NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- After a weeklong trial and about five hours of deliberations on Thursday, a jury found former butler Emanuel Nicolescu guilty on all three counts in connection with the 2007 home invasion at the South Kent estate of his former employer, wealthy philanthropist Anne Bass.
As he heard the verdicts, Nicolescu, 31, cried, shaking his head no and burying his face in his hands.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Kravitz said Nicolescu would be sentenced June 14. Nicolescu faces up to 50 years in prison on charges of attempting to interfere with commerce by extortion, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and possession of a stolen vehicle. He is being held at Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.
"We're very disappointed in the verdict," said defense attorney Audrey Felsen. "I think that this is not going to be the last defendant to be prosecuted for this."
Nicolescu declined to testify during the trial, telling the judge he would "remain silent." His defense attorneys did not call any witnesses to the stand.
Prosecutors declined to comment about the verdict.
In their closing arguments Wednesday, they had said that, as Bass's butler, Nicolescu knew many things about her habits, her schedule and her Connecticut estate, which helped him plan and participate in the plot to extort $8.5 million from her during the home invasion.
That knowledge, along with a list of other circumstantial evidence prosecutors said linked Nicolescu to the crime, were reasons to convict him, Assistant U.S. Attorney David E. Novick said Wednesday.
"There are no coincidences here," Novick said. "Each of these pieces of evidence work together to corroborate one another to lead you to the undeniable conclusion that this defendant is guilty of all of the crimes charged here."
Felsen had argued that if Nicolescu had been one of the three masked men in black to invade Bass' South Kent estate, the intruders would have known the basic layout of the house. But according to testimony, Felsen said, they asked Bass and her companion, "Where are the safes? Where is the bedroom? Where's the bathroom? What's the dog's name?"
Bass, 70, testified Tuesday that she believed she was going to die during the home invasion at her 1,000-acre estate. She said three armed men dressed in black broke into her home, screaming war cries and demanding money.
Bass and her longtime companion, New York artist Julian Lethbridge, were blindfolded and bound for hours while Bass's 3-year-old grandson slept in a bedroom. The child was unharmed.
At one point in the home invasion, the couple was injected with what the intruders called a deadly "virus" but was actually fungus medication. Bass testified that the men said that unless she turned over $8.5 million, she and Lethbridge would die within 20 hours.
The men said they would give them an antidote if she handed over the money.
The men eventually left without the millions. But before they fled, they forced Bass and Lethbridge to drink a liquid laced with sleeping pills.
Nicolescu was fired in 2006 after only a few months on the job as a butler because he had taken Bass's vehicle without permission and it was involved in a crash.
Nicolescu was a former chauffeur and personal assistant for such rich and famous New Yorkers as beverage mogul J. Darius Bikoff, Jujamcyn Theaters President Jordan Roth and real estate tycoon Richard Cohen.
During the trial, a DNA expert testified that samples taken from the steering wheel and windshield wiper lever of a Jeep stolen from Bass's home during the home invasion contained portions of Nicolescu's DNA profile. Testimony showed that the Jeep was purchased after Nicolescu was fired.
Nicolescu's ex-wife also testified that a knife found in a discarded accordion case belonged to her former husband. The knife, a fake gun, zip-ties, syringes and a laminated card with phone numbers of Bass' homes and employees were found inside the accordion case, which a Queens, N.Y., woman found in a muddy canal near her home.
Nicolescu's former father-in-law testified that he had made the knife and given it to Nicolescu as a gift.
Another man, Nicolae Helerea, also known as Michael Kennedy, also has been indicted by the federal government in connection with the home invasion, but authorities have yet to arrest him. Helerea's father, Nicolae Helerea, 62, a professional accordionist, told The Hartford Courant he believes his son is in Romania.
A third suspect, Stefan Barabas, also remains free. Barabas' mother, Carmen Barabas, testified that she has not seen her son since October 2010. She said he told her he was going on a vacation "to visit some friends" and that she has not heard from him since.
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