The New York Times
July 17, 2007

Police Shooting Suspects Are Arraigned Again, This Time for Murder


Once again, the shackled defendants were led into a Brooklyn courtroom packed wall to wall with police officers. Once again, the officers clapped and cheered long and loud after the men were formally arraigned.

Yesterday, though, the charge was first-degree murder, for what a prosecutor called the “outright execution” of a police officer who died on Saturday, five days after he and his partner were shot by the occupants of a stolen sport-utility vehicle they had pulled over.

All three men — Dexter Bostic, Robert Ellis and Lee Woods — face life in prison if convicted. New York State does not have a viable death-penalty law, and while the police union called yesterday for federal prosecutors to take over the case, thereby making it eligible for the death penalty, federal officials said they would not step in.

“This is the Brooklyn D.A.’s case, and it’s going to be prosecuted by the Brooklyn district attorney,” said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Bostic, sitting in the passenger’s seat of the stolen car, shot Officer Russel Timoshenko in the mouth and throat; Mr. Ellis, in the back seat, shot Officer Herman Yan in the arm and in his bullet-resistant vest; and Mr. Woods drove the car, a BMW that had been taken from the dealership where Mr. Bostic and possibly Mr. Ellis worked. Officer Yan was released from Kings County Hospital Center on Tuesday.

Officer Timoshenko, 23, who never regained consciousness, died Saturday afternoon at Kings County. His mother, weeping profusely, sat beside his stricken-looking father in the front row in Brooklyn Criminal Court as an assistant Brooklyn district attorney, Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, presented the murder charges.

“Your honor,” she told Judge Richard N. Allman, “this is the third time in the last seven days that we’ve been before this court for the purpose of arraigning these defendants on charges of trying to kill two police officers. Unfortunately, I stand now before you upgrading these charges: the defendants were regrettably successful in their crime.”

The men were again denied bail, prompting two young women sitting among the defendants’ supporters to wipe away tears. All three were arraigned last week on attempted-murder charges. Mr. Woods was arrested hours after the shooting at his girlfriend’s house in Queens, officials said, while Mr. Bostic and Mr. Ellis were arrested later in the week near Interstate 80 outside Stroudsburg, Pa., after a manhunt.

After the charges were read, Mr. Woods, 29, with long dreadlocks, dressed in a white T-shirt and brown pants, opened his mouth wide for a rubber-gloved detective to swab his cheek for a DNA sample. Mr. Bostic and Mr. Ellis, both 34, submitted to the same procedure in open court at their arraignments on Friday. The authorities said they wanted the samples to compare them against DNA found on a soft-drink container found in the stolen vehicle.

All three men have lengthy criminal records.

Parts of New York’s death penalty statute were ruled unconstitutional in 2004, but there is still a federal death penalty that can be applied to murder under certain conditions. After two undercover police officers were murdered in Staten Island in 2003, the defendants were prosecuted under federal racketeering law because, the authorities said, they were part of a violent gang. The man convicted of shooting the officers, Ronell Wilson, was sentenced to death in January 2007.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information, said that in this case, federal prosecutors would step in only if Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, asked them to, and that Mr. Hynes would be unlikely to do so.

The three defendants are being held separately. Mr. Bostic is in a close-supervision unit at Rikers Island. Mr. Woods is in a punitive-segregation unit on Rikers because he committed so many infractions, including assaulting inmates and correction officers, during previous jail stints that he still owes Rikers more than five years of punitive-segregation time, said Stephen Morello, a spokesman for the city’s Correction Department.

And Mr. Ellis is being held at the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow, N.Y. Mr. Morello said that Mr. Ellis was removed in an effort “to make absolutely certain of the safety of all three and their separation.”

Also yesterday, the State Division of Parole released transcripts of all three men’s parole hearings. The transcripts reveal that Mr. Ellis, who pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy in the early 1990s, was denied parole three times, in part because he continued to deny that he had cut the woman he had sexually assaulted.