Jury selected for arson trial

Lance Wheeler for Columbia-Greene MediaBarry Goldstein, of Stockport, appears in court on Nov. 18, 2018.

HUDSON — A jury was selected Tuesday to hear the case of an alleged arson in Stockport.

Testimony and opening statements are expected to be given Wednesday in the trial of a Columbia County man accused of having someone burn down his home.

Barry Goldstein, 76, of Stockport, was arraigned Nov. 14, 2018, on charges of first-degree insurance fraud, a class B felony; third-degree arson, a class C felony; and first-degree reckless endangerment, a class D felony.

Goldstein is accused of setting fire to his home at 290 Route 25 in Stockport on Oct. 1, 2017, a blaze that put neighbors and firefighters at risk, authorities said. Goldstein is fighting the charges.

William P. Travis III, 33, of Stuyvesant, is also accused of setting fire to the home and is being tried as a co-defendant. Travis was charged Dec. 20, 2017, with third-degree arson, a class C felony, in connection with the Oct. 1, 2017, fire that destroyed the Stockport home.

Travis is being tried separately but has not been indicted. He has been in jail on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial since his arrest in November 2018.

Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka is prosecuting the case. Attorney Roy Nestler, of Delmar, is defending Goldstein. Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek is presiding over the case.

The first panel of the day was brought in at about 9:30 a.m. In the first group, 21 potential jurors were questioned by both attorneys for 25 minutes to see if they were qualified to sit on a jury. Jurors were also allowed to ask questions.

Out of that panel, seven were chosen; three women and four men. Twelve jurors and two alternates are expected to be chosen to sit on the jury. The remaining jurors are expected to be selected from the remaining panels of jurors.

Czajka asked potential jurors whether they would have a problem finding Goldstein guilty of arson even if he did not personally set the fire himself but had someone else do it.

“I can tell you, personally, he [Goldstein] did not set that fire,” Czajka said. “He may have even been out of state. Rather, the grand jury indicted him for that arson, because it is alleged he engaged in conduct and that gave opportunity in some way for someone else to set the fire on his behalf.”

Czajka told jurors he will call witnesses who have criminal records or who may be subject to some kind of criminal prosecution. Travis, who faces charges similar to Goldstein’s, is expected to testify against Goldstein, Czajka said. Another witness is charged with theft in a case unrelated to this case, Czajka said.

Three jurors from the first panel said they would have a difficult time finding a witness credible if they were accused of a crime. Those jurors were ultimately not selected.

Nestler asked potential jurors whether they had physical ailments. Breaks will be every hour-and-a-half, Koweek said. Jurors will not be permitted to take notes, as they need to pay attention to witnesses’ body language, Koweek said.

“Can I have your assurance that I will have your attention, that you will hang in there and I will have your full attention,” Nestler asked. “That you will sit there as long as it takes to come up with a fair verdict?”

Nestler asked jurors whether they would give testimony of police officers more weight than any of the other witnesses. Potential jurors in the first panel said they would not.

After interviewing the prospective jurors, the attorneys selected jurors behind closed doors.

“In the process of coming up with the facts, you will have to determine who is credible and who is not,” Czajka said to potential jurors. “Who you believe and who you don’t believe. Or whom you’re not really sure you believe. As you do so, I ask that you use your everyday experience and common sense when you make your determinations.”

On Wednesday, the jury, if selected by that time, is expected to hear opening statements and testimony, said Koweek.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or email apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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