused of representing the straw buyers or acting as a settlement agent for the lenders. Six others were convicted for their roles in the scheme; one was acquitted.

Rebecca Baker

Rebecca Baker joined The Journal News in March 2004. She covers Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, and was previously the state and county courts reporter in Westchester County. In prior jobs, she covered the Town of Greenburgh and Rockland County government and politics. Before coming to The Journal News, she was a municipal reporter for newspapers in New Haven, Conn. and Warren, Ohio.