A former Bayside nightclub owner was found not guilty Friday of killing two men from South Queens nearly three years ago in what prosecutors said was a drug-related case, multiple media outlets report.
The defendant, Nicholas Kiriakakis, 25, a part owner and manager of the old Pearl Nightlife bar and restaurant on Bell Boulevard, was found guilty on the lesser charges of conspiracy to sell cocaine and hindering apprehension by lying to police, the reports said.
Kiriakakis had been charged with killing Jonathan Beneduce, 28, who grew up in Howard Beach and Ozone Park, and Michael Mirasola, 27, of Ozone Park on Feb. 17, 2010 in Teaneck, NJ.
The trio had driven there in two separate vehicles, Kiriakakis' Mercedes-Benz and Beneduce's Ford Explorer. According to the NorthJersey.com news website, they stopped on a street named Oakdene Avenue. Kiriakakis was alleged to have gotten out of his car, climbed into the back of the Explorer and executed his victims with a gun.
The reason, according to the prosecution, was that he had taken tens of thousands of dollars from the victims to buy cocaine but hadn't gotten the deal done, and then decided to kill his investors.
The prosecution had evidence putting Kiriakakis at the scene of the shootings. But the defense argued that the murders must have been the work of a professional hit man, that all three were in over their heads and that Beneduce had felt threatened by a third party.
Kiriakakis was also found not-guilty of possessing a 9-mm. handgun like the one that killed the victims.
The jury, seated in Hackensack Superior Court, returned its verdicts after less than a day of deliberating, according to NorthJersey.com. Kiriakakis is due to be scheduled Jan. 25 and could get up to 10 years in prison.