Juan Merced, identified today by prosecutors as the chief suspect in hundreds of fake 911 emergency calls to his family's West Side home, has been ordered to submit to a voice test.
"We allege that Mr. Merced was the caller," Michael L. McCabe, the chief prosecutor in the fake 911 case, told the judge.
McCabe told City Judge James A.W. McLeod that prosecutors have recordings of the fake 911 calls and want Juan Merced to speak in the emotional tone on the recordings.
McLeod granted his request but also ordered that Merced's attorney, Ayoka A. Tucker, be present for the test.
At Tucker's request, the judge also directed that a Spanish-language interpreter be present.
"We have no problem at all," Tucker said of the test.
Outside the courtroom, Merced also insisted he has "no problem" with the test.
"It is not my voice," he said of the fake calls.
Tucker said prosecutors have not asked for voice tests of other family members.
"I stand by my client, he's not responsible," Tucker said of Juan Merced.
Merced said he "can't figure out who is the one making the phone calls," but he predicted that person "will be caught."
Tucker stressed that Merced's voice test will be "nontestimonial" and insisted that he be granted immunity for anything he says during the test.
The judge did not rule on the immunity issue, stressing that such matters may only become relevant should Merced be charged with making the fake calls.
Tucker stressed that "similarity of voice is not sufficient to convict."
McLeod had been scheduled to begin a March 23 trial of Merced and his wife, Felicita Santiago-Merced, on charges they failed to properly supervise their children.
But McLeod told Tucker and McCabe they will only deal that day with the results of the voice testing.
City Housing Judge Henry J. Nowak has proceedings Friday afternoon on a days-old ordinance case lodged against the Merceds for a dozen alleged safety violations on their 15th Street home.
"We'll be heard on the 17th," Tucker said of the alleged housing code violations.
The attorney said she has temporarily relocated the Merced family from the 15th Street home to a location she refused to disclose "just to protect their confidentiality and give them some breathing room."