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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Leader of a violent drug gang called the Stapleton Crew
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 10, 2003
Date of birth: 1982
Victims profile: James V. Nemorin, 36, and Rodney J. Andrews, 34 (undercover NYC police officers)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Staten Island, New York, USA
Status: Federally sentenced to death on January 30, 2007

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Ronell Wilson 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 guns.

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 detectives.

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 analysis.

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 attention.

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 media.

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 important.

“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 Minutes

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 yesterday.

“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 pager.

“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 for sure.

“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 government alleges.”

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 his sight.

The sergeant said he could tell that Mr. Wilson had later returned because he heard the same voice resume on the transmitter.

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' killer

By Stefanie Cohen - New York Post

December 21, 2006

Ronell Wilson, the gang-banger who heartlessly executed two undercover 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.

The packed courtroom was tense as the jury foreman announced - after deliberating nine hours - that Wilson, 24, murdered Detectives 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 firearms charges.

Her 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 brother-in-law.

Detective MaryAnn 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.

As 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 her chest.

"He took it stoically," said his lawyer, Ephraim Savitt. "He expected the verdict. He's fighting for his life."

The 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 detectives.

"It's 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 Firearms Investigation Unit.

Unit 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 for cash.

Wilson later boasted to his pals about the slayings.

When he was arrested a few days later, cops found handwritten rap lyrics in his pocket in which he bragged about the shooting.

The misspelled, barely 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 dead."

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 Green.

Mayor Bloomberg called the officers "selfless 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.

"These 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 alive."

She said her son loved baseball, sang in a choir, and was in the Navy for three years.

She 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

After two days of deliberations, a federal jury sentenced Ronell Wilson to death for the 2003 killings of undercover detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews. When the verdict was read, Wilson rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out at Nemorin's widow Rose. This is the first death penalty sentence for a federal case in NY State in over 50 years.

While family and friends of the deceased cheered, Wilson's younger brother shouted after the verdict was read. The Sun said it sounded like a curse, but Daniel Wilson was taken out of the court room, only for Nemorin's mother-in-law to say, "You are a dead man!" Then Wilson's mother Cheryl said, "Y'all the murderers now." Daniel Wilson told the Daily News, "Just because one family lost a member, does that mean it's right that another family loses theirs? If their families are hurting so bad, how the f--k could they stand by and say 'Yes' when another man's life has to be taken."

His defense team tried to show that Wilson's upbringing was harrowing, growing up in a deeply troubled family, but by sentencing Wilson to death, the jury believed that Wilson acted with depraved indifference when he shot Nemorin and Andrews in the back of the head on March 10, 2003. Prosecutors said that Wilson knew that Nemorin and Andrews, posing as men who wanted to buy a gun, were detectives but wanted to kill them anyway. Wilson was found guilty of ten counts, including racketeering murder, carjacking, and criminal use of a firearm, last December.

Rose Nemorin told reporters, "Justice is served. I trust in the Lord and the Lord has served. Jim can rest now. Rest, Jim, rest. We love you."

Here is the text of Wilson's apology, given before the sentencing. The NY Times visited parts of Staten Island to find out what residents thought of the sentencing; many agreed with it, but one woman said, "Yes, he did kill two people, but sticking a needle in his arm won't help the wives of those officers sleep better at night." The Washington Post's Jabari Asim wrote an op-ed about Wilson and the rap lyrics police found in his pocket.



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