Relative of 'Black Sunday' trial defendant takes stand

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A family member of one of the defendants in the ?Black Sunday? trial appeared in court Wednesday to testify about events that preceded the deadly fire.

Amarilis German says she was the rent collector at 234 East 178th St. for building owner Cesar Rios from 1998 to 2005, when a fire broke out at the apartment complex. FDNY Lt. Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellew were forced to jump to their deaths after being trapped by flames.

The prosecution claims an illegal partition inside one of the apartments prevented the two firefighters from escaping.

German told the jury Rios was aware that his tenants Rafael Castillo and Caridad Coste illegally divided their apartments to get more rent. Shortly before the deadly blaze, German claims she told Rios that Castillo, her father-in-law, was nearly three months behind on his rent. She also says she mentioned to Rios about the illegal partition inside Castillo?s apartment.

The defense, however, disagrees with German?s version of events.

?The recollection of her conversation with my client is not entirely accurate,? says attorney David Goldstein.

If the jury determines that Rios failed to act on German?s warning and remove the partition, he could be found guilty of manslaughter.

Coste's daughter, who collected rent inside their apartment, is expected to take the stand Thursday.

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