Open Season on ‘Obama’
Impersonator Denied Justice in Presidential Assault
By David Greene
BRONX, NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 5- Despite the not-guilty verdict there will be no presidential pardons granted here, no coming together at a beer garden.
Louis Ortiz, a Puerto Rican who thinks it was his uncanny resemblance of President Barack Obama that had placed a target on his back on that night in question-- and it apparently did not help him with a judge who decided in favor of the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) Sergeant accused of cold-cocking him inside a Bronx deli.
Ortiz, the moonlighting Obama-double formerly of the Morris Park section who has been featured in commercials, rap videos and spoofs imitating the president, claims he was minding his own business inside the J & R Deli in Morris Park, when he and HHC Sergeant Romeo Vairo got into the dispute in the wee-hours of December 26, 2009.
"He was found not guilty," Ortiz grimly recalled hours after Acting Supreme Court Justice Joseph Dawson's decision was announced late Thursday, January 17.
He continued, "You don't know the hell I went through when I heard the news."
Ortiz, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, suffered a bruise under his cheek in the brief skirmish and claims he has suffered from headaches ever since.
Feeling that the dice was loaded against him from the start, Ortiz says he called officers from the nearby 49th Precinct, who refused to make a report against Vairo. Ortiz also charged that officers told him a report would be made when he went to the Eastchester Road station-house two-days later.
Eventually, Ortiz got the ball rolling with calls to the Internal Affairs Division, HHC, the Inspector General and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The dispute, Vairo slugging Ortiz and Ortiz retaliating by striking Vairo on the chin with a grapefruit was believed to have all been caught on store surveillance video. However, the video mysteriously disappeared and was never introduced at the trial.
Ortiz says, "The NYPD lied to me and I tried to prove that and they put up that blue wall of silence."
Ortiz, who received immunity from tossing the grapefruit at Vairo, in exchange for his testimony-- Ortiz was facing a class b-felony and still must answer to a disorderly conduct charge that is expected to be dismissed by the Bronx DA.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Osman Abbasi who was assisted by special prosecutor Peter Kennedy, both men with the Bronx DA's Rackets Bureau.
Speaking of Abbasi, Ortiz recalled, "He truly felt bad that the case went the way it did, he thought the judge didn't believe me when I said that I didn't mean to provoke him."
Ortiz then asks, "If a citizen verbally engages an officer is the correct response a right hook?"
Justice Dawson may have also struggled with Ortiz' decision of waiting nearly 12-hours before seeking medical attention, before deciding the bench trial that lasted a little over a week.
The Bronx District Attorney's office stated that they could not comment on the case because it had been sealed.
A source at the Bronx District Attorney's office offered, "Since the defendant was acquitted everything related to the case is sealed and we are not able to discuss anything."
Vairo was found not guilty of assault, harassment, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct and will apparently be going back to his job at Jacobi Hospital.
Sergeant Romeo Vairo, who did not take the stand in his own defense, has been with the HHC police since 1987.
Contacted by telephone, defense attorney Bert Oberlander stated, "He was acquitted of all charges yesterday and he's looking forward to getting back to work and getting on with his life."
"Mr. Ortiz wasn't credible," Oberlander continued, "His story was fabricated from the beginning and I think the court determined that in the courts decision."
Oberlander also stated that no video was retrieved by investigators, adding, "There was no video of any incident or anything recorded in the store."
However, the deli in question has had a state-of-the-art video system since before the incident took place.
Despite the headaches, Ortiz is getting on with his life as well as he is starring in a new reality show he co-created titled, "South Bronx" that began shooting in Westchester Square on January 17 and is expected to debut on YouTube.
Ortiz recently screened his new bio-flick, "The Audacity of Louis Ortiz," by Brooklyn filmmaker Ryan Murdock and expects to be participating in this months Fashion Week festivities.
In 2010 an official from HHC stated that Vairo was suspended without pay, however HHC officials now say Vairo had been suspended with pay since the incident took place.
HHC stated that Vairo earned $47,560.50 for 2013.