Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NY men cleared of trying to cash corpse's check

NEW YORK - Prosecutors dropped charges Tuesday against two men who caused a stir when they wheeled their dead rooommate's corpse down a busy Manhattan street and tried to cash his Social Security check.

James O'Hare and David J. Daloia claimed that their roommate was alive when they left their apartment for a check-cashing store on Jan. 8, and that they had standing permission to cash each other's checks when pooling household expenses.

The prosecutor acknowledged Tuesday that it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt when the man actually died, making it difficult to bring a case against the men. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Evelyn LaPorte agreed and dismissed the charges.

The decision allowed O'Hare and Daloia to walk out of the courthouse as free men, three months after they became a media sensation for their audacious stunt.

"I was amazed. I thought Britney Spears had taken her pants down again," Daloia said outside court about all the attention the case had attracted.

The episode that got O'Hare and Daloia in trouble was one of those only-in-New York moments, playing out on a bustling street in Hell's Kitchen.

Daloia and O'Hare tried to cash 66-year-old Virgilio Cintron's $355 check on their own, but were told by the man at the store that Cintron had to be present to get the money, police said.

So they went back and got their roommate, dressing him in Velcro shoes, a tattered T-shirt and pants that barely fit. They put him on an office chair and wheeled him back to the store.

The clerk was suspicious of the whole situation, and an NYPD detective who happened to be eating lunch at a nearby restaurant watched the episode unfold.

Paramedics were called, and within a few minutes, it was determined that Cintron was dead. O'Hare and Dalioa were arrested on charges of forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, attempted larceny and improper disposal of a body.

Assistant District Attorney Courtney Groves told the judge that an autopsy concluded only that Cintron had been dead for less than 24 hours, and had died of natural causes related to Parkinson's disease.

The uncertainty about the exact time of death meant that it would have been hard for prosecutors to prove that Cintron was actually dead during the check-cashing stunt.

"The medical examiner cannot state with scientific certainty the time of death in this case. Therefore, the people cannot prove the charges against these defendants," Groves said.
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