2002-03-23 / Front Page

Verdict Split In Medina Case

By Gary G. Toms

By Gary G. Toms

On March 14, a jury handed down a split verdict in the murder of Maria Medina, a Far Rockaway tenant activist. Medina, 45, was killed when she was struck by stray bullets fired during a shootout at the Redfern Houses back in March of 2000. Prosecutors claimed that Tullie Hyman, 21, and Osimba Rabsatt, 20, were the men who killed Medina.

After deliberating for more than two days, the jury convicted Hyman on charges of second-degree murder, weapons possession and reckless endangerment. He now faces a sentence of 25 years to life, and will be sentenced on April 10. Rabsatt was cleared of all charges.

Diane Samuel, Rabsatt’s mother, was overcome with emotion when she heard the verdict.

"I’m just so overwhelmed. Finally, my son can come home," she said.

Rabsatt’s attorney, Godfrey Brown, believed that ballistics evidence should have cleared both of the defendants.

"The jury came to the right conclusion when it came to my client, but it is a very, very strange verdict on the evidence. But the verdict can’t make up for the two years that my client spent in jail waiting for this trial," said Brown.

Although Hyman faces sentencing on April 10, his lawyer, Jason Russo, is confident that an appeal will be granted.

"This is not the end of it for Tullie Hyman," stated Russo.

Prosecutors claimed that Rabsatt and Hyman drove to the building and with .380 semiautomatic pistols opened fire on Jonathan Whitmore and Derrick Harris as they stood out front. Whitmore and Harris returned fire, and in the crossfire a bullet ripped through the steel front door and struck Medina near her rib section.

Medina, a grandmother who lived in the building and started a tenant patrol there, succumbed to her injuries 30 minutes later at a hospital. A bystander who was struck in the leg by one of the stray bullets was later treated and released.

During the trial, Rabsatt’s attorney presented two alibi witnesses, Rabsatt’s younger brother and a family friend who came from his Air Force station in Virginia. Both testified that Rabsatt was at home during the time of the shootings, and not at the Redfern Houses.

"I just think the jury took a look at the evidence and did not believe the eyewitness testimony against him," said Brown.

"The jury worked very, very hard and evaluated all of the evidence and…. this is what they came up with," according to Assistant District Attorney Robert Schwerdt.

Harris, 33, of Beach 64 Street in Far Rockaway, and Whitmore, 27, are awaiting trial.

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