2 Cleared on Some Counts In 1996 Slayings at Scores

The New York Times

A jury acquitted two brothers of several charges yesterday in connection with two 1996 slayings at Scores, a strip club on the Upper East Side. But the jurors continued to debate more serious charges, signaling that they were wrestling with the credibility of the main prosecution witness, a Mafia turncoat.

The jury in State Supreme Court in Manhattan found one of the brothers, Victor Dedaj, 39, not guilty in the death of one of the men, Michael Greco, 22. But the jurors remained deadlocked on a second-degree murder charge against Mr. Dedaj in the death of Jonathan Segal, 25. And they remained undecided on the most serious charges against Simon Dedaj, 35, first-degree murder in both killings.

Federal prosecutors from Westchester County are closely watching the trial of the Dedaj brothers. Willie Marshall, 33, a Mafia turncoat who was the main witness against the brothers, is also considered a lead prosecution witness in the upcoming trial of John A. Gotti, the son of imprisoned Mafia leader John J. Gotti. The younger Mr. Gotti is scheduled to be tried later this year in Westchester County on extortion and fraud charges

The Dedaj brothers were accused of murdering the two men, a bouncer and a waiter at the club on East 60th Street, after an argument broke out at an early-morning birthday celebration on June 21, 1996. Mr. Marshall and other prosecution witnesses testified that one of the brothers shot Mr. Greco and Mr. Segal while the other participated in the attack, but defense lawyers said that the brothers acted in self-defense.

Yesterday afternoon, the jurors sent a note to the judge saying that they had reached a verdict on some of the counts, but were deadlocked on others. Justice Edwin Torres called the jurors to the courtroom to hear the partial verdicts. The jury acquitted the two brothers on several burglary and second-degree murder charges, but said that they were deadlocked on nine other counts.

Justice Torres ordered the jurors to continue deliberations. At 7 P.M., after about two more hours of debate, the jurors ended their discussions for the evening. They are scheduled to resume deliberations tomorrow morning.

The family members and friends of the Dedaj brothers were distraught yesterday morning as the jurors began their third full day of deliberations. Simon Dedaj's girlfriend, Donna Kelly, wept, and Marika Dedaj, the mother of the two men, prayed with other family members. After the partial verdicts were read, they seemed to find hope. ''It is reassuring to hear the not-guilty verdicts,'' said Robert P. Kelly, an lawyer for Victor Dedaj.

During the trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers presented starkly different versions of what happened. The prosecution said that Simon Dedaj shot and killed Mr. Greco, a bouncer, and Mr. Segal, a waiter. The defense contended that Victor Dedaj fired the gun, but only in self-defense. The partial verdicts cast little light on which version the jurors believed, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Marshall, a former bouncer and a former prison guard, was as much the focus of the trial as the Dedaj brothers. Jurors faced a complicated task in deciding whether they believed Mr. Marshall. As part of his long history of criminal activities, Mr. Marshall testified that he and his associates extorted money from the owners, disk jockeys and strippers at Scores for the Gambino crime family.

But the prosecutor in the Scores case, Daniel McGillycuddy, urged the jurors to trust Mr. Marshall, noting that a Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretap recorded him giving his brother the same description of the killings that he gave during his testimony in court. Yesterday, before the verdicts, the jurors listened to several of the F.B.I. tapes for a second time.

Mr. Marshall and other prosecution witnesses, including Michelle Romano, a topless dancer whose stage name is Pebbles, testified that an after-hours birthday celebration at the club went awry about 4 A.M., when Simon Dedaj put Mr. Segal in a headlock and Victor Dedaj cursed at Mr. Marshall's girlfriend, Laurie Zenario, when she told him to stop. Mr. Marshall ordered the brothers to leave, but they refused, prosecutors said.

Simon Dedaj fired a single shot into Mr. Greco's forehead, prosecutors said. Victor Dedaj attacked Mr. Segal with a knife in the club's vestibule, prosecutors said. Before the brothers fled, the prosecutors said, Simon Dedaj shot Mr. Segal three times, killing him.

The defense lawyers described the Dedaj brothers as the victims and Mr. Marshall as the aggressor. Albert Brackley, a defense lawyer, said that Simon Dedaj placed Mr. Segal in a headlock because Mr. Segal had challenged him to do so. Mr. Marshall's girlfriend then began shouting at Simon Dedaj to stop and Victor Dedaj argued back, the defense said.

Mr. Marshall assaulted Victor Dedaj while Mr. Segal pulled Simon Dedaj into the vestibule, the defense said. Ali Zherka, a friend of the Dedaj brothers who was in Scores that morning, testified that he jumped on Mr. Marshall as he attacked Victor Dedaj. During the struggle, a gun fell from Mr. Marshall's waistband onto the floor, the defense lawyers said.

The defense reversed the role of the two brothers. Victor Dedaj picked up the gun, Mr. Zherka testified, and Mr. Marshall ordered Mr. Greco to shoot them. As Mr. Greco started to draw a pistol, Victor Dedaj fired at him in self-defense, defense lawyers said. Mr. Zherka testified that Victor Dedaj then ran to the vestibule and fired wildly at Mr. Segal because he feared that his brother was being beaten to death.