WILKES-BARRE — When siblings meet a new addition to the family, it usually takes place with family members in a hospital room.
When 14-year-old Elijah Yusiff met his newborn brother this week, it was in a prisoner holding room in the Luzerne County Courthouse.
It was a meeting prosecutors said Wednesday that interfered with Yusiff’s testimony Tuesday in the criminal trial of his mother, Angelina DeAbreu, charged with covering up the April 5, 2012, fatal shooting of 14-year-old Tyler Winstead.
First Assistant District Attorney Samuel Sanguedolce said there was a noticeable change in Yusiff’s testimony after the meeting and he was concerned with Yusiff having contact with his mother.
Sanguedolce said he was notified of the meeting after the trial ended for the day Tuesday and he interviewed Yusiff about it Wednesday morning. The meeting took place during a 20-minute recess in Yusiff’s testimony Tuesday afternoon.
Sanguedolce asked that Yusiff retake the stand Wednesday morning to explain to jurors why he was emotional and why his testimony was inconsistent. Yusiff met with his grandmother, grandfather and baby brother, Sanguedolce said.
DeAbreu’s attorney, Tom Marsilio, objected, arguing Yusiff should not have to retake the stand because nothing inappropriate happened during the meeting. Yusiff’s attorneys and caretakers were present.
“(DeAbreu) had no contact with (Yusiff) directly or indirectly,” Marsilio said. “Enough is enough.”
County Judge David Lupas allowed prosecutors to question Yusiff about the meeting, noting Yusiff’s testimony was inconsistent.
Details about Yusiff’s criminal juvenile case became evident during his testimony. He was charged with an unknown offense in juvenile court in relation to Winstead’s shooting.
“I got to hold him,” Yusiff said of meeting his new baby brother. “I couldn’t concentrate. (Attorneys) kept asking the same questions over and over.”
The meeting made him emotional, confused and caused him to answer the same questions differently, Yusiff said.
Since his arrest and placement at Kid’s Peace, a juvenile facility in Orefield, Pa., Yusiff has seen his grandmother — DeAbreu’s mother — twice and is not permitted to have contact with his mother, he said.
Yusiff admitted he is on several medications and said none of them noticably affect him other than medication he takes to make him less nervous.
A juvenile probation officer, Walter Symons, testified about an emergency status hearing held before Judge Tina Polachek Gartley in 2012 regarding Yusiff, whose surname is spelled differently in different court papers. Versions include Yussuf and Yusuff.
The hearing was held because DeAbreu was being charged with a crime and she was ordered to have no contact with Yusiff, Symons testified.
DeAbreu approached Symons, he said, and asked if she could hug Yusiff and said prosecutors were asking her about a gun involved in the case. She didn’t know where the gun was located, Symons said DeAbreu told him, and that her son had knowledge about it.