New York Daily News

February 13, 2013


 

Pat Lynch reacts with outrage to the jury’s acquittal of Michael Velez, the getaway driver in the death of PO Peter Figoski 


Michael Velez was found not guilty on burglary charges just two days after Lamont Pride, the gunman who shot and killed Officer Peter Figoski, was acquitted of aggravated murder. Pride was convicted of second-degree murder and faces 45 years to life in prison, but was spared a sentence of life without parole. Commissioner Ray Kelly calls verdicts 'shameful.'

By Oren Yaniv AND Rich Schapiro / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Michael Velez, pictured here at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, was cleared of all charges by a jury on Wednesday.
Jesse Ward for New York Daily News

Michael Velez, pictured here at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, was cleared of all charges by a jury on Wednesday.

The relatives of slain NYPD Officer Peter Figoski were dealt yet another painful blow Wednesday, gasping in disbelief when the getaway driver in the killing dodged a murder rap.

Michael Velez, 23, was cleared of burglary and murder charges just two days after the triggerman was acquitted of intentional murder.

Figoski’s ex-wife, Paulette, covered her face with her hands as she listened to the verdict in a Brooklyn courtroom. Even the judge apologized.

“I understand how difficult it is,” Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Alan Marrus said. “I’m sorry.”

Velez, who has a probation hearing next week tied to a 2009 assault, will likely be a free man. Velez testified in his own defense, claiming that he had no idea the four men he was driving were planning a robbery in Brooklyn.

The jury deliberated about five hours before Velez sidestepped the maximum bid of 25 years to life. 

After hearing the verdict, Velez hugged his lawyer. Then he turned to his tearful family, who broke down in tears just a few yards away.

His father previously told the Daily News that Velez had nothing to do with the shooting.

“My son was outside and he didn’t know what was going on,” the dad said. “He heard a shot and he ran. Wouldn’t you run?

“He was a Valentine’s baby,” the dad added, noting the family prayed for an acquittal in time for Velez’s holiday birthday.

On Monday, a separate jury acquitted Lamont Pride of aggravated murder of a police officer, but convicted him of second-degree murder. He faces 45 years to life in prison — but was spared a possible sentence of life without parole.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was outraged.

“It’s shameful that the family of Peter Figoski must be crushed again by another incomprehensible verdict,” Kelly said.

Lamont Pride gunned down Figoski, a 22-year veteran, during the botched robbery of a drug dealer in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, in Dec. 2011. Velez claimed Pride forced him at gunpoint to act as the driver. 

“I am an innocent man,” he told The News in an exclusive jailhouse interview days after the shooting.

Velez’s lawyer, Damien Brown, said his client was remorseful.

“Through tears, he asked me to let the (Figoski) family know he was very sorry for ever being with these gentlemen that night,” Brown said.

oyaniv@nydailynews.com and rschapiro@nydailynews.com