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March 2006

Partners In Crime: The Mafia Cops

By J. R. de Szigethy and Lou Eppolito, Jr.


Part Fourteen: ‘Courtroom of Sorrow’

     There was not a sound to be heard in the Brooklyn Courtroom of Federal Judge Jack Weinstein as a small, elderly woman slowly marched through the front door on her lonely journey to the Witness Stand. Some Courtroom observers were on the verge of tears, knowing this woman’s story, and why she had come to this Courtroom seeking Justice.

     Her name was Pauline Pipitone, the mother of one Nicholas Guido. Just hours earlier in the trial of accused "Mafia Cops" Stephen Caracappa and Lou Eppolito, Sr., Prosecutor Mitra Hormozi had delivered a compelling Opening Argument laying out the government’s case that the two former cops had participated in 8 Mafia murders that left countless family members and loved ones of the victims devastated. Perhaps the most tragic of these murders was that of 25-year-old Nicholas Guido of Brooklyn.

     American history of the past several decades is ripe with the stories of average American citizens who have displayed remarkable acts of courage when suddenly confronted with their own death and mortality. Some of these heroes have found their proper place in American history, while others have died unsung.

     Nicholas Guido’s sacrifice on Christmas Day, 1986 did not save America from terrorists nor tyranny abroad, yet his selfless act was none the less as noble as those many other Americans who have. On that Holiday, Guido stepped out of his family’s modest Brooklyn home to proudly show to his Uncle his new car. Suddenly, without warning, a gunman approached and opened fire on Nicholas. The young man, challenged all his life by a slight case of brain damage at birth, was never involved in criminal activity and had no idea why he was being murdered. All Guido knew in that last moment of his life was that, while he could not save his own life, he could possibly save that of his Uncle by throwing his body on top of him and pushing him to the floor of his car.

     Nicholas Guido died without knowing the reason why his young life was cut short, and two decades would pass before his family would have a possible answer; Prosecutor Hormozi outlined in her Opening Arguments that Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a deranged serial killer for the Luchese Mafia Family, had purchased information from the Mafia Cops regarding the identities of various individuals Casso sought to murder. Nicholas Guido was killed by Gaspipe Casso in a tragic case of mistaken identity. In chilling detail, Hormozi also claimed that the two cops used an unmarked police vehicle to pull over three of the alleged victims, Israel Greenwald, James Hydell, and Eddie Lino, under the guise of routine police business. Lino was shot dead by Caracappa while Greenwald and Hydell were led away, ostensibly to the nearest NYPD stationhouse, Hormozi alleged. Hydell was turned over to the murderous Casso, who then tortured and murdered Hydell, while Greenwald was taken to a location where two bullets were blasted into his head, upon which Greenwald was wearing a Yarmulke at the time.

     The Mafia Cop’s criminal lawyers, however, Bruce Cutler and Ed Hayes, do not dispute that Anthony Casso left behind numerous victims of his murderous wrath, but instead insist that their clients are also victims of the deranged killer. Gaspipe Casso was a psychopath so unstable that the government never called him to testify as a Witness after he confessed to the murders of 3 dozen people. Casso apparently did so in the hopes he would obtain a get-out-of-jail-free-card similar to that which Gambino Family Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano received after pleading guilty to the murders of 19 people in exchange for agreeing to testify against Gambino Godfather John Gotti.

     Instead of calling Casso, Cutler and Hayes claimed, Federal Prosecutors would call as witnesses career criminals with equally troubling résumés of deceit, fabrication, drug trafficking, and murder, among other crimes, in order to obtain their convictions against the accused Mafia Cops.

     The first Witness called by the Prosecution was a retired Police Sgt. who was the first on the scene on that Christmas day when young Nicholas Guido was gunned down. Prosecutors utilized Sgt. Michael Cugno to introduce into evidence graphic crime scene photos of Guido slumped down in the front seat of his new car, his crimson blood in stark contrast to the white windbreaker that was one of his Christmas presents. The photographs, which drew gasps of shock and outrage from Courtroom spectators, were published on the front page of the New York Post the very next day.

     The horror of those photographs, shown to the jury, set the stage for the dramatic entrance into the Courtroom of the second Witness, Mrs. Pipitone. The elderly mother was shown a photograph of her son, which she was asked to identify. Such was the obvious pain the woman was under she could barely bring herself to look at the photo. Pipitone described how she rushed to her son in the moments after he was shot multiple times, and upon touching his cold fingers knew that her beloved son was dead. The grieving woman then described how her husband was devastated by their son’s murder and that he died just 3 years later.

     While many in the Courtroom were on the verge of tears, Judge Weinstein reacted very differently. Weinstein was clearly angered by the Prosecutor’s tactics, and once Mrs. Pipitone had cleared her way through the Courtroom, Weinstein demanded of the Prosecutors what was their purpose in bringing Pipitone to testify. Weinstein apparently felt that her testimony was unnecessary and that the Prosecutors had unfairly prejudiced the jury with the dramatic and sorrowful testimony of the elderly woman.

     "I don’t want Witnesses like this brought in!" Weinstein declared.

     Weinstein’s angry denouncement foreshadowed Court testimony to come two days later that would prompt a livid Defendant Eppolito to angrily complain to reporters that the Media was unfairly biased against him. Eppolito appeared to erupt into fury when drug dealer Burt Kaplan, regarded as the Prosecution’s most important Witness, alleged that his co-conspirator Gaspipe Casso did not get the address of the ‘wrong’ Nicholas Guido from the accused ‘Mafia Cops’ but rather from one of their other sources. For an entire year now, reporters have published the allegation that the Mafia Cops were the ones who gave Casso the wrong address, with the tragic result of the murder on Christmas Day of an innocent young man. While few New Yorkers cared about the murder of Mafia figures such as heroin dealer Eddie Lino, the murder of young Guido was the singular one that aroused significant public sentiment against the accused former cops.

     Prior to Kaplan’s testimony came that of former Luchese Family Acting Boss Alphonse D’Arco, who was called on Day One of the trial. Eppolito attorney Bruce Cutler, who previously, and successfully, represented Gambino Mafia Family Godfather John Gotti, launched into his trademark ‘cartoon character’ antics, raging and screaming at D’Arco as part of his infamous "Cutler-izing" of a Witness. However, Cutler may have finally met his match in D’Arco, who screamed and yelled back at Cutler, in Courtroom theatrics that have rarely, if ever, been equaled. Eventually, no-nonsense Judge Weinstein finally had enough and threatened both D’Arco and Cutler with sanctions.

     While this Courtroom drama was unfolding, more compelling stories of human drama were more quietly being played out. Prosecutors had originally planned to call the daughter of at least one of the men the Defendants are accused of murdering, in an apparent attempt to keep the trial focused on the living victims of the crimes allegedly committed. However, after Judge Weinstein’s outrage over the appearance of Mrs. Pipitone, Prosecutors were forced to cancel the testimony of one such woman. Instead, the young woman quietly sat in on the Court proceedings. Also in attendance were two other such relatives of those murdered, one of whom, Elizabeth Hydell, the sister of James Hydell, seized the opportunity to stare down Caracappa and rebuff an overture by Eppolito.

     It was in this very same ‘Courtroom of Sorrow’ of Judge Weinstein’s that several such victims of Mafia hitmen made their sad journey in 1997 during the trial of Genovese Mafia Family "Oddfather" Vincent "Chin" Gigante. The women were all the daughters of men murdered by Sammy Gravano, who was called as a Prosecution Witness against Gigante. Those young women were at the time involved in a civil suit filed against Gravano by attorney Ron Kuby, seeking to seize profits from Gravano’s best-seller "UnderBoss" utilizing the ‘Son of Sam’ legislation passed to preclude criminals from profiting from their crimes. Eventually, these women would win their lawsuit, but in the process it would be revealed that Gravano allegedly tried to have attorney Ron Kuby murdered in retaliation for the lawsuit, and Gravano would be arrested for setting up his own young son and daughter in a drug trafficking scheme.

     The Courtroom of the Mafia Cops trial was also visited in the first week by another alleged victim of Eppolito, senior citizen Jane McCormick, who proffered to the reporters in residence her story of how she gave Eppolito $45,000 in exchange for his agreement to produce a movie based on her life as a Casino escort to the Hollywood "Rat Pack" of the 1960s. By the time of his arrest a few year later, Eppolito had not delivered on his contract with McCormick. Author Patti Wicklund is co-writing McCormick’s book "The Confidence Game," scheduled for release later this year.

     While the presence of McCormick may have added an element of ‘comic relief’ to this saga, the suffering by many of those connected to this case was evident in the daily interactions of the family of Detective Eppolito. Seated in the front row on the right side of the Courtroom were Eppolito’s second wife Fran and their children Andrea and Anthony. The love and support they felt for Eppolito and themselves was palpable, as evidenced by Fran Eppolito’s stroke of Anthony’s back as he struggled with a persistent cough, and all three as their huddled body language spoke volumes as to the pain and anguish each were suffering.

     This example of family solidarity was in stark contrast to that of Eppolito’s accused ‘partner in crime’ Steven Caracappa; on day Two of the trial, while all but one of the Eppolito family dined together during the noon break at a nearby restaurant, Caracappa consumed a meager lunch all alone on the 3rd Floor lunchroom of the Federal Courthouse.

EPILOGUE

As this trial progresses, there will undoubtedly be more such compelling instances of those who, each, in their own way, are victims of the saga of the "Mafia Cops." And, at some point, if there is a Verdict, regardless what that Verdict is, there will be on that day many people reduced to tears, including some reporters, inside Brooklyn‘s ‘Courtroom of Sorrow.’

To be continued

Click here for SIDEBAR from J. R. de Szigethy

Related Features:

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Thirteen: The Dueling Mob Turncoats
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_335.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Twelve: The Revenge of Janie McCormick
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_332.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Eleven: Christmas for the ‘Mafia Cops’
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_330.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Ten: The Media Wars
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_324.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Nine: The Wrong Man
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_321.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Eight: Yet Another Murder, Another Warning
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_319.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Seven: The NYPD’s ‘Other’ Mafia Cop: Steve Gardell
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_313.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Six: Another Murder, Another Warning
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_311.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Five: A Troubled Prosecution
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_307.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Four: Judge Grants Bail
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_306.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Three: The Emergence of 'Crystal Meth'
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_303.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part Two: The Cop Who Loved Snakes
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_300.html

Partners in Crime: The Mafia Cops
Part One: Mafia Cops Indicted
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_297.html

SIDEBAR:

by J. R. de Szigethy

     She walked into the ‘Courtroom of Sorrow,’ tentatively, hesitatingly, not wanting to be there but unable to stay away. I instantly recognized ‘that look,’ a look upon her face, and in her eyes, that I had seen before.

     It had been almost a decade earlier when, in that same Courtroom of Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Jack Weinstein, I sat, anticipating the testimony of the infamous Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who was called by the Feds in their efforts to put away Genovese Mafia Family "Oddfather" Vincent Gigante on various charges, including the all-encompassing ‘racketeering.’ I thought it odd that the Courtroom was not packed that day to full capacity by the various attendees of such Court proceedings, which include reporters, family members of the accused, Mafia groupies, and the occasional FBI agent, U.S. Attorney employee, and criminal lawyer killing time while awaiting their own Court proceedings to conclude elsewhere in the voluminous building.

     Then, they came into the Courtroom of Sorrow. If memory serves me correctly, there were 8 to 10 young women, in the 30 to 40 year of age range. They all had different fathers, different mothers, yet they all looked alike; they each had the same appearance and look upon their faces; it was a look of sadness, and loss, and pain. I would eventually learn that they were women whose fathers had been murdered by notorious Gambino Family Underboss Sammy Gravano. They had been brought together in their mutual grief by a lawsuit, filed by attorney Ron Kuby, seeking to seize the profits of Gravano’s best-selling book ‘Underboss,’ citing the ‘Son of Sam’ laws passed in New York State which precluded criminals from reaping financial gains from the publishing of their accounts of their crimes against their victims.

     Eventually, these women would win their lawsuit, but in the process it would be revealed that Gravano allegedly tried to have attorney Ron Kuby murdered in retaliation for the lawsuit, and Gravano would be arrested for setting up his own young son and daughter in a drug trafficking scheme.

     Thus, on that day, years later, in the same Courtroom of Judge Weinstein, I recognized that ‘look’ upon the face of not one but three women who attended the opening week of the ‘Mafia Cops’ trial who were alleged victims of the Mafia Cops. One, the sister of James Hydell, allegedly kidnapped by the Mafia cops and turned over to Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the murderous former Underboss of the Luchese Mafia Family, gave her name to the Media.

Etc.

     Another woman in attendance asked that her name not be published.

     A third was a young woman who attended the first week of the trial. She was wearing black; I was wearing blue. Like a secret mistress quietly sitting in the back of a Church during a funeral service for a married lover, the woman slipped quietly into the seats in the back of the Courtroom. I pointed her out to my ‘Partner in Crime’ reporting Lou Eppolito, Jr., as a likely family member of one of the victims. We both agreed to try to engage her in friendly conversation, hoping to recruit her as a source for an upcoming story.

     During the lunch break that day, Lou Jr. and I went our separate ways, each pursuing our own leads. When I existed the Courthouse building on my own, there, in the public park across the street from the ‘Courthouse of Sorrow,’ I spotted the ‘third’ alleged loved one of a victim.

     I cautiously approached her. "Hi," I said, pausing. "Are you a relative of one of the victims in this case?"

     She looked me in the eyes. "How did you know,?" she asked.

     "I see it in your eyes," I replied.

     I then introduced myself as a reporter for AmericanMafia.com, and that I had been reporting on this story for some time. The woman expressed surprise, stating that she thought she had reviewed every story written about this case, but was unfamiliar with mine.

     I then asked her to speak to me "off the record," but she declined. At that point, I gave her my business card and suggested she visit that acclaimed website.

     I had a hunch as to who this woman was and, hours later, I learned that she was, as I suspected, the daughter of one of the murder victims of the alleged ‘Mafia Cops.’

     This woman, this ‘Victim,’ was just another example of how the American Mafia is a truly evil enterprise, which turns son against father, sister against brother, and leave behind, in the wake of all of the never-ending murders, children of parents, forever scarred by the loss of those who brought them into this world.

J. R. de Szigethy


J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at:
writer10021@aol.com

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