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Dec 19, 2012 10:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Guilty Verdict In Federal Case Against Brother Of Fugitive Wanted For Nun Hit-And-Run

Dec 19, 2012 1:39 PM

A jury in federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday convicted the brother of the hit-and-run driver who police say killed a nun in Water Mill nearly six months ago.

The jury, after about four and a half hours of deliberation over two days, found Miguel Ixpec-Chitay of Riverhead, whose age was not available but is in his 20s, guilty of lying to investigators during the search for his brother. Sentencing is set for January 8 at 1 p.m.

Mr. Ixpec-Chitay was tried on a single felony count of making a materially false statement to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents regarding phone calls made between him and his brother, Carlos Armando Ixpec-Chitay, 30. The elder brother is the suspected driver of the SUV that plowed into Sister Jacqueline Walsh, 59, of Syosset, a Catholic nun walking alongside Rose Hill Road near her retreat house the night of July 9, killing her instantly.

Essentially, Miguel is accused of lying about having had contact with Carlos immediately after the crash, thereby hindering the manhunt for his brother, which quickly went national, and came up empty-handed.

The younger brother’s federal case, which began being heard on Monday before Judge Denis R. Hurley, offered many details of what law enforcement officers believe transpired in the early days of the still-unresolved search for the elder Mr. Ixpec-Chitay, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala.

And although the crash itself was not part of Miguel’s case, authorities have acknowledged independently over the past week that Carlos likely fled the country. U.S. Marshals outside the courtroom Monday said he may have returned to his homeland. His exact whereabouts appear to be unknown, but extradition is a possibility, police said.

“This case is about a lie. A lie that mattered,” declared prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz, an assistant U.S. attorney, in her opening statement Monday.

In a July 13 interview with federal agents, Miguel said he had neither seen nor spoken to Carlos and had neither called nor received a call from him in at least 25 days, a claim he repeated numerous times even after officers explained to him in his native Spanish that it was a crime to lie to federal officers, and that they had acquired a lot of information in reference to Carlos, Ms. Gatz told the 12-member jury. He also signed a written statement swearing that what he said was true.

The prosecutor pointed to phone records as evidence showing approximately 20 calls made between Miguel’s and Carlos’s cell phones on July 9 and 10 and said that the “time elapsed” in the records indicate that connections were made. In addition, a text message exchange between the brothers’ phones was made the day after the crash, in which a message in Spanish from Carlos’s phone asked for no more questions and an “Ok” response came from Miguel’s phone. The indictment, however, refers only to calls, not texts.

“This is not about a lie. It’s about a misunderstanding,” countered defense attorney Leonard Lato. He tried to poke holes in the prosecution’s argument by claiming the sworn statement was not entirely true because it said nothing about Miguel having not seen or spoken to Carlos. It is misleading, Mr. Lato argued, because it is written in English, not Spanish, meaning Miguel doesn’t know what preceded his signature. He also argued that investigators should have recorded the interview via audio or video, but they elected not to and that although the phone numbers between Carlos and Miguel are linked, there is no proof, he said, that the brothers themselves were the ones who were actually on their phones at the times in question.

Miguel, who pleaded not guilty, wore a blue shirt and tie and a neat haircut in court and listened to a Spanish interpreter throughout, displaying little emotion. He has been held at the Queens Detention Facility, a private jail in Jamaica, Queens, that houses primarily pre-sentenced detainees on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service, since his September arrest.

Sister Walsh’s cousin, Chuck Walsh, sat in the front row with Jim Murphy, the deacon at Sister’s Walsh’s church. Mr. Walsh declined to comment.

The government called several witnesses.

Southampton Town Police Detective Tim Wilson testified that police identified Carlos as the suspect early on and obtained a search warrant to track his phone, a white iPhone that officers found on July 10 ditched in the woods across the street from 543 Blue Point Road, just north of the Long Island Expressway, in Farmingville, about 40 miles west of the crash scene.

Karvelis Giedrius, a friend of Carlos who lives in Riverhead, testified that he had bought Carlos’s phone for him and included him on his family plan, and that Carlos had called him the night of the crash as well as about 6 a.m. the next day. Mr. Giedrius said later outside the courtroom that Carlos had asked to stay at his home after the crash, but because the phone was in Mr. Giedrius’s name, federal agents showed up at that home looking for him.

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Such a bungled case - it does not shine a good light on our local police nor the federal agencies involved.

The worst thing in this article though is the attorney defending this scum. How can he sleep at night knowing he is trying to get this man off of charges for something he obviously is guilty of? Acknowleding that phoen calls were made but not providing "proof" that they actually spoke? Come on... this is absurd.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 19, 12 11:00 AM
Easy there, Nature. We still live in a civilized society and a democracy. It is premature to judge anyone as "scum" IMO, and it is beneath your integrity (as demonstrated here many times) to engage in such gutter-all name calling.

Our process of defending suspects vigoraously has its pro's and con's, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water, especially as emotions are running high from the tragedy in Newtown CT.

Patience . . . . , as you really know, nothing is "obvious," ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 19, 12 11:29 AM
PS -- Nice reporting by Ms. Reynolds, and kudos to the Press's editors for having her report on this case, from Islip apparently. Well done!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 19, 12 11:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
ok - maybe 'scum' was "premature" - but PBR, you of all people offering a defense of this guy? Yea yea, innocent until proven guilty, but we can make the general leap-of-faith that he spoke to his brother based on the evidence before us. He lied lied lied until his brother was out of the country and didn't have to face the music.

I know we live in a democracy - and you're innocent until proven guilty and of course you are entitled to an attorney. It just boggles my mind that the attorney ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 19, 12 11:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Simmer down, you have lost perspective IMO.

The jury process is a process, imperfect, but bearable by mature adults who have a longer view of the give and take of life's vicissitudes IMO.

Such patience is, after all, part of Nature!

Over and out (point made).
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 19, 12 12:15 PM
All this calm and collectedness coming from the guy who was calling for the heads of the STPD? Interesting... I'd like a sip of the water you're drinking lately PBR
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 19, 12 12:59 PM
PBR - I, and the Jury "rest our case"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 19, 12 2:18 PM
Exactly, NOW you CAN rest your case. Thank you for making my point.

See, the patience wasn't too hard to take, now was it?


PS -- I can see you are in your ad hominem attack mode again, which does not fit you well IMO. Have a good evening.

PS2 -- And yes, the SHT PD DOES still owes us a further explanation of why waiting 11 days to release the name and photo of the suspect was prudent and justified. By the way, where IS the suspect, or has this trail ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 19, 12 6:19 PM
It always makes sense to plead "not guilty" b/c if you plead guilty then you go straight to sentencing. At least with a not guilty plea you can bargain to lesser charges or have the less tenuous charges dismissed.

I think from a defense attorney's POV, they do have to defend people that are sometimes indefensible. So how do they live with themselves? In many instances they view it as defending the integrity of the system not so much the character of the defendant.

Do you realize ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 19, 12 5:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you -- that is the phrase that counts:

"integrity of the system"

A point that is lost on some.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 19, 12 6:22 PM
Thank you.

Our system is funny in that the brother is subject to obstruction if not aiding and abetting. All that is based on misinformation relayed to prosecutors from a conversation over the phone.

Yet if the fugitive's wife (if he has one) had a three hour conversation and she read him the Anarchists Bible, that would be inadmissible b/c it is covered by the marriage privilege (slightly different than lying to prosecutors but you get the notion).

To be brutally honest ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Dec 20, 12 8:48 AM
patience is not a strong suit to some of our voicers and why not! some things need to be vented on and this case is one. patience is a virtue not a single one of us wants to retain it in this case. the PD screwed up and we are no further into catching this guy than we were months ago. PD needs to hold some responsibility for this case going into the sewer. Perhaps if the name was given earlier there was a change he would have raised a flag at an airport, etc. but NO. Just a thought.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Dec 19, 12 5:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are we all still convinced the driver was this man's brother (Ixpec-chitay) and not a member of his brother's employees family? I still see a cover-up in the works. This reeks of cooruption, having an employee take the fall for a priveledged family. How did he get out of the country unknown? What financial assistance was he given? Why did the police wait so long to release the important information? Why was the driver of the vehicle (supposedly an illegal immigrant) driving the employers car ...more
By astevens21 (13), Water Mill on Dec 19, 12 11:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
You brought up lots of good points!
By jhalsey1 (2), Water Mill on Dec 20, 12 9:26 AM
Why was the driver of the vehicle (an illegal immigrant) employed and driving around in my country in the first place?
By loading... (601), quiogue on Dec 20, 12 7:50 AM
...I meant "alleged" driver
By loading... (601), quiogue on Dec 20, 12 8:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
never thought that the "alleged" driver was who Mr.Zaro said he was. Not showing a picture of who Mr. Zaro "said" was the driver was very fishy. Everything in this supposed investigation seemed to me like bullsh@t! If it was anyone else who had a car registered to us, and killed someone, we would be cuffed and put away without a thought. Money buys you your freedom...but does it...
By LI native (127), east moriches on Dec 22, 12 11:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
Chief Pearce has been on the job for only a couple of weeks.

Hopefully after New Years, he will begin to fill the void of information in this "outrageous miscarriage of justice" to quote the Press's recent editorial.

The failure to post the suspect's name and photo right away is an issue which is NOT going to go away.

Pearce on Earth!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 23, 12 11:44 AM
See comments here for the "lump of coal" awarded to the authorities in the Press's editorial:

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 23, 12 11:47 AM
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 23, 12 6:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Monday the 31st will mark the 25th week since Sister Walsh was mowed down and left to die on the side of the road.

Surely this is a black eye on the Town of Southampton for allowing 2012 to end with this crime remaining unsolved, or at least giving us an update.

Will Supervisor ATH's "State of the Town" speech next year include this black eye and "lumps of coal" per the Press's editorial, in addition to the accomplishments?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 27, 12 4:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Rest in Peace, Sister Walsh, as Southampton Town seems to have forgotten about your tragic death TWENTY FIVE weeks ago.

A closing of "Happy New Year" seems a bit inappropriate, does it not?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 31, 12 9:06 AM