NEW YORK – A man accused of shoving a city police officer off a stoop to his death during a domestic violence arrest last year was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter.
George Villanueva, 42, also was convicted of a criminal contempt charge, but was acquitted of a more serious murder charge that would have sent him to prison for life. He faces 30 years when he is sentenced May 23.
Police Officer Alain Schaberger was responding to a domestic violence call made by Villanueva's girlfriend, who claimed Villanueva had threatened to kill her, on March 13, 2011.
Officers tracked him to another apartment and stood with him outside on the stoop. While Schaberger was trying to handcuff Villanueva, he shoved the officer over a railing, prosecutors said. Schaberger fell nine feet, breaking his neck.
Villanueva's lawyers argued the death was an accident and that Schaberger lost his footing because he was knocked by another officer. No one noticed he had fallen until after they were pulling Villanueva down the steps, attorney Kleon Andreadis said.
Schaberger, 42, was a 10-year member of the police department assigned to the 84th Precinct and was engaged to be married. His parents said outside court they were disappointed by the verdict.
"This man has to pay," said his mother, May Schaberger. "He can still see his mom. My son ... I don't know if I die I'll see him on the other side or not."
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police department's largest union, said they will pursue the maximum sentence the law allows.
"We see this as a sacred obligation to our deceased brother-in-arms, Alain Schaberger, and we will continue our steadfast support of the family that he leaves behind," he said.
After the verdict was read, Villanueva's family burst out into sobs and screams. His mother, Josefa Villanueva, howled that her son was not guilty and that she loved him. Emergency services officers were called to the courtroom and she left the courthouse in an ambulance.
As Villanueva, 43, was being led away he mouthed "I love you" to his family.
Schaberger was the first officer to die in the line of duty since 2009. Since his death, at least four other officers have been killed or seriously wounded.