Thursday, May 24, 2007
By Paula McMahon
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 24, 2007
Jurors will resume deliberating today in the murder trial of Kenneth Wilk -- a case prosecutors hope will bring the first death sentence in Florida's federal courts since U.S. death penalty laws were rewritten in the 1980s.
The fatal shooting of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Todd Fatta and injuries to Lt. Angelo Cedeño on Aug. 19, 2004, were tragedies, defense attorney Bill Matthewman told the jury in closing arguments.
But he urged jurors to consider a multi-pronged defense when they judge Wilk's actions. If jurors find Wilk guilty of a capital crime, they will later decide if he should get the death penalty.
Among Wilk's defenses: that he acted in self-defense against people he thought were intruders; that he was temporarily insane; that he had AIDS-related dementia; and that his brain was damaged by the disease.
Law enforcement also botched the raid on Wilk's home, Matthewman said.
"I would suggest to you that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong," Matthewman told the jury.
The tragedy could have been "easily avoided" if federal agents and Sheriff's Office supervisors had considered evidence they had before the raid that Wilk could not hear properly, the defense said.
They ignored Wilk's history of threats against officers and that he had multiple guns before busting into his Fort Lauderdale home to serve a warrant, the defense said.
Wilk, 45, told jurors he shot at officers in a split-second, self-defense decision. To illustrate how long officers say he had to figure out what was happening, prosecutor Neil Karadbil paused for 60 seconds and walked from the podium to his table several times. Prosecutors say Wilk had about 90 seconds.
Prosecutors described Wilk as an angry man who destroyed evidence, intimidated witnesses and waged a sick war against police on Jones' behalf. Karadbil told the jury it was impossible to predict that Wilk, who had not previously acted on his threats, would lie in ambush for the officers.
The defense painted a more sympathetic picture of a man who was law-abiding for the first 40 years of his life: a former NASA security guard and Log Cabin Republican.
The breaking point came because of Wilk's long battle with AIDS and his relationship with boyfriend Kelly Ray Jones, Matthewman said. Jones was convicted of possessing child pornography and trying to meet a 12-year-old boy for sex in 2001, and Wilk became obsessed with the task force that arrested Jones. Fatta and Cedeño were not on that task force.
Wilk was misguided in his efforts to help his partner, Matthewman said, but Wilk was not a child pornographer or pedophile. Matthewman also accused prosecutors of trying to inflame jurors with images of child porn that he said belonged to Jones, not Wilk.
If Wilk is convicted, the government can try to seize his assets. On Wednesday, Wilk's attorneys said he previously told them he wanted proceeds from the sale of his home in Fort Lauderdale to go to Fatta's family. The house is currently assessed at about $519,000.