New York Daily News

December 18, 2008 


Robert Ellis acquitted of murder in Russel Timoshenko-slay trial; convicted of weapons possession

BY SCOTT SHIFREL and LEO STANDORA
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

    Robert ellis
  Robert Ellis
  Russel Timoshenko
  Slain Police Officer Russel Timoshenko

An ex-con accused of the cold-blooded slaying of Police Officer Russel Timoshenko in a Brooklyn traffic stop was cleared of murder Wednesday night - a verdict that drew outrage and bewilderment.

A Brooklyn Supreme Court jury also found Robert Ellis, 35, not guilty of trying to murder Timoshenko's partner, Officer Herman Yan, 27, but convicted him of three counts of weapons possession, with each count punishable by up to 15 years.

Prosecutors convinced that Ellis was a triggerman in the attack are expected to ask for the full 45 years. He had faced life without parole on the murder charge.

Yan was hit in the chest and arm in the July 9, 2007, shooting but survived.

"I am stunned and disappointed by the verdict," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "My prayers are with the Timoshenko family as they contend with this ordeal."

The verdict, reached after 10 hours of deliberation by the racially mixed jury, also shocked into silence the courtroom packed with relatives and cops and had some jurors questioning whether justice was done.

The 23-year-old victim's mother, Tatyana, shook her head when the verdict was announced, and her eyes filled with tears. The slain cop's dad, Leonid, stood erect, his eyes burning with anger, and glared at the jurors.

An aunt, Inna Apanasyuk, wailed, "No way, no way is this justice. This is a Broadway show. They took him away in two seconds for nothing, for nothing."

Prosecutor Mark Hale bowed his head and let it rest on the prosecutors table.

Prosecutors said Ellis and Dexter Bostic, 34, were the gunmen. A third suspect, Lee Woods, 30, claimed he was the driver.

Timoshenko and Yan were shot in Crown Heights when they stopped what they thought might be a stolen $30,000 BMW.

The shootings sparked a manhunt that spanned several states and didn't end until Ellis and Bostic were captured in the Pocono Mountains four days later.

Ellis and the two other ex-cons were tried by separate juries. Jurors got the case against Woods Wednesday night. The panel deciding Bostic's fate is to be instructed on the law today.

The Ellis verdict didn't sit well with some on the jury.

"There's no argument in my eyes," said alternate juror Luis Viera, 44, who sat in the jury box for five weeks. "If he was in the car, he killed them. If you're acting in concert, you should be held accountable. They were planning to shoot the poor cops."

A bearded, bespectacled juror in his late 30s said "a lot of us didn't understand the difference between the laws."

A furious Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch declared outside the court: "This mongrel today got away with murder. There is no way to describe the anger that the New York City cops have."

Asked in court after the verdict was reached if they agreed with the decision, jurors replied yes, but did so meekly.

Defense lawyer Danielle Eaddy said she was happy with the verdict, then second-guessed the prosecution.

"They should have tried this as if Woods was the shooter," she said, adding, "There are really no winners. You have a New York City police officer who is dead and another who almost lost his life. I and Mr. Ellis are grateful that the jury listened to our case."

lstandora@nydailynews.com

With Richard Vanderford and Henrick Karoliszyn