SAMUEL BRANDON Took Ground Zero items.
Photo credit: NY Post
It wasn't exactly a scene out of "Twelve Angry Men" - a juror put his arm around a former firefighter and apologized to him yesterday minutes after he helped convict him of filching personal items from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center.
"You were a fireman and went in there, and we know it was hard. That was a tough place to volunteer," the juror told Samuel Brandon after he convicted him on nine of 11 petit-larceny counts for stealing items from the site of the 9/11 attacks.
Brandon, 60, spent five months helping with the recovery effort at Ground Zero.
During that time, prosecutors charged he helped himself to several souvenirs from the scene, including seven WTC ID cards.
One of the ID cards belonged to equity salesman Michael Costello, 27, and another belonged to Port Authority property manager Robert Lynch, 44. Both were killed in the terror attacks.
"The defendant knew he couldn't take these things," prosecutor Judy Salwen said in her closing arguments. "This was not a place for beachcombers and souvenir hunters. It's obvious the defendant wanted to brag about these items and wait" for them to become valuable collectibles, she said.
Defense lawyer Ronald Kliegerman argued that Brandon didn't think he was stealing anything.
"He volunteered to dig in the mud for hours," Kliegerman said "Do you think he was trying to demean the memory of these people? Never."
After four hours of deliberations, the four-woman, two-man jury sided with Salwen's legal arguments - and also with Kliegerman's portrait of his client.
Four of the jurors said afterward they hope Brandon won't receive any jail time for the misdemeanor crime.
One of the female jurors went as far as to say charges should not have been brought against Brandon. She said she thought his work at the site had affected his mental state. "I just feel that it's just unfortunate that a series of events led to this," said the juror, who asked not be identified. He's "intrinsically a decent human being," she said. "There's nothing to suggest otherwise."
Another male juror agreed that charges shouldn't have been brought, and accused cops and prosecutors of "trying to make a career out of this case."
A third male juror said he was "following the letter of the law" when he found Brandon guilty, and that he had a hard time doing so because Brandon had "spent a lifetime of service" in the Fire Department.