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Court Hearings (In Favor of Bouncers)

Ex-bouncer acquitted in bar patron's death

Former bouncer Thomas Sebald was acquitted on Friday of causing the February 2006 death of a patron at a Hunter bar.

The jury of 10 women and two men reached its verdict - not guilty of criminally negligent homicide - Friday afternoon in Greene County Court after deliberating for parts of two days.

The acquittal was met with cheers and applause from Sebald's family and supporters. Sebald wiped tears from his eyes.

Sebald, a 30-year-old New Paltz resident, was working at the Hunter Village Inn the night of Feb. 4, 2006, when he removed Peter Shine, 45, of Oakdale from the establishment after Shine got into an argument with another man and wound up making physical contact with Sebald.

Sebald - who was acting as a "runner," not a bouncer, that night - took Shine out the back door, and Shine was found dead later in a puddle of water at the bottom of an exterior staircase.

An autopsy concluded Shine died from cardiac arrest due to asphyxiation and also had suffered a fractured thyroid cartilage. He also was found to have a blood alcohol content of .30, nearly four times the state's legal limit for intoxication, and traces of cocaine in his system.

Forensic pathologists who testified at Sebald's trial disagreed over whether the autopsy's conclusions were correct.

Sebald testified that he used a bear hug to remove Shine from the bar. Prosecution witnesses gave varying descriptions about what kind of hold Sebald used, though several testified that Shine was limp in Sebald's arms.

Greene County District Attorney Terry Wilhelm said the outcome of the trial doesn't erase the pain of the incident.

"No matter what this verdict was, it couldn't undo the tragic events that took the life of Peter Shine unjustifiably," Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said the verdict means the jury found Shine's death to be accidental rather than criminal. He also expressed hope that the verdict would provide some closure to both families.

Sebald declined to speak with reporters on Friday. Defense attorney Stephen Coffey said his client was pleased with the verdict. The lawyer also agreed with Wilhelm that Shine's death was a tragedy.

Coffey said Sebald has "quite a family" that supported him in court each day of the trial. He noted that Sebald's three brothers sat in court facing the jurors with Sebald in between them - something he had never seen before.

Coffey said he came to like Sebald and his family and that the verdict became a personal matter.

Sebald has taught government and economics and coached football and lacrosse at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Orange County.

The jury began deliberating about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, broke for the night around 10 p.m. and resumed its work Friday morning. The verdict was read at 2:12 p.m. Friday.



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