Niagara Gazette

March 20, 2013

Witness testimony is OK'd in Belton case

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — The eyewitness identification of a Falls teenager, accused of gunning down his uncle, can be used at his up-coming murder trial.

Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas ruled Wednesday that the identification obtained by Falls Police detectives was legal and proper and that prosecutors can use the witness' testimony against Darius "Drizz" Belton.

Belton, 18, 1666 South Ave., is scheduled to go to trial on April 17 on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the shooting death of his uncle Luis Ubiles. A conviction on the murder charge would mean Belton could face 25 years to life behind bars.

The teen has rejected a plea offer from prosecutors and his defense team says he may claim he acted "in self defense." The plea offer would have required Belton to plead guilty to a charge of first-degree manslaughter and face a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Belton's attorney, Angelo Musitano. says the offer is "unacceptable." The high-profile defense lawyer has objected to the potential length of the prison sentence in the plea deal.

"I don't care about the (first-degree manslaughter charge), but 20 years is too long," he said.

Musitano has said a lesser potential sentence could still lead to a deal before trial.

"If the (potential maximum sentence) comes down between now (and April 17) there is still the possibility of a plea," Musitano said.

When Falls police responded to the shooting call on Sept. 25 in the 1600 block of South Avenue, just a few blocks from police headquarters, they found Ubiles, 37, 1670 South Ave., with a single gunshot wound. He was lying in front of Belton's home when the officers arrived.

The gunshot struck Ubiles just below his chest in his abdomen. Ubiles was rushed to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Witnesses to the shooting were not initially cooperative with police.

"Everybody said they didn't see anything," Detective Lt. Michael Trane said at the time.

However, investigators said they later determined that Belton had tried to intervene in an argument between his mother and Ubiles. Belton reportedly went into his home and came back out with a a gun.

Musitano disputes that claim, saying his client did not go into his home to retrieve a weapon.

"The guy (Ubiles) ran towards (Belton)," Musitano said. "It's a possibility that (self defense) is going to be argued in his case."