The Chicago Syndicate: Bruce Lost His Bite

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bruce Lost His Bite

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

When Mafia cop Louis Eppolito faced the legal battle of a lifetime, his daughter tapped hotshot lawyer Bruce Cutler to defend him because she was confident "he would fight with bulldog ferocity to bring my father home." But in the wake of the former NYPD detective's conviction on racketeering conspiracy charges that included eight gangland murders, Andrea Eppolito believes the big-talking barrister was all bark and no bite in the courtroom.

"It feels very much like a personal betrayal," Eppolito, 29, told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.

"I paid a premium price for what was supposed to be premium legal representation, but I did not get the Bruce Cutler I paid for," she said.

Cutler could not immediately be reached for comment.

Although she was instructed not to discuss specifics of the case by her dad's new lawyer, Joseph Bondy, she said Cutler did not seem interested or committed to winning her father's acquittal. "It was like somebody flipped a switch off," she said.

The dark-eyed beauty said she chose Cutler not because he had represented late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, but due to his 30-year acquaintance with her dad.

The relationship dated to Cutler's days as a prosecutor and Eppolito's as a city cop. "They used to work out at the same gym. ... I wanted somebody who believed in my father, who would stop at nothing to bring him home. He didn't even present evidence that was available to show my father didn't do it," she said.

The ex-cop's eldest daughter believes the feds relied on tainted testimony from self-serving snitches to prosecute her dad. A federal jury disagreed, convicting her father and fellow ex-cop Stephen Caracappa on April 6. Both face life in prison.

During the trial, the blustery Cutler was reprimanded by the judge for yelling and badgering witnesses, and in one case, the judge cut off his abusive cross-examination.

In a motion seeking to overturn the verdict and get a new trial, Bondy blasted Cutler's flimsy finale in the case. "[Cutler] spent the majority of Mr. Eppolito's closing argument speaking about himself," Bondy wrote.

"Bruce can be very charismatic. I wanted someone who was personally vested in my father's best interests. It was a disappointment. Why? It's a mystery I will never solve," Andrea Eppolito said.

Thanks to Michelle Caruso

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