Mount Kisco (Westchester County) police officer George Bubaris was acquitted of the charges of Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide in White Plains. The case has divided communities and received significant media attention due to the exposure of the issues that exist between immigrant communities throughout New York and local law enforcement.
The case began after Rene Perez, a homeless and undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, died in April 2007. Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Perez died as a result of an abdominal injury sustained by Officer Burbaris. The defense, on the other hand, argued that it was the Mr. Perez’s life style that caused the injuries. Although there was no dispute as to the injury that ultimately caused the death of Mr. Perez, the prosecution and the defense argued not only as to who caused the injury, but when it occurred. Clearly, the defense was able to persuade the jury that there was reasonable doubt as to this critical point and Officer Burbaris’ actions.
Although Bubaris allegedly made some damaging statements, including that he was going “hunting” presumably for immigrants, Perez had a long record of arrests, getting drunk and making 911 calls.
Unfortunately, in a case such as this, there are no winners, but only losers. While Officer Burbaris was acquitted of the charge, there will remain a significant number of people, especially those in the immigrant community, who will still demand answers and hold him accountable. As a former prosecutor and a practicing criminal defense attorney, I am all too familiar with the reality of the criminal process and the ramifications of a mere accusation of any crime. It is not just your rights you need to protect, but your liberty, integrity, and livelihood.