Friday, March 10, 2006

Trial Begins of NY Cops Charged as Mafia Hit Men

Friends of ours: Luchese Crime Family, Gambino Crime Family, John Gotti
Friends of mine: Stephen Caracappa, Louis Eppolito

Jury selection began on Monday in the federal trial of two former New York detectives accused of having been hit men for the mob in a case the judge predicts will captivate the jurors.

Defendants Stephen Caracappa, 64, and Louis Eppolito, 57, were charged early last year with secretly working for the Luchese crime family while employed as police officers and involvement in 11 murders or attempted murders.

The charges, which also include kidnapping and other crimes, set the stage for a colorful and closely watched trial. Both defendants had served on the force more than 20 years.

Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein set opening arguments for March 13 and assured hundreds of potential jurors assembled in his courtroom the case "will be one of the most interesting experiences of your life." Twelve jurors and six alternates will be selected.

When Eppolito showed up in court 75 minutes late, Weinstein ordered that he be rearrested and that his $5 million bail be revoked until a good explanation was provided.

Weinstein, an 85-year-old former Columbia Law School professor known for toughness, set Eppolito free again after defense lawyer Bruce Cutler explained that his client had been seriously delayed by a "trailer accident" on the highway.

In the courtroom, the tall and overweight defendant seemed at ease, embracing Cutler and trading smiles and pleasantries with Caracappa and his co-defendant's high-profile lawyer, Edward Hayes.

Cutler, best known for his successful defense of the late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in several trials, said it will be tougher to defend Eppolito because federal prosecutors plan to have at least four Mafia informants and turncoats testify against him. "The federal government is making sweetheart deals with all kinds of people -- including (crime family) acting bosses -- that will say what the government wants to hear," Cutler said in a telephone interview.

After retiring, Eppolito played a bit role as "Fat Andy" in the mob movie "Goodfellas" and played character roles in several other Hollywood productions.

Thanks to Ransdell Pierson

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