The Chicago Syndicate: Mafia Cops Denied Bail

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mafia Cops Denied Bail

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Less than a month after he acquitted them of one of the most scandalous murder conspiracies in New York history, a federal judge denied bail today to the two retired detectives in the Mafia Cops case on a much less solemn charge: a plot to distribute less than one ounce of methamphetamine.

Mafia CopsThe drug charge was one of only two counts left from the original indictment of the men, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who were found guilty on April 6 of taking part in at least eight murders for the Luchese family of the mob. Twelve weeks later, the verdict was reversed when the judge in the case, Jack B. Weinstein, ruled that the statute of limitations — five years for conspiracy charges — had run out.

Today, after he denied the two men bail, Judge Weinstein took them to task, as he did in his order of acquittal, calling them “dangerous criminals with no degree of credibility” and saying they had been “publicly shamed” at the very trial he had upended by tossing their convictions out. He said the drug charge — an alleged deal hatched over dinner in Las Vegas — was a “serious” charge and sternly ordered the federal marshals to haul the men off to jail.

Mr. Eppolito and Mr. Caracappa now inhabit a strange piece of legal real estate, one which might be labeled “guilty but acquitted.” After all both judge and jury in the case have found that there was ample — even overwhelming — evidence that they committed some of the worst official crimes since 1912, when a police lieutenant, Charles Becker, was charged with the murder of a two-bit gambler known as Beansie Rosenthal. Despite such evidence, the murder charges were effectively dismissed.

Although the government has said it will appeal Judge Weinstein’s order of acquittal, the judge himself said today that his decision to deny bail had nothing to do with the appellate case and was solely based on the fact the two men still have charges pending against them: the drug count (for both) and a count of money-laundering (for Mr. Eppolito alone). The government has said it will try the two men on the drug charge in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, though only after the broader appeal has been decided.

In the meantime, Mr. Eppolito (garrulous and portly) and Mr. Caracappa (austere and hatchet-thin) will return to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunnyside, Brooklyn, where they have been sharing a cell since their convictions. Daniel Nobel, Mr. Caracappa’s lawyer, asked Judge Weinstein if his client might be moved to a different jail, later saying, “I dare say most marriages would founder under similar circumstances.”

There were many reasons why Judge Weinstein could have granted bail — he did so before the trial began. At that point, the two men faced a damaging array of murder charges — which, by today, had been dismissed. Moreover, at the first bail hearing last July, the government itself had said that there was no “presumption” that the two detectives should be held on the methamphetamine charge, even though that charge was the very rationale Judge Weinstein offered today in denying bail.

Mr. Nobel and Joseph Bondy, Mr. Eppolito’s lawyer, said they were likely to appeal the judge’s ruling to a higher court. Mr. Bondy, in particular, said he thought Judge Weinstein might have kept the men in jail as way to offset their acquittals on what some saw as a technicality in the case. “I think there may have been a balancing aspect to the judge’s decision,” he said. “Perhaps from the judge’s point of view letting them go may have been inconsistent with his role pending a retrial.”

One of the arguments the prosecution raised against bail today was a concern that, if the men were freed, they might be tempted to threaten witnesses in the case. After all, having sat through an entire trial, they now know every witness by name.

In court papers filed last week, the prosecution mentioned one witness in particular — Steven Corso, a disgraced accountant, who told the court at trial that, in February 2005, Mr. Eppolito and Mr. Caracappa had agreed to help him find some methamphetamine for some “Hollywood punks” who were coming to Las Vegas. “With their liberty at stake, the defendants have a tremendous incentive to attempt to harm Corso to prevent him from testifying against them,” the papers said. Nonetheless, Mr. Corso himself sounded only marginally worried when he called The New York Times last month to discuss the outcome of the trial. Although he said there were times that “he was looking out for bullets,” his main concern seemed to be the paper’s coverage — of himself.

Thanks to Alan Feuer

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