2 Convicted In Carnegie Deli Killings

Andre Smith, center, shown in a May, 2001 file photo, was found guilty of three counts of murder in New York State Supreme Court Tuesday, AP (file)

Two men accused of killing three people in an apartment above Broadway's Carnegie Deli were convicted Tuesday of multiple counts of murder and robbery.

Separate juries found Sean Salley, 30, of Brooklyn, and Andre "Dre" Smith, 31, of Irvington, N.J., each guilty of three counts of second-degree murder, four robbery counts and two weapons counts in connection to the May 10, 2001, shooting.

The defendants, tried before separate juries in the same courtroom, were accused of shooting five people, three of them fatally, in the sixth-floor apartment rented by Jennifer Stahl, 39, an actress who was in the movie "Dirty Dancing." She used the flat to sell her potent high-grade marijuana and as a recording studio.

Prosecutors said the pair bound the victims face-down with duct tape and shot each in the head after robbing Stahl of about $800 and 1.5 pounds of marijuana. Two of the victims survived to testify at trial.

After two days of deliberation, Smith's jury reached a decision first on Tuesday, followed shortly by Salley's. After the jurors were polled, Judge Carol Berkman left the bench with a box of tissues, apparently on her way to where the jurors were. As the jurors left the courtroom, one young woman seemed to be weeping as profusely as the friends and family of the victims.

Sentencing for both men has been set for July 29. They face 25 years to life in prison for each murder conviction.

The three who died were Stahl; Stephen King, 32, of Manhattan, and Charles Helliwell, 36, of Boston. The survivors were Rosemond Dane, 37, of the Virgin Islands, and Anthony Veader, 37, a Manhattan hairdresser.

Prosecutors said at the beginning of the trial that they were not sure who fired the fatal shots, but in his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Steven Nuzzi said he believed Salley shot all five.

A member of the Smith jury, who would not give his name but described himself as a 48-year-old research scientist with the city Department of Environmental Protection, said Nuzzi's theory made sense.

"It was very difficult to convict Smith; we did not necessarily believe that he was the shooter," the juror said.

But the jurors had been told by the judge that anyone who takes a part in a crime in which a murder is committed is considered to be as guilty as the shooter.

"It's too bad a young man such as Mr. Smith may have picked the wrong friend and now he's going to jail for a long time," the juror said.

The two juries met after the verdicts were announced and talked about what information each had seen that the other hadn't, the Smith juror said.

Salley, once a roadie with funk musician George Clinton, said he had gone to Stahl's apartment to get some "weed," sell it and split the money with her. He said they had done similar deals before.

Salley, who said he knew Stahl through music business contacts, said that after he and Smith arrived at her building, Smith announced he intended to rob Stahl. He said Smith forced him at gunpoint to take part.

During the robbery, Salley said, Smith told him to hold the gun on Stahl. Salley admits that while holding the gun he shot and killed Stahl, but he claimed it was an accident because he was nervous and shaky.

Salley was on the run for three weeks after the murders until a police dog captured him near the Miami homeless shelter where he was living. Viewers of the "America's Most Wanted" television show reported seeing him there.

In Miami, Salley told investigators that he had intended an "easy lick" robbery that Smith had turned into a blood bath.

But Smith, who had already surrendered to police on May 20, 2001, told detectives that Salley had shot all the victims. He told them his accomplice had acted "like an animal" and "deserves to die."

Smith's story changed at trial. Despite police recovery of his fingerprint from the duct tape and his identification by the survivors, he claimed he had not been in Stahl's apartment at all.

Smith's lawyer, Edna Schwartz, said police had used psychological pressure and trickery to get him to confess to something he had not done. She also said witnesses' identifications of Smith were mistakes.

Besides Salley's own testimony, in which he admitted shooting Stahl, the strongest evidence against the defendants was the testimony of the survivors, especially Dane's.

Nuzzi recalled in closing arguments that Dane said she heard Stahl tell the robber in the studio that he had all of her money and marijuana and he should leave. Then, Dane testified, she heard a shot.

Seconds after the shot, the man came out of the studio and stepped over her, Dane said. She said she heard more shots, each sounding closer to her, and then she felt a gun at the back of her head.

Dane said she yelled "No!" and turned her head.

"Then," she said, "I was shot."

Salley's lawyer, Mitchell Dinnerstein, had said the prosecution's evidence and view of the crime was not in dispute.

The Carnegie Deli, famous for overstuffed sandwiches named after celebrities, is on the ground floor of a six-story Manhattan building, a block east of the Ed Sullivan Theater, where "The Late Show with David Letterman" tapes.
  • Joel Arak

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