Produced by Paul LaRosa and Murray Weiss
Noriella Santos is a young woman from New York who seemed to have everything going for her. But her life changed when she was charged with second-degree murder in connection with an execution-style slaying. Noriella had an explanation: an abusive boyfriend. Did he make her an unwitting accomplice to murder? CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod investigates a complex tale of fear, love and murder.
Jim Axelrod | CBS News: When police roll up on a body in the middle of the street, it's a mystery.
Nancy Clifford | Suffolk County Assistant D.A.: It's a complete mystery. They don't know why he's here.
911 caller: We've got someone shot in front of 111 Kellum Street and the guy's laying in the street.
Nancy Clifford: They don't know what happened. …His wallet and his cell phone were left behind.
Nancy Clifford: My name is Nancy Clifford. I'm an assistant district attorney at the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office … on the death of Michael Sinclair.
Nancy Clifford: Michael is taking his last breaths when the police arrive. He still has a pulse but he's on his way out.
Nancy Clifford: One of his friends … told us that he thought … Michael had gone to a club that night. …The police went to that location and found video surveillance of Michael with a female throughout the night.
Nancy Clifford: Once we get Michael's phone records, we're able to see the numbers … One of those numbers … came back to Noriella Santos.
Nancy Clifford: Noriella was … in fact with Michael Sinclair that night.
Noriella Santos: He actually asked me to be his girlfriend. And I said, "No," because I just got out of a very serious relationship.
Nancy Clifford: Daniel was her first lover. Her first boyfriend … He was intelligent. He had good education, access to travel.
Jim Axelrod: How did you meet Danny?
Noriella Santos: I met him in high school … He was really nice. He complimented me a lot, and made me feel comfortable … I felt loved by him.
Jim Axelrod: Not everybody has a picture with a former president of the United States. When you look at that picture what do you think?
Noriella Santos: I think about-- the things that I was able to accomplish—
Jim Axelrod: This all sounds, at least in the beginning, like an idyllic first love.
Noriella Santos: Yes, definitely.
Jim Axelrod: Did it stay that way?
Noriella Santos: No … he started to become very possessive…
Nancy Clifford: And that's what I believe was the genesis of this crime … the fact that another man was with Noriella.
Jim Axelrod: And what happens?
Noriella Santos: Sorry. This is really hard for me to talk about.
Noriella Santos: I felt like he owned me … I did what he told me to do
Nancy Clifford: Noriella was -- is a grotesquely damaged young woman.
Noriella Santos: I was coerced. I was manipulated and forced to do this. …I did not have a choice.
Nancy Clifford: She is such a damaged person that she doesn't operate the way people would expect her.
Jim Axelrod: Damaged person or someone who wants to get away with murder?
NORIELLA AND DANNY
More than most, Noriella Santos knows life is filled with risk. You can be on solid footing one minute and the next – as when she went skydiving -- it's a free fall.
Noriella Santos: …when I saw the -- the door open, and we're 14,000 feet up in the air, I started to freak out just a little bit. And I said, "Don't think about it. Just don't think about it." And I closed my eyes. And we were out the -- out the plane.
For most of her 28 years, Noriella has been the good girl, a model student. She served as an intern for the Clinton Foundation and traveled the world for the Cambodian Children's Fund. Noriella also graduated with honors from The City College of New York. But her life hasn't only been about achieving.
Noriella Santos: It was my way of escaping.
And Noriella has a lot she needs to escape from -- like questions about her role in an execution-style murder back in the winter of 2009 in West Babylon, Long Island.
Noriella Santos: I didn't wanna think it was real. I didn't wanna think it actually happened.
But it had happened.
911 Dispatcher: Fire rescue.
Caller: I heard three shots, and we got up, and the guy's laying in the street.
Suffolk County Prosecutor Nancy Clifford says Michael Sinclair's driver's license revealed that he lived an hour away from the crime scene back in Brooklyn.
After finding that video of Michael with Noriella in a club, police brought her in days after the murder. She told them she and Michael were friends.
Nancy Clifford: She tells them that …They were going to a party in Suffolk County, and as they were getting out of her car to enter the party, two males approached them, demanded Michael's jewelry, money, cell phone, and when he hesitated they shot him.
Noriella, then 19 years old, admitted she left the scene without calling 911.
Nancy Clifford: She said she was terrified and in shock and went back to the city.
Jim Axelrod: You believe her.
Nancy Clifford: Initially, yes.
But when investigators subpoenaed Noriella's cell phone records, they saw that hours before the murder she was in constant communication with someone named Danny, a 21-year-old from a well-off Manhattan family.
Nancy Clifford: He was born Daniel Kraeger …He did not grow up impoverished. …His mother owns a home on Fire Island. …his mother owned a successful business in -- in the village, a lingerie business.
In fact, Danny's mother is Rebecca Apsan, who is lingerie royalty and owner of a cozy Greenwich Village boutique made famous by "Sex and the City."
Noriella told investigators she'd been calling Daniel that night because he was her boyfriend. Before she met him in a New York high school, he said he'd gone to a boarding school until he got kicked out for fighting.
Noriella Santos: I was attracted to him. I thought he was very handsome.
Jim Axelrod: Sweep you off your feet a little bit?
Noriella Santos: Yeah. He was very charming … he would buy me flowers, and -- chocolate, and walk me home from school. And we would have long talks.
At the time, Noriella was estranged from her father -- a New York City police officer -- who had split up with her mother. Danny provided the strong, sympathetic male presence Noriella was lacking.
Noriella Santos: I felt loved by him, I felt accepted. …He was very outgoing as well.
Outgoing with an unusual quirk. This Jewish kid from Manhattan wanted to be a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. During the time he and Noriella were a couple, Danny Kraeger legally changed his name to Daniel Rivera.
Nancy Clifford: …when he became Daniel Rivera … adopted a street persona. He became very street.
Jim Axelrod: You must've been a little bit, "What's goin' on here?"
Richie Santos: I got to that point when he changed his last name. That's when I really was like, wait a minute. This is super weird.
Richie Santos is Noriella's brother. He became good friends with Danny.
Richie Santos: …what he told me, he wanted to embrace was the Latin life and to show people he's tough.
Nancy Clifford: He became Daniel Rivera.
For Noriella, his name didn't matter. His attention did.
Noriella Santos: I just wanted to be with someone that was going to love me and he was that person.
After questioning Noriella, detectives also met with Daniel but found no evidence to prove he or Noriella were involved in Michael Sinclair's murder. In a matter of hours, investigators drove Noriella home.
Nancy Clifford: It didn't sit well with any of us initially, but we didn't have anything else to work on.
But they kept digging. Using phone records from Michael's service provider, detectives knew who he had called and they also knew that his Blackberry contained dozens of texts. But the contents of those texts were encrypted and no American police departments could crack the phone open. Then, some help arrived.
Nancy Clifford: …the only place that could do it was in Canada. …we had to send the Blackberry to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They were the only people who could crack the Blackberry at that time.
Jim Axelrod: And what did it yield?
Nancy Clifford: It yielded text messages from Noriella to Michael throughout the night.
After reading the texts, investigators could see that Noriella pursued Michael that night -- inviting him to a party, promising liquor and even a car to get him there. She was making sure Michael was at a precise spot at a precise time. Detectives now believed this was no random robbery.
Nancy Clifford: It was clear that Noriella was attempting to lure Michael out that night. To get him to agree to meet with her. …And she was working pretty hard.
It was now August 2010, a year-and-a-half after the murder, and investigators called Noriella in for more questioning. This time she broke down.
Nancy Clifford: …once she was confronted by the police that day, with what we knew, she gave it up in great detail.
Noriella Santos: …they said, "you've been charged with murder." And I literally passed out.
"WHEN HE TOLD ME TO DO SOMETHING, I DID IT"
Noriella Santos: They transported me to jail …I was crying. I was so cold in the cell that I had to wrap myself with toilet paper.
Even as she sat in a Suffolk County jail, Noriella Santos says she had no idea the depth of her troubles.
Noriella Santos: I kept saying, "There's been a mistake. Can you call the detective? He said he was gonna bring me home."
Noriella Santos: I was in a state of shock.
Noriella could not understand why she was under arrest, especially after she'd told detectives what she claimed was the truth and it all centered around her boyfriend Danny Rivera. She told them he was violent and vengeful and had been beating and controlling her for years.
Noriella Santos: The very first time he hit me it was about a year into the relationship … he slammed me to the floor, and started kicking me, and punching me, and-- causing my nose to bleed. …I remember wiping myself with a white towel and there being blood everywhere.
Despite what Noriella describes as regular beatings, she moved in with Daniel when she was a senior in high school. Noriella says -- unbeknownst to her family- -- Daniel continued to abuse her and it got worse, much worse. Noriella said she lost consciousness five times the first year they lived together. But she stayed.
Jim Axelrod: You know the question, the question so many people ask. If this woman was being abused, why did she stay with her abuser? In this case what's the answer to that?
Noriella Santos: I was afraid of him.
In fact, Daniel was arrested three times for assaulting and menacing Noriella but the cases didn't go forward because prosecutors say Noriella never followed up. And then, in the summer of 2008, Daniel broke up with her and ordered her to pack up and get out.
Noriella Santos: He said that this girl that worked at his mother's store found interest in him. And he wanted to start dating her. And he broke up with me.
That's when Noriella met Michael Sinclair in a club. He was a dozen years older and worked as a receptionist. For Noriella, the best thing about Michael was that he was not Daniel Rivera.
Noriella Santos: …he wanted to take me out for my birthday. And I was running late … And I was so nervous, 'cause I was about two hours late. So I -- I get to where Michael is. And he's just happy to see me.
Jim Axelrod: Entirely different than your experience with Danny.
Noriella Santos: Yeah. And now I had someone else to compare to. I'm like, "Wait a minute. This is, like, what it's supposed to be like, I guess. This is a normal person."
By all accounts, Michael Sinclair was lighthearted and fun loving.
Naim Khan: He -- was always laughing … he was always smiling. It was a very contagious type of smile.
Naim Khan, Bobby Thomas and Dan'ielle Atherton-Bonner met Michael when they all attended the same high school in Manhattan.
Dan'ielle Atherton-Bonner: …he was popular but approachable … very unassuming, friendly, funny, cool.
Bobby Thomas: …just a good person. He had a good heart. He had that personality where he was friends with everyone.
Their relationship was comforting. But then, at the end of the summer of 2008, Danny called and said he'd broken up with his new girlfriend and wanted Noriella back. And she agreed.
Noriella Santos: I felt like I didn't really have a choice. I just had to get back with him.
Jim Axelrod: Why, why didn't you have a choice?
Noriella Santos: Because when he told me to do something, I did it.
Jim Axelrod: Did any part of you think, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know now what normal feels like. I'm not going back with Danny?"
Noriella Santos: No. 'Cause my self esteem was still very low at that time.
Jim Axelrod: So one summer relationship wasn't gonna rewire all of that --
Noriella Santos: All those years of abuse, no.
Daniel had Noriella back, but now he had a new problem.
Jim Axelrod: I know it's not easy to talk about. But he had felt that perhaps you had given him an STD. Did that really pique his rage?
Noriella Santos: I don't wanna speak about that.
Prosecutor Nancy Clifford says Daniel had contracted a sexually transmitted disease after he and Noriella got back together and he believed Noriella had caught it from Michael.
Jim Axelrod: And Daniel was enraged.
Nancy Clifford: He was enraged. He beat her once he was diagnosed… He became obsessed with meeting Michael. And his goal, according to Noriella, in her mind, was to teach Michael a lesson.
Jim Axelrod: You sound to me like you're describing a motive.
Nancy Clifford: Yes.
Noriella says Daniel badgered her to set up a meeting where he planned to give Michael a beating. She resisted but Danny would not take no for an answer.
Jim Axelrod: Because if you didn't contact him, what?
Noriella Santos: Dan was going to keep beating me and hurt my family.
Noriella says she reluctantly went along with the plan. She invited Michael out for a night of partying, but she insists Danny was dictating her every move.
Jim Axelrod: So the night of his murder, Michael Sinclair was reticent to get together with Noriella?
Nancy Clifford: Yes. He hadn't seen her in a few months, and I think he would have been just as happy to stay home that night.
On the evening of Jan. 30, 2009, Michael Sinclair met Noriella at that karaoke bar in Brooklyn. And she said she was under orders to communicate with Daniel only on the phone of his friend David Belton.
Jim Axelrod: Who was he?
Nancy Clifford: David Belton was a friend of Daniel Rivera's… He was a doorman in an Upper East Side luxury apartment building.
Noriella says she was in constant communication with Daniel, who was using Belton's phone. Daniel, she said, was ordering her around like a puppet.
Jim Axelrod: Did any part of you think, "Oh, no. He's gonna do something to Michael. I need to tell Michael not to -- just to go home."
Noriella Santos: Yeah, I thought about that a lot. But the fear overpowered that thought, the fear of Dan hurting my family, the fear of him continuing to hurt me. I thought that maybe they would just get into a fight, and it would all be over.
To hear Noriella tell it, Daniel ordered her to bring Michael to Long Island. And, sometime around 4 a.m., Noriella ended up at the Infinity Diner in West Babylon, where Daniel got into their car. Noriella introduced him as her cousin, and told Michael that Daniel would drive them to the party. They drove a few blocks, Daniel parked and they all got out. And that's when Noriella says she saw Daniel's friend David Belton emerge from the shadows holding a gun.
Jim Axelrod: That's the first you see a gun?
Noriella Santos: Yes.
Jim Axelrod: And what are you thinking?
Noriella Santos: I was in complete shock.
THE MURDER OF MICHAEL SINCLAIR
It was cold and dark that January morning in 2009 when Noriella told police she watched Danny's friend David Belton pointing a gun -- his hand shaking -- directly at Michael Sinclair.
Noriella Santos: David … told Michael … "Give me your chain." And Michael said, "I don't have a chain."
Jim Axelrod: Did you look at Michael at all?
Noriella Santos: He thought it was a joke. He was like, "What's happening here?"
That's when Danny made his move.
Noriella Santos: Dan goes around David, and grabs the gun from him.
Jim Axelrod: And he shoots Michael?
Noriella Santos: And he -- yeah.
Jim Axelrod: Did he say anything?
Noriella Santos: He -- he shot Michael from afar. And then he ran up to Michael. And he said, "Who's the man now?" …And he kept shooting him.
Noriella Santos: I was really shocked… And right after-- David said, "Aren't you gonna shoot her too?"
Noriella says Danny and Belton looked at each other for what felt to her like a very long time, but then Danny told her to get in the car. They sped off while Michael, Noriella's one-time boyfriend, lay dying in middle of the street.
Jim Axelrod: Is Michael conscious? Is he saying anything? Is anyone attending to him?
Noriella Santos: No.
Nancy Clifford: It was very quiet….
Prosecutor Nancy Clifford says Michael Sinclair was still alive, but not for long. Residents along the street were calling 911:
911 Dispatcher: Fire rescue.
Caller: Yeah, we got somebody got shot and the guy's laying here in the street.
A police station was literally a few blocks away.
911 Dispatcher: West Babylon Unit for a 10-8 male gunshot victim.
Nancy Clifford: Police were here within two minutes of the call.
Jim Axelrod: Within two minutes?
Nancy Clifford: Yes. Yes. But they couldn't save him.
Noriella, Daniel and Belton were gone. Michael, shot three times in the head, was soon pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Jim Axelrod: At no point in the run up to this had Danny said to you, "I'm gonna kill that guy?"
Noriella Santos: No … he said he just wanted to confront him, humiliate him, and beat him up … I didn't think he was actually capable of -- of murder.
Noriella says Danny stopped the car in a service lane on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and pitched the weapon into the East River. Days passed … and there were times she was not with Danny.
Jim Axelrod: Did you think at all about calling 911?
Noriella Santos: Yeah, I thought about it. But and then I thought about my family as well, that he was actually capable of killing someone.
Jim Axelrod: So the idea of finding your dad, and saying to this New York police officer, "I was just with somebody who killed somebody else," no way?
Noriella Santos: No. I was too afraid to say anything to anyone, not only my father, but to just anyone.
Miles away in Brooklyn, Michael's parents were notified that their only child had been murdered. Word spread quickly to his friends.
Naim Khan: I remember dropping to my knees and crying.
Dan'ielle Atherton-Bonner: …he was literally gunned down in the street like an animal, honestly.
Naim Khan: What was shocking was that someone had enough hatred to wanna end his life.
Noriella says she too was shocked. In her mind, she was only doing what Danny had ordered. In the eyes of the law, however, she was an accomplice. Charged with second-degree murder, Noriella sat in jail unable to pay bail of almost $1 million. Things seemed hopeless, but then Noriella had an idea.
Noriella Santos: So I told my mom to contact a friend of the family.
Jim Axelrod: That's Warren?
Noriella Santos: Yeah, and -- he was able to help out.
Jim Axelrod: How did Warren know your family?
Noriella Santos: He was -- a Big Brother to my cousin. And he mentored us when we were kids… Yeah, he's really nice.
"Nice" is a bit of an understatement. Warren is actually a wealthy philanthropist named Warren Share. Asked to "help out," he immediately put up all of Noriella's $750,000 cash bail.
Nancy Clifford: I think that Warren saw something in Noriella that could be salvaged … Some light in her.
Warren Share believed that Noriella was a battered woman and that Danny's constant beatings helped explain her behavior. That's when Share found Michael Dowd, the veteran lawyer who put the "battered women's defense" on the map.
Michael Dowd: I started representing battered women in 1980 … the essence of it is that a battered woman gets dominated by her abuser.
Jim Axelrod: In other words, if the woman doesn't do what the abuser is telling her, there are consequences.
Michael Dowd: Serious consequences.
Jim Axelrod: Is Noriella Santos a battered woman?
Michael Dowd: Oh, there's no question about it.
Jim Axelrod: At some point, you go to Nancy Clifford, the prosecutor?
Michael Dowd: Before I went to Nancy Clifford, I had Noriella evaluated by one of the top forensic psychologists in New York.
Dawn Hughes: She was only 21 at the time that I saw her. And … she seemed, even at that time, like -- a very little girl, very young to me … in my evaluation of her.
Psychologist Dawn Hughes got Noriella to open up and Noriella revealed that Danny's beatings were not the first time she had been abused. From ages 8 to 12, Noriella says she was sexually abused by her grandmother's boyfriend.
Noriella Santos: I didn't even understand the full concept of sexual abuse until I was 15 years old. I just knew that it was an uncomfortable feeling, and I -- and I didn't want it to happen anymore… And it was definitely shame as well considering that this 60-year-old man was the first person to ever kiss me. And he took that away from me. I was very ashamed.
When Noriella turned 15, she told her mother about the abuse and her step-grandfather was arrested and convicted. But Dawn Hughes says that kind of abuse leaves a psychic scar.
Dawn Hughes: …we definitely know, from the research, that if you have been abused as a child, especially sexually abused as a child, you are much more likely to be re-victimized as an adult.
Michael Dowd: …she was, in a way, maimed by her early experiences by … being sexually abused … then … she runs into Danny Rivera.
In time, Dowd says someone like Noriella will do anything the abuser asks.
Jim Axelrod: So that Noriella Santos isn't a co-conspirator?
Michael Dowd: No.
Jim Axelrod: She's a victim?
Michael Dowd: She definitely is a victim.
As Dowd tried to convince prosecutors of that, years passed. Meanwhile, Danny Rivera had moved 5,000 miles away.
ANOTHER NEW PERSONA: "NOW, HE'S A JEW"
It was now 2015, six years since Michael Sinclair's murder. Police were building a case against Daniel. But by then, he had morphed into yet another person.
Noriella Santos: When I met him he was a privileged white boy who got kicked out of boarding school. Then he wanted to be half Puerto Rican, changed his last name to Rivera. And now he's a Jew.
And he had legally changed his name once again.
Nancy Clifford: He became Daniel Greenspan and moved to Israel to study the Talmud and he became a scholar. A total immersion once again in a new persona.
Nancy Clifford: He spent three years in Israel, and when he returned he lived in a Yeshiva in Brooklyn.
While Daniel was studying Torah and traveling free as a bird to Israel and Europe, Noriella was facing life in prison on a charge of second-degree murder. But she tried to convince Nancy Clifford that she was an abused and battered victim, and not a willing accomplice to a killer.
Nancy Clifford: She gave us her history of her domestic violence with -- with Daniel. How he put her in the hospital on various occasions in 2006, 2007, 2008. He had broken or fractured her cheekbone at one point. He had bruised her ribs another point.
Jim Axelrod: Did you believe this?
Nancy Clifford: Well I did. There were medical records from St. Luke's Hospital. There were police reports.
Clifford began reconsidering the murder charge against Noriella. And, what's more, Noriella put Daniel at the scene.
Jim Axelrod: So your calculus, as a prosecutor, is not "I feel bad for Noriella. I wanna to cut her a break." [It's] "I need Noriella to convict the real evil here – Daniel Greenspan."
Nancy Clifford: Yes. I couldn't have gotten out of the grand jury without her …Daniel Greenspan would have been out living his life. And he was the one who actually murdered Michael Sinclair.
Clifford was convinced that Noriella had no idea that Daniel planned to kill Michael.
Nancy Clifford: If at any time I felt that she believed she was going to participate in a murder, I wouldn't have used her.
The prosecutor was willing to give Noriella a reduced charge. But there was one very significant catch.
Noriella Santos: I have to testify against Dan.
Jim Axelrod: And when you heard that?
Noriella Santos: I was terrified.
Then, in December 2015 -- nearly seven years to the day Michael Sinclair was executed -- detectives arrested Daniel Greenspan as he left his mother's apartment. Danny's mom, who owned that sexy lingerie shop, was now shopping to save her son's life.
And she hired one of New York's best criminal defense attorneys: Arthur Aidala, a pit bull straight out of Brooklyn. And he was raring to go when the trial started in February 2017.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: There was all this hype. There was all this excitement. Here comes Noriella!
Arthur Aidala [in court]: She wants to make him into Darth Vader.
Nancy Clifford: Yeah, he's a great lawyer.
Jim Axelrod: He's loud, dramatic.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: Remember the line from "A Few Good Men" – "you can't handle the truth"? Well, they didn't think you could handle the truth.
Nancy Clifford: Yes, charming.
Jim Axelrod: …but you knew he was gonna come for Noriella and come hard.
Nancy Clifford: And he did.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: A desperate attempt by the prosecutor to figure out a way to corroborate a co-conspirator, a liar, an accomplice's testimony to convict an innocent man.
He won a ruling that dealt a serious blow to the prosecution.
Jim Axelrod: The judge rules that Danny's abuse of you can't be part of your testimony.
Noriella Santos: Exactly. And I didn't understand that because it all goes together. There would be no crime if I wasn't abused or beaten the way that I was.
When it was time for Noriella to testify, cameras were not in the courtroom as she came face-to-face with Daniel for the first time in seven years.
Noriella Santos: My first initial response was to put my arm above my head. Because it almost felt like he would just hit me.
Jim Axelrod: -- that reflexive protection of your face?
Nancy Clifford: I told her, "Just always tell the truth. Because the truth does not change.
For four days, Noriella testified detailing how Daniel told her everything to do that night. And Nancy Clifford showed the jury phone records she claimed implicated Daniel in the murder. But Aidala was having none of it. And he ripped into the prosecutor's star witness as a liar, over and over again.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: I mean, there were so many times she lied and lied and lied. And she admitted lying. This is not my opinion.
Aidala's pulled out all the stops, even referencing the film "Grease," suggesting that Noriella killed Michael because she was upset he had ended their summer fling.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: "He broke my heart" ... but it's not just a regular breakup.
Aidala told the jury Noriella had the motive to kill Michael because he gave her an STD. She was the one handed a "get out of jail free" card when she placed all the blame on Daniel.
Arthur Aidala [in court]: Because by all accounts, she was there. By all accounts, she set him up. By all accounts, she caused his death.
Nancy Clifford [in court]: I'm not asking you to like her. I'm not asking you to forgive her.
Even though Clifford could not discuss Danny's abuse of Noriella, she was permitted to talk about how Noriella was sexually abused as a child. And Clifford pleaded with jurors to try to understand Noriella.
Nancy Clifford [in court]: I'm asking you to evaluate her testimony in the context of her life and compare it to the facts.
And she told jurors that Daniel was the one filled with hate.
Nancy Clifford [in court]: Shot behind the ear. That is an execution. …This is personal. This is intentional … This is him. This is King Daddy. This is King Daddy right here.
After three weeks, the jury finally began deliberations. On day three, they reported being hopelessly deadlocked.
Arthur Aidala: The judge asked them to keep working. …they just asked for the read back of testimony of Noriella Santos.
But soon after, jurors cancelled that request. They had a verdict.
Nancy Clifford: My heart is jumping out of my chest. …I can feel it throbbing in my ears.
Even though jurors knew they were weighing the guilt or innocence of Daniel Greenspan, they couldn't help but focus on the trial's star witness: Noriella Santos.
Male juror: Her demeanor kinda made me not believe anything that came out of her mouth.
The judge prevented jurors from hearing Noriella's stories of Daniel beating her before the murder, which jurors said made it hard for them to understand her actions.
Another male juror: Her body language was -- it looked staged. It looked like she was just tryin' to get sympathy from the jury, that's my opinion.
On the fourth day of deliberations, March 23, 2017 -- more than eight years after Michael Sinclair's murder -- jurors announced they had reached a verdict:
Clerk: As to count 1 of the indictment which charges the defendant Daniel Greenspan with murder in the second degree, what is your verdict—guilty or not guilty?
Jury foreperson: Guilty.
With his mother looking on, Greenspan was stoic for a few moments, but then, his emotions got the best of this one-time tough guy.
Noriella was miles from the courthouse back home in Manhattan when she got news of the verdict from her benefactor and family friend Warren Share.
Noriella Santos: He told me. And I just started to cry.
For jurors, the key piece of evidence proved to be a phone call from David Belton's phone to Noriella's brother Richie on the night of the murder.
Jim Axelrod: Did you know David Belton?
Ricardo Richie Santos: No
Jim Axelrod: Never met Belton?
Ricardo Richie Santos: Never met Belton.
Richie said it was Daniel on the phone. And for jurors, that phone call was crucial because it placed Daniel at the scene of the crime with David Belton.
Female juror: So the phone number from Belton's phone calling Noriella's brother is what finally put us all on the same page thinking he was guilty.
Two months later, Daniel Greenspan was back in court for sentencing.
Judge William Condon: This was a premeditated, personal execution. And it doesn't get any colder than that.
Greenspan was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In September 2017, Noriella Santos stood before the court to learn how she would be pay for her role in Michael's murder.
Noriella Santos: I am truly sorry for the loss of Michael Sinclair and I am sorry to the family and the friends … and I hope that testifying against Dan helped. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Michael and I'm really sorry.
And with that…it was time for Judge William Condon to sentence Noriella. As part of her plea deal, her murder charge had been knocked down to second-degree attempted robbery.
Judge William Condon: You had several opportunities to stop this from happening that night. And -- several opportunities during which Danny Rivera wasn't even present. You chose not to stop it.
Prosecutor Nancy Clifford asked that Noriella serve two years in prison, but, in the end, Judge Condon had another idea:
Judge William Condon: You have stayed out of trouble. You've moved in a different direction-- a good direction.
In the years since the murder, Noriella completed her college degree and became associate director of a nonprofit that helps children around the world. Those children, she says, are her future. Judge Condon said he believed Noriella Santos deserved a second chance:
Judge William Condon: I just see no productive reason to just send you to state prison and have you sit in a cell.
He sentenced her to six months of time served and five years probation. That did not sit well with this friend of Michael's.
Dan'ielle Atherton-Bonner: I think the sentence is, it's egregiously unfair … Probation is nothing… She can still get married and have children … these are things Michael will never do.
Jim Axelrod: There will be people watching the story of the death of Michael Sinclair and they will feel, like, "Wait a minute. This girl -- young woman, got away with murder." What do you say to that?
Nancy Clifford: I say that they're not wrong. That she got away with what she did that night … they're not wrong in having that feeling that perhaps she got away with too much.
Jim Axelrod: Do you feel Michael would be alive if it wasn't for you?
Noriella Santos: Honestly, I -- I don't know. Dan was so determined to contact him that I think that he would've done anything in his power to reach him.
Jim Axelrod: When someone is looking at Noriella Santos, and trying to figure out in their own minds whether you carry blame for this, what do those people need to understand?
Noriella Santos: They need to understand that I was abused for years, not just with Dan, but my step-grandfather. I was abused as a child … I was trained as a child to keep secrets. And even as an adolescent I was beaten, and threatened not to say anything.
Jim Axelrod: If you could say something to Michael Sinclair's mother and father, what would you say to them?
Noriella Santos: I don't feel comfortable answering that question.
Noriella Santos That's a very hard question … maybe we can come back to it…
So we did.
Jim Axelrod: When we were talking about Michael's parents, do you have anything to say to them … somebody might say, how about, "I'm sorry"?
Noriella Santos: Yeah. And I am sorry.
Jim Axelrod: You would want to express to them that you're sorry?
Noriella Santos: I feel like those words aren't enough. I think that's what it is … Because it's not just enough to say, "I'm sorry." It's -- it's so painful.
PIC OF SINCLAIR
Nancy Clifford: [Michael Sinclair] by all accounts, was a terrific kid … And just by happenstance and bad luck, he got tied up with Noriella.
Jim Axelrod: What are your hopes for Noriella's future?
Nancy Clifford: My hope is that she can move toward the light, that she can accept good in her life and-- and be able to, maybe, make amends with Michael's family in some way by doing good in the world.
Noriella Santos attends NYU and is working toward an MBA in public service
David Belton, Greenspan's accomplice, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder and is serving 10 years in prison
The earliest Daniel Greenspan can apply for parole is 2040. He will be 53 years old