Judge Denies Bail for ‘Mafia Cops’
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Less than a month after U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein overturned the murder convictions and life sentences for “Mafia cops” Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, he denied the former police officers bail yesterday, pending their upcoming drug trials.
The decision means that Messrs. Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, could spend the rest of their lives in jail. The drug charges they face carry a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Judge Weinstein called the officers, who were highly decorated while on the police force, “dangerous criminals with no degree of credibility.” In denying bail, he cited the “overwhelming weight of the evidence against the defendants” and their high flight risk.
In yesterday’s ruling, Judge Weinstein said the defendants’ flight risk was augmented because they have been “publicly shamed and as a result will be ostracized. Not even a finding of not guilty on the pending drug charges will clear their names.”
Judge Weinstein did make clear that the defendants were not being held pending the government’s appeal of his ruling, but rather pending their upcoming drug charges. Because the federal racketeering indictments were thrown out, holding the defendants on that appeal “may raise serious constitutional questions,” Judge Weinstein said.
Yesterday’s decision ends a bumpy four-month period in which the ex-officers’ April conviction for assisting in eight mob-related murders was overturned June 30, when Judge Weinstein ruled that the statute of limitations on the federal racketeering charges had expired.
The case also saw a bizarre turn in late June, when the defendants turned on their attorneys and accused them of incompetence. After federal prosecutors defended the lawyers they had just battled for months, Judge Weinstein ruled that the original lawyers were competent. Lawyers for Messrs. Eppolito and Caracappa, however, argued that their clients posed no greater risk to flee now than they did before their original trial, when they were awarded bail, and that for trials dealing with the amount of methamphetamine they possessed bail is usually granted.
They further argued that it was difficult to visit their clients in prison. Mr. Eppolito’s lawyer, Joseph Bondy, said his client deserves to go home to Las Vegas, where he, his wife, and Mr. Bondy can best prepare for an additional money laundering trial.
The government’s main reason for arguing against bail came in the overturned verdict.”Before trial, the defendants stood before you as two highly decorated police officers,” but then were exposed as murderers, the lead prosecutor, Robert Henoch, said.
Mr. Henoch added that the defendants had “sold their badges for money” and that their “dangerousness to the community” made necessary their continued incarceration.
After the decision, Mr. Bondy, said he was “stunned,” but added that the decision “may have been a balancing act” after Judge Weinstein awarded bail for nine months before the trial. During the hearing, the defendants’ lawyers returned repeatedly to the fact that before the trial their clients made no attempts to tamper with witnesses or to flee.