CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE: As jurors in Hackensack today began deliberating the fate of a former mob associate from Palisades Park charged with rape, the 73-year-old defendant – who only moments earlier was smiling with his family – was brought out of the Bergen County courthouse on a gurney and taken to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck after complaining of “angina-like” symptoms.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi said tonight that she spoke to doctors who told her that Kenneth Wedra didn’t have a heart attack. However, she said their protocol is to observe him for 24 hours, during which time they’ll give him stress tests and measure his enzymes levels.
As long as everything looks good, DeAvila-Silebi was told, Wedra will be released as early as tomorrow afternoon.
The judge, who allowed jurors unaware of the incident to continue deliberations today, directed her staff to tell them to return on Wednesday, without disclosing that the defendant had been hospitalized.
Deliberations began a little after 10 o’clock this morning in the case, in which Wedra is charged with sexually assaulting a 35-year-old Rochelle Park woman in March 2001. He was 62 at the time.
Wedra also is charged with sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl, which could end up returning him to the courthouse for a second trial. Prosecutors say the assaults on the child occurred between June 2002 and December 2003.
Jurors in the trial broke for lunch today around 12:30 after being charged by DeAvila-Silebi a couple of hours earlier. So did Wedra, who was in the courthouse cafeteria enjoying some time with his family.
After returning to the hallway outside the courtroom, he began to display symptoms of angina around 2:15, a Bergen County Sheriff’s officer said.
“He didn’t look good,” the officer told DeAvila-Silebi.
An ashen Wedra — who previously served 25 years in prison for murder and rape — could be seen minutes later sitting on a hallway bench, his jacket off, being attended to by EMS workers.
Soon after, he was taken to the hospital.
Deliberations continued until just after 5 p.m. A short time earlier, jurors asked why the indictment returned by a Bergen County grand jury against Wedra listed a range of dates instead of a specific day of the alleged rape. They also wanted to listen again to portions of a phone conversation in which, according to prosecutors, he confessed to the crime. The jurors also wanted to review the alleged victim’s testimony.
Because none of these can’t be done without the defendant in the courtroom, DeAvila-Silebi sent them home.
The surprising events occurred during on an already-busy day for the judge, who had various defendants brought before her — including two who tried to fire their attorneys.
Defense attorney Dennis Calo said his client was having chest pains last week.
“Do you want to go to the hospital?” Calo said he asked Wedra.
“No,” he said he responded. “I want to wait for the verdict.”
Wedra has been free on $300,000 bail since Nov. 24, 2009, three months after he was arrested in connection with both cases.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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