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.

Pagli expected to plead guilty in slaying of her daughter

Stacey Pagli (left) plans to admit in court that she strangled her teenage daughter at Manhattanville College in February, her lawyer said at her latest court appearance today.

“We anticipate a disposition in this matter,” said Allan Focarile of the Westchester Legal Aid Society.

Pagli, 38, is being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge. There was no word on if she would plead guilty to that charge or to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter. It was also uncertain what the sentencing recommendation would be should she enter a guilty plea.

She will return to court on Jan. 11. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard Molea is presiding over the case.

She is accused of strangling 18-year-old Marissa Pagli on Feb. 22 in the family’s on-campus apartment in Purchase. Her estranged husband, John Pagli, a college maintenance supervisor, found his daughter’s body and his unconscious wife in their second-floor apartment in an apparent suicide attempt.

John Pagli was in the courtroom gallery today, as he has been for nearly ever one of his wife’s appearances. He exchanged a long glance with his wife, who made eye contact with him while her attorney was discussing the case with the judge and prosecutors. When she looked away, he began to shake and left the courtroom in tears as she was returned to the courthouse’s holding cell.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward, who is prosecuting the case, said he recently received a report from Dr. Angela Hegarty, a psychiatric expert for the District Attorney’s Office, who interviewed Pagli. He will turn over the report to Focarile, who hired his own psycholigists to examine his client.

Authorities say Pagli, 38, returned home after dropping off her 3-year-old daughter, Gianna, at day care Feb. 22 and began arguing with Marissa, a Manhattanville freshman. She strangled her daughter, authorities said, then tried killing herself first by cutting her wrist and then by hanging herself with a belt on a doorknob. In court papers, Pagli told police that she strangled her daughter because she was disrespectful and rude. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” she told police. “She pushed my last button.”

According to the statements, she then used a belt to try to strangle herself but failed, as she did in an attempt to slash her wrist. She said she had left a note for her husband. She tried to kill herself again by tying socks around her neck in jail.

Defense completes psych tests for Pagli

The defense team has given prosecutors medical records and psychological reports for Stacey Pagli, who appeared in Westchester County Court this morning on a charge of killing her teenage daughter six months ago at Manhattanville College.

Her estranged husband, John Pagli, was also in court. After exchanging a brief glance with his handcuffed wife, he fought back tears during her brief court appearance and dashed out of the courtroom as soon as she was returned to the courthouse’s holding cell.

Stacey Pagli is facing a second-degree murder charge in the slaying of Marissa Pagli in the family’s on-campus apartment in Purchase. Her attorney, Allan Focarile of the Westchester Legal Aid Society, said he plans to use a psychiatric defense.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward said Dr. Angela Hegarty, a psychological expert who has testified for prosecutors in other murder cases, would review the records and reports before interviewing Stacey Pagli herself.

Acting state Supreme Court Justice Albert Lorenzo ordered both sides to return to court Sept. 15.

If a jury believes that Pagli, 38, suffered an emotional disturbance due to severe depression or some other cause when she killed her daughter, she could be convicted of manslaughter and serve less time in prison.

After initially refusing, John Pagli met with two psychiatric experts about his wife’s mental state before Marissa was choked to death Feb. 22.

Authorities say Pagli returned home after dropping off her 3-year-old daughter, Gianna, at day care on Feb. 22 and almost immediately began arguing with Marissa, an 18-year-old Manhattanville freshman. She strangled her daughter, authorities said, then tried killing herself by first cutting her left wrist and then by hanging herself with a belt on a doorknob.

John Pagli, a college maintenance supervisor, returned home shortly after noon to find his daughter’s body and his wife unconscious in their second-floor apartment.

In court papers, Pagli told police that she strangled Marissa because her daughter was disrespectful and rude. “I couldn’t take it any more,” she told police. “She pushed my last button.”

According to the statements, she then used a belt to try to strangle herself but failed, as she did in an attempt to slash her wrist. She said she had left a note for her husband. After her arrest, she tried to kill herself again by tying socks around her neck in jail.

Judge to lawyers in DiSimone case: You got 9 weeks

State Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler had an order for the Westchester District Attorney’s office: give me a list of every document you have in the case against Anthony DiSimone.

“Given the history of this case, I think that would be a good start,” he said.

Boxes of court transcripts and other evidence had been been withheld by Westchester County prosecutors during DiSimone’s first trial — the reason his conviction was thrown out. DiSimone is being retried for murder in the 1994 stabbing death of Louis Balancio, the son of a former Yonkers city councilman.

Just selection is set to start Oct. 4.

Adler told Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward and defense lawyer Murray Richman that they must cooperate for the next two months. Richman will get to see the document list that the DA will turn over the judge and Richman will get to choose which papers he wants to see. The DA’s office must make copies of any statements of witnesses who will testify at trial — known as rosario material — at its own expense. Meanwhile, Richman must get any and all relevant documents from DiSimone’s past attorneys and pay any copying charges out of pocket.

“I realize this may be burdensome to both sides,” Adler said. “I’m going to see that it gets done. I’m going to make sure this case doesn’t go off track.”

Adler ordered both sides to fax him a letter by July 28 updating him on the sharing of discovery material. If there is any dispute, he said, both sides will be in his courtroom the next day to resolve the matter. He said he would shorten his vacation if he needs to settle a dispute between the lawyers.

“There’ll be no excuses from here on in,” the judge said. “We have nine weeks to get this done.”

DiSimone, now 43, can’t be retried for intentional murder because he was acquitted of that. He was convicted on a charge of depraved-indifference murder of Balancio, a college student, who was stabbed 13 times during a brawl outside a bar on Feb. 4, 1994.

He was serving 25 years to life in the killing of Balancio when a federal judge overturned his conviction in 2005, finding that the DA’s office withheld evidence, particularly police statements that pointed to another man as the killer.

DiSimone, described by authorities as a member of the mob-linked Tanglewood Boys gang, went on the lam after the killing, but walked into a Yonkers police station in 1999 and surrendered. He remains free on $500,000 bail.