EXCLUSIVE: A judge in Hackensack asked deadlocked jurors this afternoon to return tomorrow and “work together” to reach a verdict in the case of a self-styled Santeria priest accused of breaking into his former lover’s Wallington home and beat the man’s father nearly to death.
Jurors informed Superior Court Judge James J. Guida at 4:30 this afternoon that they were of “totally deadlocked” on all charges against Julio Pina-Catena ( above, left ), including attempted murder.
However, they said they’d reached a verdict on charges of destroying evidence against his roommate, Kenny Cabrera ( above, inset ). That decision will remain undisclosed until charges against Pina-Catena have been resolved or a hung jury is declared.
“It’s your duty to consult with each other, and to reach a decision, as long as you can do so without violence to yourself or others,” Guida told the jurors. “Don’t surrender your honest conviction solely for the purpose of reaching a verdict.
“In other words, I’m going to ask you to continue,” the judge said. “I am going to ask you to go home, come back tomorrow and to continue to deliberate.”
An assistant Bergen County prosecutor said revenge over a failed romance prompted Pina-Catena, of East Rutherford, to break into the home, trash the place and attack his former lover’s father.
Pina-Catena’s lawyer, in turn, arged that it wasn’t “a fair fight” that his client was waging against “all these assistant prosecutors and all the detectives.”
Besides attempted murder, Pina-Catena is charged with various other crimes in connection with what authorities said was a vicious assault on May 4, 2011 that left the victim with a fractured skull and eye socket and no memory of the incident.
The older man was hospitalized for 10 days, then had to spend several weeks in a rehabilitation facility where he slowly regained his health, said Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer.
The crime scene included couches stained with blood, blood pooled on the carpet, a smashed TV screen, a photo of young girl at communion with its frame cracked and her eyes scratched out with a sharp instrument; another picture of the same girl older on which “U R Filthy Bitch” was carved, among other incidents of vandalism, she said.
A key piece of evidence is a Santa Barbara candle the victim’s son found lighted in the living room. Pina-Catena, Grootenboer said.
The victim’s son told jurors he broke up with Pina-Catena two years earlier and moved on to another relationship, the prosecutor said. He said his former lover exacted revent by creating a lew and false “Man Hunt” online profile characterizing him as promiscuous.
Defense attorney Robert Galantucci countered that his client, first and foremost, was “presumed to be innocent.”
The jurors’ late afternoon message today was their second in several hours. They had told him at noon that they were unable to reach a verdict.
Guida ordered the panel to return tomorrow at 8:45 a.m. and try again.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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