Businessman Acquitted Of Murder Twice

Virgil Gordon is 73 years old and has gone through a lot of ups and downs in his life. But the stress that he's been under the past three years is no match to anything he's ever experienced before.

"I can't even put it into words," said Gordon.

The problems began in July 2006, when Gordon rented his Southcrest banquet hall for a party.  He said the renters were allowing a child to operate a beer keg, so he had to put a stop to it.

"I said you can't allow this to happen in the United States," Gordon told NBC 7/39.

Gordon said he moved the beer keg to the bar area and thought the problem was solved. But several hours later, when he came back to the hall to clean up, he said a group of six to eight men confronted him.

"They had been drinking all day," said Gordon. He also said one of them men began yelling at him, "You are racist, you are racist."

Gordon said he pulled out his .357 magnum handgun and told the men to back off. He claims 39-year-old Silverio Rivera-Cruz began punching him.

"He came for the gun, he grabbed it and he was wrestling me, trying to take this gun."

Gordon said the gun accidentally went off while it was pressed against Rivera's neck.  "I did not shoot this man intentionally, in any way."

Two sets of jurors had to answer this question: "Was Gordon guilty of murder?" Two trials later, and both sets of jurors came back with the same answer, No.

In his first trial, Gordon was acquitted of first degree murder.   In his second trial, the jury found him not guilty of second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, assault with a firearm and discharge of a firearm.

"I just cried, I mean this was a total victory," Gordon said after the verdict was read on Monday.   

But prosecutors still don't believe Gordon's story about the shooting.  "What Virgil did was intentionally fire a gun into the neck of a person at close range, killing that man," said Deputy DA David Berry.  "Simply put, that's murder."

"Well the jury didn't think so, he (Berry) didn't win one empathy vote, both times," said Gordon.

Rivera's family could not be reached for comment. Gordon estimates he has spent about o$1.5 million dollars on the two trials and a civil lawsuit involving Rivera's family.

"That's the price I had to pay for my freedom," said Gordon.

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