Dalia Dippolito lawyers to judge: give us more hearing time

Prosecutor Craig Williams questions Dalia Dippolito as she testifies in a pretrial hearing Tuesday, February 23, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Attorneys for the former Boynton Beach woman caught on camera trying to arrange for a hitman to kill her husband are accusing a judge in her case of violating her constitutional rights by not giving them more time to convince him to throw out her case.

Dalia Dippolito’s retrial on murder solicitation charges is expected to begin in May, but that’s only if Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley rejects requests from Dippolito’s lawyers to have her charges thrown out on claims of police misconduct.

Dippolito, who testified in court for the first time since her 2009 arrest in a hearing last week, said the murder-for-hire plot was actually part of an acting project for her, her now ex-husband Michael Dippolito, and her boyfriend-turned-police-informant Mohamed Shihadeh.

On the witness stand, Dippolito said she tried to back out of the allegedly scripted plot, but Shihadeh threatened to harm her if she did, saying that he was being pressured by Boynton Beach Police officials desperate to parlay the plot into a riveting episode of the reality television show COPS.

In paperwork filed with Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley Monday, Dippolito attorney Brian Claypool said he wanted to call two more witnesses to testify to Kelley before the judge makes his decision, adding that it was unfair to Dippolito that Kelley ordered both attorneys to expedite their final arguments at the end of last week’s hearing because of a mandate to shut down local courts at 5:30 p.m. to curtail clerks’ overtime.

“The courthouse regulations should not trump Ms. Dippolito’s constitutional rights,” Claypool wrote.

Dippolito’s lawyers had asked for the extra hearing time last week, but Kelley quickly denied the request.

Among the extra witnesses that Claypool and Dippolito’s legal team would like to question is former Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Paul Sheridan, who Dippolito says tricked her into signing a release to appear on COPS and later falsified a police report about it.

Police officials have said there was an internal investigation on the matter, but have never provided Dippolito’s defense team with any documents related to it. Prosecutors say they don’t know the outcome of the investigation, and current Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz testified last week that he doesn’t know what came of it either.

Dippolito’s attorys want to ask Sheridan about it directly and also present testimony for a law enforcement procedures and policies experts, all in hopes of convincing Kelley that police officials committed misconduct so egregious that Dippolito’s charges should be dismissed.

In 2011, a jury convicted Dippolito of solicitation to commit first degree murder, and Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, calling her “pure evil,” sentenced her to 20 years in prison. An appellate court overturned her conviction after the judges ruled that Colbath should have questioned prospective jurors individually about their exposure to media attention in the case surrounding a YouTube video at a staged crime scene that went viral.