Convictions overturned in Bronx illegal partition case

February 24, 2010 09:11AM

The owner and former owner of a Bronx apartment building were cleared of charges yesterday in a case over illegal partitions that led to the deaths of two firefighters in 2005. The firefighters, John Bellew and Curtis Meyran, jumped from a 50-foot window in the burning East 178th Street building in Tremont to escape the flames. The defendants allegedly knew about the small, windowless rooms on the third floor that caused Bellew and Meyran to become disoriented amid the fire, and a jury had thus convicted the defendants of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment last year. Yesterday, Justice Margaret Clancy of The State Supreme Court overturned that verdict, arguing that prosecutors had failed to prove that either Cesar Rios or the 234 East 178th Street Corporation, which bought the building from Rios in 2003, knew about the partitions. Rios had faced up to four years in prison; the corporation had faced a fine of up to $15,000. A different jury last year also acquitted the tenants who allegedly installed the partitions in order to sublet small rooms in their apartments for between $75 and $100 per week. [NYT]