Building owner, manager guilty in 'Black Sunday' trial

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The former landlord and management company accused in the ?Black Sunday? deaths of two firefighters were found guilty Wednesday of criminally negligent homicide.

Building manager Cesar Rios and the company that owns the building, 234 E. 178th St. LLC, were also found guilty of reckless endangerment, but acquitted of manslaughter in the deaths of Lt. Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellew.

Rios faces up to four years in prison, and the company could be fined up to $15,000 for letting tenants build a maze of illegal walls that resulted in the two firefighters' deaths.

Prosecutors had argued that Rios, the management company and two tenants, Caridad Coste and Rafael Castillo, were responsible for the firefighters' deaths for allegedly erecting illegal partitions inside apartments to collect more rent.

Prosecutors claimed the partitions blocked the fire escape and forced the firefighters to jump four stories to their deaths. A separate jury last week acquitted Coste and Castillo of similar charges. They were accused of illegally subdividing their apartments to make bedrooms for renters.

Six firefighters were trapped in the building in January 2005, and two of them died after jumping from a fourth-floor window. Two others who jumped survived.

Rios and the management team will appear in court June 1 for sentencing.

AP wire services were used in this report.

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