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Trial again postponed for Garfield couple in connection with Cliffside Park street murder

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

ONLY ON CVP: The trial of a Garfield couple in connection with the July 2012 murder of a Cliffside Park man was postponed once again — this time until April.

Miles Feinstein, who is representing 40-year-old Michael Sampson, told a judge in Hackensack that he is part of a team of attorneys working a multi-defendant trial in Passaic County beginning in January. He’s also coming off a trial out of Sussex County that began in July.

Sampson — also known as Michael Perez — is charged with shooting Hector Tito Zabala Jr. dead as he walked home from an Anderson Avenue bar after an argument between the two.

The lawyer for his girlfriend, 37-year-old Jacqueline Pierro, wasn’t available, so Feinstein stood in.

Pierro is charged with hindering Sampson’s arrest, as well as leaving their then-4-month-old daughter with him when she knew that police had pegged him as the shooter.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer is equally busy. Right now she is co-prosecutor in a murder trial that began the end of September.

She and Feinstein acknowledged that the defense has received all evidence, with the possible exception of some transcripts, and are ready to proceed — once they have the time.

Due to the seriousness of the charges, no pleas are being offered to either defendant, Grootenboer said.

PHOTO, TOP: Jacqueline Pierro, Miles Feinstein, Michael Sampson (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

Sampson has remained behind bars since both were arrested on July 11, 2012. His bail is $3.5 million.

Pierro, meanwhile, has remained free on $25,000 bail.

Zabala’s widow, sister and brother-in-law came to court yesterday and watched the proceedings closely.

Prosecutors said Sampson went to his car and got the gun after arguing at the bar with Zabala, then shot him on the street.

Pierro was in the car at the time, left with Sampson afterward, and then left her daughter alone with him despite knowing that police were looking for him, they said.

Sampson is charged with first-degree murder, several weapons possession counts, drug possession, and neglecting their daughter.

He’s also named in a separate indictment, which Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi ruled will be tried after the murder case, accusing him of perjury for giving a statement to police in a drug case, then later giving testimony in a trial that was at odds with the facts he gave to police.

The trial originally was postponed from March to this month, then moved to January.

DeAvila-Silebi set an April 27, 2015 date for jury selection to begin.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer (seated, left), Jacqueline Pierro, Michael Sampson (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)


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