Nicaraguan judge sentences man to 30 years in NY killing

A prosecutor says a man has been sentenced under the Nicaragua legal system to 30 years behind bars in the killing of a university student in upstate New York

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A Nicaraguan judge sentenced a man to 30 years behind bars in the killing of a young nursing student in upstate New York, a district attorney in the state said Friday.

The trial of Orlando Tercero in the 2018 killing of Haley Anderson marked an exceedingly rare legal proceeding in which the defendant was prosecuted under Nicaragua’s legal system for a slaying that happened on American soil. Tercero is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Nicaragua.

Authorities said Tercero strangled Anderson, 22, at his off-campus residence in Binghamton, New York, in March 2018 and then fled to Nicaragua, which rejected an extradition request from the U.S. but instead decided to try him. The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin previously reported that the defense argued Tercero may have been provoked.

Legal experts say Tercero, if he is ever extradited, could still be prosecuted for the killing under the U.S. legal system.

Anderson, who was from Westbury on Long Island, was found dead in Tercero’s bed. The two students had a romantic relationship, but Tercero wanted a more serious one, according to witness testimony at trial.

Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell said Tercero received the maximum prison sentence under Nicaraguan law. The Nicaraguan judge found Tercero guilty of femicide earlier this month, he said.

Cornwell said he still would have preferred that Tercero be extradited and face trial in the U.S., but he described Nicaraguan process as the second-best option.

“It’s the best outcome that we could have had under the circumstances,” he said Friday.

The Broome County District Attorney’s office in New York was deeply involved as a facilitator for witness testimony but had no authority over the trial. The witnesses testified, with the help of a translator, via a video link from a room in the district attorney’s office in downtown Binghamton.

On one day of testimony last month, Anderson’s friends and supporters watched the grainy livestream from a wood-paneled viewing room. That same day, a police investigator testified that Tercero left a note at his residence saying he was sorry.

It’s unusual for a person to be tried in another country under a foreign legal system for a killing that took place on in the U.S., but it’s not an unprecedented legal proceeding.

From his perspective, Cornwell said he saw an experienced judge run a tight courtroom and a prosecutor who appeared to have handled high-level cases before.

He also praised Nicaraguan authorities, saying they stepped up and fought for Anderson as if she was their own victim.

“We are all very thankful,” he said.

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Ryan Tarinelli is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.