State to pay Dalia Dippolito’s trial transcript costs, judge rules

A state agency will pay the cost to transcribe Dalia Dippolito’s second trial to help her attorneys to prepare for her third trial this summer, a judge has ruled.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley at the end of a short hearing Thursday granted defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to have the state pay for what he estimates will be at least $10,000 in transcription costs to receive a written play-by-play of the December retrial that ended in mistrial.

Dippolito is now on house arrest as she awaits a third trial in the case where she was caught on camera allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her husband, Michael, in 2009.

The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach police detective who was part of an investigation that began when Dippolito’s then-lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, told authorities that Dippolito was shopping for a killer.

Rosenfeld, who last month revealed he is representing Dippolito free of charge, and California defense attorney Brian Claypool had previously won a request to have Dippolito declared indigent for the purposes of costs and fees associated with her defense. Dippolito has not been able to work since her 2009 arrest, her lawyers say, because she’s been on house arrest for most of that time.

Dippolito was jailed briefly after a first jury in her case convicted her in 2011. A judge back then sentenced to her to 20 years sin prison, but she was released on an appellate bond shortly afterwards as her lawyers fought to get her a new trial.

They won that quest when an appellate court threw out both the conviction and sentence in 2014, clearing the way for December’s trial.

That trial ended in mistrial after jurors announced they were split 3-3 over whether or not Dippolito was guilty.

Kelley set the start of jury selection for Dippolito’s third trial for June 2.

Dalia Dippolito’s third trial set to begin in June

The first Friday in June will mark the start of jury selection in what will be Dalia Dippolito’s third trial in the case surrounding her caught-on-camera alleged plot to kill her then husband, Michael.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley issued an order Thursday setting Dippolito’s retrial for June 2.

The notice comes more than a month after Kelley declared a mistrial in Dippolito’s second trial after  group of six jurors announced they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the 2009 Boynton Beach case.

A first jury in Dippolito’s case in 2011 convicted her on a single charge of solicitation to commit first degree murder, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but both her conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.

Dippolito’s attorneys have argued that police violated Dippolito’s rights by forcing her lover turned police informant to participate in the investigation after he allegedly said he wanted out. They say police officials did so to spice up an episode of the reality television show “Cops.”

Prosecutors say the video evidence in the case, including conversations between Dippoilto and an undercover detective posing as a hitman, provide clear evidence that she fully intended to have her now ex-husband killed.

UPDATE: Dalia Dippolito retrial jury leans toward deadlock

Brian Claypool, attorney for Dalia Dippolito, waits for court to start in her murder-for-hire retrial Tuesday, December 13, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL
Brian Claypool, attorney for Dalia Dippolito, waits for court to start in her murder-for-hire retrial Tuesday, December 13, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL

UPDATE 6:12 p.m.: Jurors announced late Tuesday that they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict after more than six hours of deliberation in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sent the panel home for the night under objection from Dippolito’s defense team, who had wanted them to continue trying to reach a verdict Tuesday night.

Instead, the jury will return Wednesday, and if the tell the judge again that they are at an impasse, he will read to them a special instruction to keep deliberating.

If that doesn’t work, then Kelley  on Wednesday could declare a mistrial in the case surrounding the former Boynton Beach newlywed’s caught on camera alleged plot to kill her husband in 2009.

Dippolito defense attorney Brian Claypool said the case isn’t over yet.

“It’s not a hung jury,” Claypool said. “We‘ve said it, we were never here for a consolation prize, we want a not guilty verdict.”

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.: Jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial are now in a sixth hour of deliberation after asking to review all audio and video recordings connected to the alleged 2009 plot.

Five years ago, it took jurors just three hours to convict the 34-year-old of unwittingly hiring an undercover Boynton Beach Police officer posing as a hitman to kill her husband, Michael.

In this trial, prosecutors presented a much shorter case and relied almost exclusively on the series of recordings where Dippolito is overheard trying to arrange the murder.

And Dippolito’s new legal team was much more aggressive with arguments that she was the victim of a botched, unethical Boynton Beach Police investigation that violated her civil rights. She also completely abandoned a previous defense that she and her husband concocted the plot together in hopes of landing a reality television show.

At about 2 pm Tuesday, the jury of four women ant two men asked to review audio and video recordings in the case. They also asked to hear part of Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie closing arguments, but Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley told them that closing arguments were not evidence and declined their request.

The jury also asked to get a transcript of Dippolito lover Mohamed Shihadeh’s testimony. Kelley told them he could provide no transcripts but would have his testimony read back to them in open court if they wanted. So far the jury has not taken him up on the offer.

 

ORIGINAL POST: Jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s murder solicitation retrial are now beginning the task of deciding the case surrounding the 2009 alleged plot to kill the Boynton Beach newlywed’s husband.

Closing arguments began Monday in the trial that started last week, and ended Tuesday morning with rebuttal arguments from Assistant State Attorney Laura Burkhart Laurie.

Laurie, countering arguments from Dippolito’s defense team that Boynton Beach Police violated Dippolito’s civil rights to build the investigation for an episode of “Cops,” said the police weren’t the ones on trial and Dippolito made it clear she wanted her husband Michael dead.

“Remember her words, when she says she’s going to do something, she does it,” Laurie said. “And she did. She’s guilty.”

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley dismissed the two alternates and sent the six jurors back to begin deciding the case just before 11 a.m.

UPDATE: Dalia Dippolito won’t testify in murder solicitation retrial

Former LAPD officer Timothy Williams, Jr. testifies for the defense as an expert in police procedures in Dalia Dippolito’s murder-for-hire retrial Monday, December 12, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL
Former LAPD officer Timothy Williams, Jr. testifies for the defense as an expert in police procedures in Dalia Dippolito’s murder-for-hire retrial Monday, December 12, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL

UPDATE 3:18 p.m.: Testimony ended in the retrial of Dalia Dippolito Monday afternoon, shortly after jurors got to see footage of her at what turned out to be a staged crime scene police created in before arresting her for allegedly trying to have her husband killed.

The video, which has nearly a half million views on the Boynton Beach Police YouTube channel and hundreds of thousands more elsewhere, was originally kept from jurors’ view.

Click for live courtroom coverage of the Dalia Dippolito trial

Prosecutors asked Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley to show it to jurors after Dippolito defense attorney Brian Claypool made reference to it several times while questioning Boynton Beach Police Public Information Officer Stephanie Slater.

Closing arguments in Dippolito’s case are expected to begin shortly.

 

UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: Dalia Dippoito has decided not to testify in her retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to have a hitman kill her husband.

Dippolito, 34, told Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley of her decision after a defense expert testified.

She had said earlier this year that she looked forward to testifying, but her attorneys before the trial hinted at the change in plans.

Kelley afterwards granted prosecutors’ request to show a staged crime scene video in the case.

ORIGINAL POST: Boynton Beach police officials should have never told Dalia Dippolito’s former lover that he would remain anonymous when he reporter she was trying to have her husband killed.

This was the testimony of Timothy Williams, Jr. a Los-Angeles-based police practices expert that could be the last defense witness in the retrial of the 34-year-old former newlywed charged in an August 2009 caught on camera alleged plot to have her husband killed.

The question still remains whether Dippolito will testify in her own defense, although so far it appears unlikely.

Dippolito told reporters earlier this year that she would take the stand and tell jurors that her husband, Michael, and her lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, conspired together to force her to pretend she wanted Michael Dippolito dead as art of an acting showcase.

But defense attorneys since before the start of the trial last week appeared to have cooled on the idea, saying Friday that they would confer with Dippolito over the weekend and announce their decision Monday.

On Saturday, lead defense attorney Brian Claypool tweeted that he expected to deliver his closing arguments Monday – an indication that Dippolito may have decided against taking the stand.

Assistant State Attorneys Craig Williams and Laura Burkhart Laurie have based their case on Dippolito’s own words in a series of audio and video recordings with her lover and the fake hitman, who she told she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted her husband dead.

Claypool, along with defense attorneys Greg Rosenfeld and Andrew Greenlee, have called those recordings “fruit of a poisonous tree,” saying that they were made after Shihadeh told police he wanted out of the investigation and they forced him to cooperate.

Dalia Dippolito jury selected, trial to begin Wednesday

Judge Glenn Kelley presides over the fourth day of jury selection for Dalia Dippolito's retrial at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) Pool
Judge Glenn Kelley presides over the fourth day of jury selection for Dalia Dippolito’s retrial at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 6, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) Pool

UPDATE 4:58 p.m.: A group of five women and three men will make up the pool of six jurors and two alternates in the retrial of former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito, who is accused of a 2009 caught-on-camera plot to have her husband killed.

Dippolito’s defense attorneys immediately indicated that they will request to have the jurors sequestered. The selection of jurors ends four days of jury selection rocked by Dippolito’s last-minute attempts to drop the entire pool of 200 prospective jurors sand move the case out of Palm Beach COunty.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley denied the request to sequester the jury and said he will assk them every day whether they’ve been exposed to media attention in the case.

“I’ll stay on top of it,” Kelley said.

Opening statements in the trial will begin Wednesday.

 

UPDATE 1:54 p.m.: Concerns over the husband of a potential Dalia Dippolito juror temporarily halted jury selection in her retrial amid claims the man was stalking Dippolito.

Dippolito, 34, said she recognized the man from her 2011 sentencing hearing and other hearings in her case.

Concerns first rose Monday, when defense attorneys Greg Rosenfeld and Brian Claypool said the then-unidentified man was seen having lunch with a juror last week.

It turns out that juror, who was also accused of making a derrogatory comment about Dippolito to two other prospective jurors, is the wife of the court watcher.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley brought the man in for questioning. He said he watched the news and heard about Dippolito’s case, but denied telling his wife anything about it.

“I’d get shot if I did,” he said. “She’s a tough little lady.”

ORIGINAL POST: The presiding judge in Dalia Dippolito’s retrial has again rejected her request to move her case out of Palm Beach County because of widespread publicity of the case.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley announced his decision Tuesday in what developed into a heated exchange between the judge and defense attorneys in the case.

Responding to claims from defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld that a television news poll revealed most viewers thought Dippolito couldn’t get a fair jury in Palm Beach County, Kelley said he didn’t need to see it.

“I’m not going to rely on the poll, and quite frankly, I don’t care what the citizens of Palm Beach County think because I’m the one who is sitting in the chair,” Kelley said.

His words come a day after rising concerns about the number of jurors who knew about Dippolito’s alleged murder-for-hire plot led defense attorneys to renew their efforts to get the case moved.

Kelley had said he would consider the request overnight, and announced his decision to keep questioning the 55 prospective jurors early Tuesday.

Claypool, comparing Dippolito’s case to the two DUI manslaughter trials of Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, questioned Kelley’s decision to keep the case local, considering Goodman’s second jury came from Tampa.

“We’ve done our due diligence. I think the court is ignoring that, because the court is in a rush to get a jury in Palm Beach County,” Claypool said.

“I am considering the volume of publicity, and you need to lower your volume,” Kelley said in response. “Passion is fine, but you need to lower your volume.”

After the exchange, jury selection continued with the 50 remaining jurors from an initial prospective pool of 200.

Claypool, in questioning the jurors Tuesday morning, appeared to preview Dippolito’s defense that Boynton Beach Police violated Dippolito’s civil rights in the way they handled the investigation into Dippolito’s alleged attempt to have her then-husband Michael killed.

The investigation began when Dippolito’s lover, Mohamed Shihedeh, told police Dippolito was looking for a hitman. He would later say that he hoped to get help for Dippolito, who had told him her husband was abusing her.

Shihadeh said police coerced him to continue setting Dippolito up for the caught-on-camera investigation with an undercover officer posing as a hitman even after he asked to back out.

Dippolito herself said in court earlier this year that Shihadeh and her husband had made up the plot as part of an acting showcase to get them all jobs, and both of them forced her to continue with it after she tried to back out of the plot.

 

Deputy who guarded John Goodman gets go-ahead in suit against PBSO

A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy can proceed with her lawsuit, claiming she was unfairly disciplined by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for simply telling the truth about a strange incident involving now-imprisoned Wellington polo mogul John Goodman, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw at the site of a deputy-involved shooting that critically injured a person Thursday morning, July 30, 2015, on Lakewood Road near South Military Trail in Palm Springs. PBSO said a deputy shot a person at 5:15 a.m. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected Bradshaw’s request to toss out the lawsuit filed by Deputy Bridgette Bott. She was  one of Goodman’s security guards when he was on house arrest before he was convicted a second time of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 crash that killed 23-year-old Scott Wilson.

ID Photo
ID Photo

Bradshaw argued that Bott should have sought administrative relief before filing a lawsuit. The appeals court ruled that none was available.

In a lawsuit filed by attorney Sid Garcia, Bott claims she was unfairly docked 40 hours pay when she didn’t side with other deputies who said Goodman in 2012 tried to disable his ankle monitor while on house arrest.  In addition, she claims she was banned from the lucrative security detail that Goodman was forced to bankroll as a condition of being allowed to stay out of jail.

Ultimately, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath ruled that there was insufficient evidence that Goodman had tried to break the monitor and allowed him to remain on house arrest. Goodman, heir to a Texas air conditioning and heating business, is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Dalia Dippolito: Florida Supreme Court won’t hear appeal

Dalia Dippolito in court Tuesday, February 23, 2016 during a pretrial hearing. The 33-year-old Dippolito is facing a May retrial on 2009 charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito. She has pleaded not guilty. Dalia Dippolito is expected to testify that a former lover threatened her with a gun and pressured her to speak to the hit man who was actually an undercover police officer. The case gained national notoriety because "Cops" happened to be filming with the Boynton Beach police. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dalia Dippolito in court Tuesday, February 23, 2016 during a pretrial hearing. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida’s Supreme Court on Tuesday denied former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito’s appeal of her murder solicitation case, clearing the way for a December retrial on charges that she tried to hire a hitman to kill her new husband.

The move comes a month after Dippolito’s lawyers, fresh from a rejection from Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal, asked the high court to dismiss Dippolito’s case based on claims that Boynton Beach Police officials engaged in “reprehensible” and unethical behavior to build a case against Dippolito.

Attorneys Brian Claypool and Andrew Greenly claimed officers coerced Dippolito’s sometime lover into threatening her to move forward with the 2009  plot against Michael Dippolito because it would make for a good episode of the reality TV show COPS.

A Florida Supreme Court clerk signed a single-page order dismissing Dippolito’s appeal Tuesday as “successive” but offered no further explanation.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley recently set Dippolito’s retrial for Dec. 5 and said he would postpone it if the Florida Supreme Court had agreed to hear her case.

Dippolito in 2011 was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a first jury convicted her of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Her conviction was later overturned on appeal, clearing the way for a new trial.

Dippolito, 33, didn’t take the stand in her own defense in the first trial, bt in a hearing earlier this year, she revealed for the first time claims that she, Michael Dippolito and lover Mohamed Shihadeh all came together to fabricate the plot in hopes that the publicity would score them more acting jobs.

Former Boynton Beach man resentenced on child molestation charges

Cuminotto
Cuminotto

A man first arrested nearly a decade ago on charges he molested a 12-year-old Boytnon Beach girl was again sentenced to 55 years in prison after a Palm Beach County jury convicted him a second time on lewd and lascivious molestation an other charges.

The resentencing hearing Friday for Leonard Cuminotto came more than eight years after U.S. Marshals picked him up in Daytona Beach. Police said the alleged victim’s mother called them from Michigan and told them Cuminotto had abused her daughter for several months in 2007 when they lived with him in Boynton Beach.

The alleged victim later said the abuse went back to 2002, and jury in 2010 convicted him on four out of seven charges related to the case.

Cuminotto was sentenced to 55 years in prison, but both the conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.

A second trial for Cuminotto began Wednesday, and jurors re-convicted him of three of his four remaining charges after deliberating Thursday. Though Cuminotto had acted as his own attorney during parts of his case, he accepted help during his trial from defense attorney Jacob Noble.

Despite the jury’s acquittal on a lewd and lascivious exhibition charge, Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced him to a total of 25 years in prison on a pair of lewd and lascivious molestation charges and and additional 30 years in prison on a charge of sexual activity with  minor.

Cuminotto plans to again appeal his conviction and sentence.

New trial for Matthew Heinly, man convicted in 2011 “prank” murder

031514-wpb-murder-verdict-matthew-heinlyAn appeals court Wednesday granted a new trial for one of four homeless men implicated in the June 2011 West Palm Beach murder of a 45-year-old who let them sleep at his apartment.

Matthew Heinly, now 27, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in March 2014 for participating in the strangulation murder of Timothy Bell – a man whose body authorities never found.

Heinly two years ago stood trial together with alleged accomplice Sean Wilson, although the two had separate juries.

In an eight-page ruling, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes erroneously allowed Heinly’s jury to hear portions of alleged accomplice Pedro Roman’s testimony that pertained only to Wilson’s case.

Heinly’s first trial two years ago unearthed disturbing details about the last days and hours of the man he called his close friend, a man who fed and housed him, Wilson and two other young men at his Gardenia Street apartment before all four turned on him. There was testimony during the trial that Bell had the men perform sexual favors for him in exchange for the lodging.

Heinly testified that Bell’s death was a result of a prank gone wrong, telling jurors that Bell had expressed wanting to kill himself and they wanted to show him what it was like to suffocate.

Wilson is currently serving life in prison.

Roman accepted a 40-year plea deal on second-degree murder charges in exchange for his testimony against Wilson and Heinly.

A fourth man, Andre Banks, received 90 days in jail and five years of probation in 2011 on charges that he was an accessory after the murder.

 

Contempt charge dropped against defense attorney Elizabeth Ramsey

Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox sustains an objection to a recorded phone conversation during testimony by jail inmate and trial witness Frederick Cobia in the murder trial of Jamal Smith at the Palm Beach County Courthouse on December 30, 2015.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox sustains an objection to a recorded phone conversation during testimony by jail inmate and trial witness Frederick Cobia in the murder trial of Jamal Smith at the Palm Beach County Courthouse on December 30, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

A judge on Friday agreed to drop contempt of court charges against an assistant public defender who drew the ire of a Palm Beach circuit judge while fighting to keep a perennial jail informant’s testimony out of her client’s murder trial.

The order from Circuit Judge Peter Blanc in attorney Elizabeth Ramsey’s favor comes nine months after Circuit Judge Jack Cox first took the rare step of seeking the charges that could have landed Ramsey in jail for up to six months.

It also comes as testimony nears an end in the murder trial of Jamal Smith, Ramsey’s client whose case has been the center of more than a year of arguments over prosecutor’s use of Frederick Cobia – a man who has earned the reputation in legal circles as the most frequently-used jail snitch in local history.

Cox hit Ramsey with the contempt charges after arguing that she had violated a court order by placing in court records for public view transcripts from an interview with Cobia that discussed the contents of recorded jail calls with his daughter. Cox had ordered an mention of those calls sealed from public view in an order that was later overturned by the 4th District Court of Appeal in a case that involved The Palm Beach Post.

A request to dismiss the charges, which prosecutors filed last week, revealed that the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s office did file the transcript into the court record, but did so under seal pursuant to the court order – meaning the records were never made public.

“Simply put, the defendant cannot be prosecuted because the court order was never violated,” Assistant State Attorney Donald Richardson, a special prosecutor from Okeechobee, wrote in a Sept. 15 filing.

Ramsey’s defense attorney, Donnie Murrell, confirmed on Friday that the charges against Ramsey had been dropped, although a copy of Blanc’s order had not appeared in public court records late Friday.

Murrell described Ramsey as a great lawyer who was doing nothing more than advocating for her client.

“All of this hullabaloo, after nine months, was over nothing,” Murrell said. “She should’ve never had to go through this.”

As for Cobia, prosecutors in Smith’s trial on Thursday announced that they will be not be calling him as a witness.

Had he taken the stand, he was expected to testify that Smith confessed to him his involvement in the August 2011 shooting death of Kemar Clayton. Cobia claims to have obtained similar confessions from several of his jail mates.