was convicted of the 2003 capital murder of two undercover NYC police
officers in Staten Island, New York. His trial before Judge Nicholas
Garaufis of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
New York began on November 27, 2006.
On December 20, 2006, he was found guilty of the
capital murders as well as other related charges.
On January 30, 2007, Wilson was sentenced to death,
the first such sentence by a federal jury in New York since the federal
death penalty was reinstated in 1988.
Prosecutors alleged Wilson was the leader of a
violent drug gang called the Stapleton Crew (witnesses at the trial
denied using that label) that originated in the Stapleton housing
projects of Staten Island.
He was convicted for murdering NYPD Detectives James
Nemorin and Rodney Andrews in a gun sale, then searching their bodies
and stealing their car. Victim's family members and fellow police
officers greeted pronouncement of his death sentence with cheers and
applause, Wilson's reaction of sticking his tongue out in their
direction was denounced by the local tabloids.
The case has attracted media attention, because of
the brutality of the murders as well as the rarity of a death penalty
prosecution in New York. Wilson is the first person federally sentenced
to the death penalty in New York in over 50 years.
Wilson was originally charged in New York state court,
but the federal government took over the prosecution after the New York
Court of Appeals held that the state's death penalty statute violated
the New York State Constitution.
He is currently held at the United States
Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Trial Begins in Case of 2 Slain Detectives
By William K. Rashbaum - The New York Times
November 27, 2006
An anonymous jury is set to begin hearing testimony
in federal court today in the trial of a Staten Island man on charges
that he shot two undercover police detectives in the back of the head,
killing them during a gun deal gone awry. If convicted, he could face
the death penalty.
The man, Ronell Wilson, 24,
and seven others were arrested in the days after
the March, 10, 2003, slayings of the detectives,
James V. Nemorin, 36, and Rodney J. Andrews, 34.
The other men have all pleaded guilty in state
or federal court to a variety of crimes, and
several are expected to testify during the trial
in United States District Court in Brooklyn.
At the trial, prosecutors
will seek to prove that Mr. Wilson was part of a
violent gang known as the Stapleton crew, which,
they say, committed robberies and sold drugs and
Prosecutors have said the
detectives intended to buy a Tec-9 pistol from
one of Mr. Wilson’s associates, Omar Green, as
part of an undercover investigation. But, they
say, Mr. Wilson and some of the other men had
set up a fake gun deal as part of a plan to rob
The two detectives were shot
and killed as they drove Mr. Wilson, who was
then 20, and another man, Jesse Jacobus, then
17, to buy the gun, the authorities have said.
Detective Nemorin was driving, Detective Andrews
was in the front passenger seat and the two
younger men were behind them, Mr. Wilson on the
left and Mr. Jacobus on the right, the
authorities have said.
A backup team that was
following the detectives lost them in a hilly
section of Staten Island. Mr. Wilson, according
to an account Mr. Jacobus gave the police,
ordered Detective Nemorin to pull over and then
shot Detective Andrews in the back of the head,
quickly turned and pressed the muzzle of the gun
against Detective Nemorin’s head and fired.
Mr. Jacobus is one of the
seven men who have pleaded guilty in the case.
He is expected to testify.
The prosecutors in the case,
Colleen Kavanagh, Jack Smith and Morris J.
Fodeman, have notified Mr. Wilson’s lawyers that
they intend to call a half-dozen experts as
witnesses, including ballistics, blood spatter,
hair and fiber and handwriting experts. They
have also said they will call an expert in DNA
Prosecutors have not
specified what the DNA expert’s testimony will
focus on. But bloody clothing that the
authorities have said belonged to Mr. Wilson was
seized in an apartment near the site of the
killings. The murder weapon was also recovered.
Other evidence may include Mr.
Wilson’s own words. The defense lawyers, Ephraim
Savitt, Kelly J. Sharkey and Mitchell
Dinnerstein, had asked the judge to bar the
prosecutors from using handwritten rap lyrics
found in Mr. Wilson’s possession when he was
arrested as evidence in the trial. But the judge,
Nicholas G. Garaufis, ruled last week that he
would allow the lyrics to be offered as evidence.
He ruled that the lyrics
“describe activity which resembles aspects of
the central crime,” the murders of the
detectives, “and appear to have been written
after that crime was committed.” The content of
the lyrics was filed under seal and has not been
disclosed. But the judge said that they “were
written in the first person, also contain
references to Wilson’s physical appearance and
to his street name, Rated R.”
Judge Garaufis has said in
court that if the jury convicts Mr. Wilson of
any of the five counts that carry a potential
death penalty, a penalty phase will ensue in
which it will hear more evidence and vote on
whether he should be executed or sentenced to
life without parole. The vote must be unanimous.
Last summer, the judge
ordered that the jury be anonymous and partially
sequestered — they will arrive at and leave the
courthouse under the supervision of deputy
United States marshals. The judge cited the
seriousness of the charges, the violent nature
of the Stapleton crew, and instances in which,
he said, Mr. Wilson’s associates have attempted
to coerce witnesses not to testify or cooperate
with the authorities. He also cited news media
Last week during a pretrial
hearing, Mr. Smith, one of the prosecutors, said,
“The defendant has been threatening witnesses,
plain and simple, through his associates.”
Neither the defense lawyers
nor the prosecutors would comment on the case,
and in the past have cited the judge’s
admonishment that they not speak to the news
The case was originally
brought in state court in Staten Island, where
prosecutors had sought the death penalty. But in
June 2004, the state’s highest court, the Court
of Appeals, ruled that part of the state death
penalty statute was unconstitutional.
Five months later, Mr. Wilson
and four co-defendants were named in a federal
racketeering indictment. Those four men pleaded
guilty to crimes linked to the Stapleton crew;
the three other men arrested in the killing
pleaded guilty in state court.
The indictment against Mr.
Wilson includes two counts of murder in aid of
racketeering, two robbery conspiracy counts, one
attempted robbery count, one count of carjacking,
two counts of use of a firearm and two counts of
causing a death with a firearm. He was also
charged with obstruction of justice murder,
based on the account of one co-defendant, Mr.
Green, who told the authorities that Mr. Wilson
knew the two men were detectives when he shot
them. But Mr. Green later changed his account,
and the charges were dropped.
The detectives’ widows, who
will probably testify in the penalty phase of
the trial if Mr. Wilson is convicted, were
expected to attend the trial.
Michael J. Palladino, the
president of the Detectives’ Endowment
Association, the union that represented the two
men, said the death penalty prosecution was
“I think the government
pursuing the penalty of death and being able to
attain the penalty of death sends a very much
needed message to the law enforcement community
that, you know, if we’re going to be gunned down
in cold blood performing our jobs, then the just
punishment should be the death penalty,” he said.
At Trial, Transcripts Reveal 2 Detectives’ Last
By Michael Brick - The New York Times
November 28, 2006
Two covert police detectives
spent their final minutes touting their
underworld credibility and evading their
surveillance team in an effort to put the men
they were investigating at ease, according to
testimony and recordings delivered in court
“What is the big deal?” one
detective asked the two men in his car,
according to a surveillance tape transcript
provided by prosecutors. “I know. Everybody’s
leery. Listen, I’m leery, I’m leery too. I, I
understand. I don’t want to get caught up.”
Minutes later on the evening
of March 10, 2003, the detective, James V.
Nemorin, 36, and his partner, Rodney J. Andrews,
34, lay dead on a street in Staten Island.
Their supervisor, Sgt.
Richard Abbate, found their bodies shortly after
losing the signal from a surveillance
transmitter one detective wore disguised as a
“I saw that he had one eye
closed and one eye opened,” Sergeant Abbate said,
speaking from the witness stand about Detective
Andrews. “He had sustained a wound to his head.
I then approached Detective Nemorin. There was a
long line of blood coming from his head.”
It is likely that no one will
ever know whether the detectives’ efforts to
disguise their employment succeeded. The man on
trial for their killing in federal district
court in Brooklyn, Ronell Wilson, 24, faces the
death penalty on charges of murder in
furtherance of racketeering.
Prosecutors have dropped
charges of obstruction of justice murder,
because a witness crucial to those charges
rescinded his earlier account that Mr. Wilson
knew the men were detectives.
That witness, like several
others in the case, was a member of the so-called
Stapleton Crew, a street gang that prosecutors
said sold drugs and guns, shot, robbed and
terrorized a path across Staten Island.
“It grew from a group of guys
selling crack cocaine on the corners and in the
projects to having a route,” an assistant United
States attorney, Colleen Kavanagh, said in her
opening statement yesterday.
In the years since the
shooting, seven members of the group have
pleaded guilty to a variety of charges in
exchange for their testimony against Mr. Wilson.
Ms. Kavanagh told jurors that
Mr. Wilson intended to steal $1,200 from the
detectives, money they were carrying to purchase
a Tec-9 pistol, though the stack of police-issued
$100 bills remained in Detective Nemorin’s
pocket after he was killed. She told jurors that
the members of the Stapleton Crew had speculated
on Detective Nemorin’s police status, but she
stopped short of suggesting that Mr. Wilson knew
“The evidence will show,
ladies and gentlemen,” Ms. Kavanagh said, “that
the defendant did not care.”
A lawyer for Mr. Wilson,
Ephraim Savitt, told the jury that the witnesses
were unreliable. Aside from the man who changed
his account, others have lied to prosecutors and
violated the conditions of their cooperation
deals, Mr. Savitt said.
The fourth man in the car on
the night of the shootings, Jesse Jacobus, then
17, has assaulted his fellow inmates as he waits
to testify, the defense lawyer said.
“He still is a brute,” Mr.
Savitt said. “You’re going to have to rely on
the word of Jesse Jacobus to find that Ronell
Wilson was actually the shooter, as the
Mr. Jacobus is one of the
seven men who have pleaded guilty in the case.
As the lawyers made their arguments, a crowd of
police officers watched on a screen from an
overflow room. Inside the courtroom, their
colleagues were dressed in business suits,
prohibited from appearing in their uniforms.
Friends and relatives of the
slain detectives, including several small
children, watched from the gallery. As testimony
began, the police supervisor, Sergeant Abbate,
described following his detectives through the
streets of Staten Island, listening to the
signal from the surveillance transmitter in his
sport utility vehicle. The car the detectives
were driving, a Nissan Maxima, had once been his
own department-issued vehicle.
Sergeant Abbate said he
watched two men climb into the seats behind the
detectives, ride around and then stop for a red
light. When the light changed, Sergeant Abbate
testified, the Maxima did not move. A man got
out of the back seat. Inside his S.U.V., another
officer leaned over and blew the horn. The man
in the street turned and looked at the S.U.V.,
Sergeant Abbate said, identifying the person he
saw as Mr. Wilson. Then the Maxima drove out of
The sergeant said he could
tell that Mr. Wilson had later returned because
he heard the same voice resume on the
In their transcript,
prosecutors identified that voice as “Ronell
Wilson.” The recording played in court was
unintelligible for long portions, a mixture of
static, overlapping voices and hip-hop music,
presumably from the car stereo. The audible
parts are dominated by Detective Nemorin’s
lilting Haitian accent.
Using profane street language
riddled with racial slurs, Detective Nemorin
sought to convince the men in the car that
Detective Andrews was his brother-in-law.
“There’s nothing to worry
about,” Detective Nemorin said. “Look, we’re not
going to deal in front of him, O.K.? I’m coming.
I could step out and we do the deal outside.”
The voice attributed to Mr.
Wilson argued every point:
“That ain’t how Frankie run
business, yo,” he said.
“It’s mad hot, man,” he said,
meaning the police are watching closely.
“It’s mandatory, we gotta
search you,” he said.
Between arguments, the voice
directs Detective Nemorin where to turn as he
drives, a winding series of lefts and rights
punctuated by talk of frustration at red lights.
“That’s it, that’s it,”
Detective Nemorin said, 20 seconds before the
tape cuts to static. “All right? All right?”
'Justice served' on cops'
By Stefanie Cohen - New York
December 21, 2006
Ronell Wilson, the gang-banger
who heartlessly executed
detectives to boost his
street cred and steal a
measly few hundred bucks,
was convicted of murder
yesterday by a federal
jury - which now must
decide if he should be
put to death.
packed courtroom was
tense as the jury
foreman announced -
after deliberating nine
hours - that Wilson, 24,
Rodney Andrews and James
Nemorin on March 10,
2003, during a Staten
Island gun sting.
Nemorin's widow, Rose,
nodded vehemently each
time the word "guilty"
was read in the Brooklyn
courtroom - 10 times for
10 counts, including
murder, carjacking and
husband, the father of
her three children, had
arranged to buy a Tec 9
pistol from Wilson for
$1,200. Andrews had been
posing as the buyer's
Andrews, Rodney Andrews'
wife, wept but smiled as
she sent a text message
with news of the verdict
to her sons. The women
were flanked by rows of
family members and cops.
Many had attended every
day of the trial.
they walked from the
courtroom, the widows
embraced. They declined
to speak to reporters.
Wilson betrayed no
emotion. He glanced at
his mother, Cheryl
Wilson, a few times; she
stared back at him with
weary eyes, her arms
folded tightly across
took it stoically," said
his lawyer, Ephraim
Savitt. "He expected the
verdict. He's fighting
for his life."
jurors will reconvene on
Jan. 10 to decide
whether Wilson gets a
lethal injection or life
in prison. Lawyers will
likely call mental
health experts as well
as relatives of both
Wilson and the
the worst thing that
ever happened to me in
my life, when he took [Rodney]
and James for no reason,"
said Deputy Inspector
Vincent Di Donato, their
former commander in the
member Al Hawkins said,
"I feel like there's a
God. I feel good that
justice was served."
Wilson and another man,
Jessie Jacobus, had
decided that they would
rob Nemorin - although
they realized he might
be a cop - instead of
selling him a gun. The
two thugs climbed into
the back seat of
Nemorin's car. A few
moments later, Wilson
shot both officers, then
patted down their bodies
Wilson later boasted to
his pals about the
he was arrested a few
days later, cops found
handwritten rap lyrics
in his pocket in which
he bragged about the
intelligible lyrics read:
"You better have that
vast and dat Golock.
Leave a 45 slogs in da
back of ya head. Cause
I'm getting dat bread,
ain't goin stop to I'm
Jacobus, a cooperating
witness, pleaded guilty
to murder in state court
and faces a minimum of
15 years, as do two
other gang members
involved in the shooting
- Mitchell Diaz and Omar
Bloomberg called the
heroes who put their
lives on the line to get
illegal guns off the
streets of our city."
Before the verdict,
Patricia Marion spoke of
her son, Rodney Andrews.
people talk only talk
about him the night he
died," she said,
pointing to the witness
stand. "I'm the one who
knew him when he was
said her son loved
baseball, sang in a
choir, and was in the
Navy for three years.
was surprised by his
decision to become a cop,
but told him: "God is
with you wherever you go."
Death Penalty for Cop
Killer Ronell Wilson
January 31, 2007
up in a
to buy a
use of a