Jury seated in Yonkers firefighter slay trial

UPDATE: ROLDAN PLEADS GUILTY TO MURDER, ASSAULT CHARGES; AGREES TO SERVE 20 YEARS IN PRISON. SENTENCING APRIL 12.

A jury was seated today in the murder/arson trial of Rafael Roldan, (pictured left) who is accused of causing a house fire that killed Yonkers firefighter Patrick Joyce 15 months ago.

Prosecutors say Roldan, 34, set the fire as revenge for being evicted. He now faces murder, arson and other felony charges.

Patrick Joyce, who lived in Eastchester, was killed Oct. 2, 2009, as he battled a blaze at a three-story house at 149 Waverly St. Two other firefighters were hurt when they jumped with Joyce from the window. One of the injured firefighters has returned to work; the other retired.

Joyce (pictured right) was married with two young daughters. His twin brother, Peter, also a Yonkers firefighter, was in court for both days of jury selection.

Roldan has been held in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla without bail since his arrest the day after the blaze. According to court papers, he first denied being in the house early Oct. 2, but he later told police that he had set the fatal fire.

Opening statements will begin tomorrow morning before Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli. The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Assistant Westchester County District Attorney Timothy Ward is prosecuting the case. Manhattan defense lawyer Scott Tulman is representing Roldan.

Maybe rum punch, too?

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Molea had a fantastic suggestion for beating the heat in his courtroom today, even if he was only kidding. I’m not talking about beating the heat of criminal prosecution here, but about it being 81 degrees (!) in his third-floor courtroom this morning.

“We’re going to serve pina coladas,” Molea said, causing a few lawyers to chuckle. But I thought … frozen drinks certainly would lubricate the wheels of justice, wouldn’t it? It would give new meaning to “passing the bar.”  And it certainly would make those long court calendar days a much more pleasant experience.

While it was roasting in the courtroom, there was no fire, even though dozens of members of the Yonkers Fire Department were present, They came en mass to stare down Rafael Roldan, who is charged with setting a revenge fire in a multi-family house that killed Yonkers firefighter Patrick Joyce. Roldan, 33, faces a six-count felony indictment that includes second-degree murder, second-degree arson, first-degree assault, second-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief.

Roldan is due back in court April 22. And that’s no joking matter.