A Fairview man who admitted targeting his 88-year-old grandfather for a burglary that led to the World War II veteran’s death at the hands of his accomplice won’t be going to prison — and can have his record cleared in three years.
Andrew Abella, 22, simply must remain out of trouble while meeting all the conditions of the Pre-trial Intervention Program and the entire matter “will go away,” Superior Court Judge Edward A. Jerejian told him yesterday.
For Abella to qualify, authorities first had to revoke a plea deal that he agreed to in December 2012 that could have sent him to jail for less than a year or brought him probation.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Deepa Jacobs cited Abella’s assistance in obtaining a guilty verdict in the trial of co-defendant Edwin Estrada, 23, of Cliffside Park, who was sentenced last month to 60 years in state prison for beating Vincent Leuzzi with a cooking pot while looking for drug money for both of them during the bungled July 2010 burglary.
Leuzzi died of his injuries nine days after receiving what authorities said were eight to 12 blows to the head.
Estrada was arrested in New York City and originally charged in Hackensack with attempted murder and armed robbery. He made things easy for investigators by using Leuzzi’s credit card to buy clothing in Washington Heights, in a transaction captured on surveillance video.
The charges were upgraded to murder after Leuzzi’s death.
Estrada contended that he’d smoked PCP in Leuzzi’s bathroom, got paranoid and began hitting him with the pot while hearing “the devil” say “do it, do it” in his head.
A state psychiatric expert rejected that account.
Estrada originally pleaded guilty in March 2013 to aggravated manslaughter in exchange for a 27-year prison term. But Presiding Superior Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi nixed the deal and scheduled a trial after family members called for the death penalty.
Those same family members — who are also Abella’s — agreed to pre-trial intervention for him, said Jacobs, the assistant prosecutor.
Under PTI, Abella must submit to random drug and alcohol tests.
Jacobs warned him to “be aware” that his testimony in Estrada’s trial could be used against him if he gets in trouble again in the next 36 months.
STORY / PHOTO: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
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