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Juror accused of lying in Peter Liang manslaughter trial testifies

NYPD Officer Peter Liang sits in Brooklyn

NYPD Officer Peter Liang sits in Brooklyn Supreme Court as evidence is reviewed by the jury in his manslaughter case on Feb. 10, 2015. Officer Liang is on trial for the 2014 shooting of Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn public housing stairwell. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The juror accused of lying during jury selection for disgraced cop Peter Liang’s manslaughter trial insisted his relationship with his convicted father was estranged during a hearing on Wednesday.

The motion for a mistrial was filed last week alleging the father of Juror No. 9, named in court records as Michael Vargas, was convicted of manslaughter and served more than seven years in prison. Liang, 28, was convicted in February for the 2014 fatal stairwell shooting of Akai Gurley, also 28.

“I didn’t know my father,” Vargas said. “I do not know what happened. I was young, I was sheltered.”

During the 2-hour-long hearing, Vargas said he wasn’t close with his father, and was questioned about his Facebook activity, including sharing several posts that questioned police actions.

“What’s up with the police?” he wrote in one post. But Vargas insisted he was “entitled to my opinion.” In another post that referred to an officer who punched a man, Vargas wrote: “Are the police a legal gang?”

“I share things that are sensitive to me,” he said. “I do many posts that are in support of the police.

“When somebody does something that makes me angry you speak up,” he added.

“I think we showed today that Mr. Vargas is not an impartial juror. That he’s got a strong anti-cop bias and sad to say I think we showed he’s not an honest man," Liang's attorney, Paul Shechtman, said outside the courthouse. "I guess I think if there was just glaring thing he’d be a lot better off. I thought there were a lot of things that he said that weren’t believable and a lot of questions that he evaded. And I hope the judge saw it the same way we did.”

The last-ditch effort came one day before Liang was scheduled to be sentenced in the case. His sentencing will be postponed until next week, and the mistrial hearing will continue on Thursday.

He faces up to 15 years in prison and his sentencing is entirely up to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who presided over both Wednesday’s hearing and the trial.

Last month, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson recommended Liang not serve any time in jail and instead complete 500 hours of community service, six months of house arrest, and spend five years on probation.


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