BREAKING: Judge denies Dalia Dippolito’s request to get off house arrest

Dalia Dippolito, 34, sits in a Palm Beach County courtroom awaiting the start of a hearing in her case on Jan. 6, 2017.

UPDATE 2:32 p.m.: Dalia Dippolito walked into a Palm Beach County courtroom Friday wearing a “God is Able” T-shirt and the hopes that a judge would free her from house arrest ahead of a third trial.

About 30 minutes later, Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley refused to let her off house arrest, although he said he would consider a request to relax some of the house arrest conditions. She could face trial on murder solicitation charges again as early as this spring in connection with the 2009 case where she is accused of trying a hitman to kill her then-husband, Michael Dippolito.

Friday’s hearing brought with it revelations that the third trial in Dippolito’s case will probably have a jury from outside Palm Beach County.

Assistant State Attorneys Craig Williams and Laura Burkhart Laurie told Kelley they likely won’t oppose a defense request to move the trial to either Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa, but defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld seemed unclear on whether they would make such a move.

Rosenfeld at the start of the hearing said they would be asking for a venue change. But Claypool, who practices in California and appeared by phone, said moments later that he and Rosenfeld hadn’t discussed what they would do.

As for when the trial would happen, Kelley said the earliest he could schedule a retrial would be in April. Otherwise, he said Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, who presided over Dippolito’s first trial, was willing to take the case over again. Dippolito’s defense said they’d object to Colbath being on the case, citing comments he made at Dippolito’s first sentencing hearing in 2012.

“After 7 years, going on 8, I want to get this case concluded one way or another,” Kelley said.

After the hearing, Rosenfeld criticized Dippolito’s prosecution as a waste of taxpayer money, and accused Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg of refusing to attend an ultimately failed meeting with prosecutors to discuss a possible plea agreement.

“This is one of the biggest cases of his career and he refuses to meet with me? It’s because he’s prosecuting this case for political reasons,” Rosenfeld said, later adding: “They’re spending millions, millions of dollars on this case, and for what? Two trials where thy haven been able to secure convictions.”

Dippolito’s now ex-husband, Michael Dippolito, has said he still considers Dalia Dippolito a danger and said this week that he hoped Kelley would keep her house arrest in place.

Rosenfeld said that he didn’t believe Michael Dippolito’s claims because he has been seen driving his white Porsche through his ex-wife’s neighborhood and has been often seen in places his former mother in law frequents.

“The grocery store, Home Depot…” Dalia Dippolito chimed in Friday as Rosenfeld spoke to Kelley.

Kelley has not set another hearing in the case. Dippolito’s attorneys are expected between now and early next week to file a motion to merely relax some of the conditions of her house arrest, which Kelley said he would consider as opposed to letting her completely off house arrest.

Rosenfeld said Dippolito’s house arrest rules contain the most restrictive conditions he’s encountered of any case in his career.

 

ORIGINAL POST: Dalia Dippolito could learn as early as Friday afternoon whether a judge will allow her off house arrest ahead of her third trial in a case where she’s accused of trying to have her husband killed.

A hearing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. with Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kelly, who presided over the December trial where a group of six jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Dippolito has been either in jail or house arrest ever since an undercover Boynton Beach police investigation against her culminated with her arrest and the release of a video at a staged crime scene that made international headlines.

Her attorneys say that because three jurors and two alternates have now publicly said prosecutors couldn’t prove that Dippolito really intended to kill her now ex-husband, Michael, keeping her on house arrest constitutes punishment for a crime for which she has not been convicted.

Earlier this week, talks of a plea deal broke down after defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld said prosecutors would not entertain a punishment below 10 years.

Dippolito was once sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012, after a first jury convicted her on murder solicitation charges. But that conviction and sentence was overturned on appeal in 2014.

“She’s a mother, so her focus is on her child. That’s the basis for her to even entertain the idea of taking a plea,” Rosenfeld said earlier this week.

With a deal now seemingly unlikely, Rosenfeld and defense attorney Brian Claypool say they are encouraged by “feedback” they’ve received from the community since the trial where their defense was that corrupt Boynton police officers forced Dippolito’s lover into making her hire an ultimately fake hitman to impress producers of the television show “Cops.”

Michael Dippolito, through his attorney, Elizabeth Parker, has said he believes his ex-wife is still a danger to him and hopes Kelley keeps her on house arrest.

JUST IN: Death penalty dropped from Delray case of man charged with killing ex

A Miami man will no longer face a possible death penalty when he goes to trial this month on allegations that he killed his ex-girlfriend and dumped her body in a Delray Beach ditch, a judge has ruled.

The decision from Circuit Judge Krista Marx in John Eugene Chapman’s case Thursday comes as the future of capital punishment in Florida has grown increasingly uncertain in he year since the U.S. Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty sentencing process unconstitutional.

It also comes a day after Florida’s Supreme Court added to the confusion when they issued, then retracted, a ruling that barred prosecutors from seeking death penalties under state law.

Marx granted Palm Beach Public Defender Carey Haughwout’s request to keep a jury from imposing a death sentence against Chapman on the grounds that with there is currently no lawful procedure in place for imposing death penalties in Florida.

Marx also agreed with Haughwout’s arguments that prosecutors’ 2015 indictment against Chapman failed to include the necessary elements for the murder to be charged as a death penalty case based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Although Marx allowed Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott until Tuesday to submit further written argument to try to change her mind, the judge said it was clear that there is currently no death penalty in Florida.

“I don’t think that there’s any way that a circuit court judge can cure the fact that there’s no procedure in place,” Marx said.

 

Wife of deputy accused of ID theft collapses after husband denied bond

The wife of a Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy accused of ID theft collapsed at a hearing Thursday.
The wife of a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy accused of ID theft collapsed at a hearing Thursday. (File photo)

Daphne Felisma, wife of accused Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Frantz Felisma, collapsed outside a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach Thursday after a judge denied bond for her husband.

Paramedics took her to the hospital after she fainted. Her husband, who faces identity theft charges, should remain behind bars because of the serious nature of the offense and, with family in Haiti, he is a flight risk, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins said at the conclusion of a roughly two-hour hearing.

“I can’t imagine a much more serious offense than this,” Hopkins said. “For a law enforcement officer to be selling his position and selling law enforcement information to a known fraudster is one of the most serious crimes I can possibly imagine.”

Daphne Felisma started sobbing after Hopkins announced his decision. She tried to reach her husband as U.S. marshals led him out of the courtroom. Grabbed by marshals, she was ushered into the hallway where she collapsed. About 50 friends and family members, many crying, were also ordered from the courtroom.

Frantz Felisma, 42, of Boynton Beach, is accused of using law enforcement databases to get personal information about at least 50 people who owned expensive cars and selling the information to Kesner Joaseus, federal prosecutors said. Joaseus, who pleaded guilty to identity theft and other fraud charges in August, reported Felisma’s involvement to police. Joaseus set up credit card and bank accounts over 18 months, stealing an estimated $250,000, prosecutors said.

Joaseus told prosecutors he offered to pay Felisma $10,000 a month for the information but it is unclear how much he was paid or where the money went, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Jorgensen said. Felisma’s bank account showed about $14,000 in unusual transactions from January 2013 until June 2014, she told Hopkins.

“Criminals don’t necessarily deposit money from a criminal enterprise,” she said.

Knowing Joaseus had been convicted of mortgage fraud, Felisma claimed he was investigating his activities. “I’m going to nail him,” his attorney Jason Kreiss said he told investigators.

Kreiss said Felisma maintains his innocence and is likely to ask a federal judge to overturn Hopkins’ decision to deny him bond. The appeals process could take more than two weeks.

Gun charge dropped for Riviera teen convicted of murder

Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a felony gun charge against a Riviera Beach teen recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing another teen in a confrontation that stemmed from a Facebook feud.

Samuel Turner, who will turn 19 on Thursday, will likely be headed to prison this week after Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles announced that the state would be dropping a gun charge against him in the case surrounding the October 2014 shooting death of Ivan Redding.

A jury at the end of Turner’s December 2015 first-degree murder trial convicted him of a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton in October sentenced Turner to 30 years in prison, 10 years longer than the 20-year punishment that Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall requested.

Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, who represented Turner through the trial, said more than a year ago that she planned to appeal the conviction. The appeal will likely center on video that captured part of the shooting in a car on the 2900 black of Old Dixie Highway, a video Ramsey says raised doubts about whether Turner was the shooter.

“The evidence was weird,” she said. “It was a case where every witness told a story – a very different story.”

Prosecutors said the confrontation between the teens marked the climax of a Facebook war of words between two of Redding’s sisters and Turner’s friend, Fiando Toussaint.

Turner had driven with his sisters to the convenience store on Old Dixie Highway when the sisters saw Toussaint and Turner, resulting in verbal sparring that led to a fist fight between Redding and Turner.

In the aftermath, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden told jurors during Turner’s trial, Turner told someone to go get his gun. Moments later, Redding had an ultimately fatal gunshot wound in his chest.

“Everyone knows Samuel Turner lost that fight, that’s why he was so angry,” Godden said.

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.

UPDATE: Dalia Dippolito prosecution rests; defense calls lover

UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: Dalia Dippolito broke down in tears Thursday as her former lover took the and said he told Boynton Beach police she was looking to have her husband killed in hopes of getting her some help.

Dalia Dippolito cries as her ex-lover-turned police informant Mohamed Shihadeh testifies for the defense in Dalia Dippolito's murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, December 8, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dalia Dippolito cries as her ex-lover-turned police informant Mohamed Shihadeh testifies for the defense in Dalia Dippolito’s murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, December 8, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Mohamed Shihadeh, who had a sexual relationship with Dippolito from years before she met and married her now ex-husband Michael, said he thought his old lover was being abused and went to police in hopes that they would call her.

LIVE COVERAGE: DALIA DIPPOLITO TRIAL

“I didn’t think she had it in her to do it,” Shihadeh said when asked whether he thought Dippolito would actually have her husband killed.

Hearing those words in the courtroom Thursday sent Dippolito, 34, into sobs. She continued crying for several minutes as defense attorney Brian Claypool continued questioning Shihadeh, who said police surreptitiously placed a video camera in his car and tapped his phones.

2:40 p.m. UPDATE: After calling just two witnesses, prosecutors Thursday rested their murder solicitation case against Dalia Dippolito.

The surprise move came after less than a full day of testimony in what had become one of the most highly publicized local cases in recent history.

From the start of the case Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams and fellow prosecutor Laura Burkhart Laurie presented a significantly pared-back version of the case the state presented to Dippolito’s first trial in 2011.

They based their case solely on a series of audio and video recordings in which Dippolito is overheard planning her husband’s murder with Mohamed Shihadeh and later undercover Boynton Beach Officer Widy Jean.

Dippolito defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld will call Mohamed Shihadeh as their first witness.

12:50 p.m. UPDATE: Prosecutors could rest their case in the murder solicitation retrial against Dalia Dippolito as early as Thursday afternoon.

Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams made the bombshell announcement after Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sent jurors out for the lunch break.

Dippolito’s retrial began Wednesday with an immediately apparent stripped-down version of the case against the 34-year-old former Boynton Beach newlywed whose alleged plot to kill her husband was caught on camera.

The quick end to the state’s case means prosecutors will likely not call the alleged victim, Michael Dippolito, to the witness stand. Dippolito’s former lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, was also expected to be a state witness, but according to the prosecutors’ announcement, it appears they may not be calling him to the stand, either.

ORIGINAL POST: In the parking lot of the CVS on Gateway Boulevard and Military trial, a young woman stepped out of her gold Chevy Tahoe and into the passenger seat of a red Chrysler Sebring.

Widy Jean aid he told the woman she was beautiful, an icebreaker he said he hoped would build her trust. Minutes later they were discussing the details of how he would kill her husband.

“At first she was moving around, but after a while he was calm and collected and giving me the instructions that I needed,” Jean, an undercover police officer who posed as a hitman, told jurors in Dalia Dippolito’s retrial Thursday.

Dippolito, 34, listened as the jurors watched the recorded video on what will be the first full day of testimony in the case. On Monday, jurors heard audio and video recordings of Dippolito’s interactions with Mohamed Shihadeh, the sometime lover who sparked a Boynton Beach Police investigation when he told detectives Dippolito was shopping for someone to kill her new husband, Michael.

In the recording with Jean Thursday, it was clear that he was trying to keep her talking, an indulgence she obliged.

She told him Michael Dippolito had enough enemies to keep police guessing as to who would want to kill him.

Played seven years later, Jean in the video might’ve given some clues that he wasn’t a real hitman.

At one point, after she told him to check with her on a detail, he responded: “I’m not going to do anything without your approval. You’re the client.”

Towards the end on the conversation, Jean – who was supposed to be a hardened hired gun from Miami – offered up a police “anything further?” before Dippolito left.

“I was trying to give her a way out,” he said. “In return she told me she was 5,000 percent sure that she wanted it done.”

Dalia Dippolito retrial: state plays recorded murder plot

120816-dippolito-13

4:08 p.m. UPDATE : Dalia Dippolito thought getting her hair done would make for a good alibi spot to be in when a hitman killed her husband.

Her words, played in a videotaped conversation between her and her lover-turned police informant Mohamed Shihadeh, dominated a slow first day of testimony in the 34-year-old former Boynton Beach newlywed’s retrial in the alleged 2009 plot to kill her then-husband, Michael.

Live coverage: Dalia Dippolito trial

In a handful of video and audio recordings so far, Dippolito appeared to project a cool, calm demeanor as she discussed with her sometime lover the logistics of hiring a man she thought was a hitman acquaintance of one of Mohamed’s relatives.

She did, however, express concern over the fact that some of their conversations were over the phone, wanted to make sure the hitman would carry out the act and was worried he might take her money and not follow through.

“Nobody’s going to be able to point a finger back at me,” Dippolito is overheard telling Shihadeh in one video.

Boynton Beach police officer Alex Mareno testifies about the phone calls he recorded between Dalia Dippolito and Mohamed Shihadeh on the first day of Dippolito's murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL
Boynton Beach police officer Alex Mareno testifies about the phone calls he recorded between Dalia Dippolito and Mohamed Shihadeh on the first day of Dippolito’s murder-for-hire retrial Wednesday, December 7, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) POOL

Prosecutors told jurors today that what Dippolito didn’t know is that it was already too late. Boynton Beach police were already listening in on their conversations, and the alleged hitman was actually an undercover detective.

Dippolito this year said she knew all about the investigation, but her husband and Shihadeh coerced her to act along in hopes that it would score all three of them Hollywood fame.

But defense attorney Brian Claypool in his opening statements to jurors in the trial this morning appears to have abandoned that defense except for a reference to the plot being “all fake” and “part of a script.”

The real actors, Claypool said, were Boynton Beach police officials who violated Dippolito’s rights to unlawfully get her to continue the murder try to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”

In the recorded conversations played for jurors Wednesday, Dippolito repeatedly asks Shihadeh if the informant she is set to meet will make good on his promise to kill Michael Dippolito for $3,000.

“Are you sure sure?” Dippolito asked.

“How sure do you want? You’re planning a murder, c’mon!” an exasperated-sounding Shihadeh responded.

Jurors heard the recordings while the state’s first witness, Boynton Beach Police Detective Alex Moreno, was on the witness stand.

11:15 a.m. UPDATE : For Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams, the case against former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito is simple.

Williams told jurors in opening statements for Dippolito’s retrial Wednesday that the 34-year-old simply tried to pay a hitman $3,000 to kill her husband. And she got caught.

Live coverage: Dalia Dippolito trial

“What’s great about this case is that it is based 100 percent on Ms Dippoito’s words, Ms Dippolito’s actions and Ms Dippolito’s intent,” Williams said.

Defense attorney Brian Claypool, well into his opening statements, has yet to mention Dippolito’s claims from last year that her husband, Michael Dippolito, and her lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, forced her to meet with the undercover detective because they thought the recorded exchanges would land them all acting jobs.

Instead, he’s said Boynton Beach Police forced Shihadeh to set Dippoito up even after he said he wanted out.

What’s more, Claypool said, police either failed to record or lost or destroyed recordings from more than 100 phone calls between Shihadeh and Dippolito over the course of the investigation.

“Maybe she wanted to rethink things, maybe she had issues with her husband that she needed to work out. But will you get to hear about that? No,” Claypool said.

The truth, Claypool said, was that Dippolito wanted out of the alleged plot.

ORIGINAL POST: Arguments over a request to keep recorded evidence from jurors marked the start Wednesday of Dalia Dippolito’s second trial in the August 2009 Boynton Beach case surrounding her alleged plot to have her then-husband Michael killed.

Dippolito’s defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to keep out portions of Dippolito’s caught-on-camera plot involving a police officer posing as a hitman.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley has also put off a defense request for a mistrial.

Michael Dippolito divorced Dalia Dippolito after a first jury in 2011 convicted her of solicitation of first-degree murder charges. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but that sentence was overturned on appeal.

At Dippolito’s last trial, her now-former husband was the star witness against her and described how a Boynton Beach police officer’s knock on the door in August 2009 was his first clue that the woman he’d married just a month earlier was trying to have him killed.

A point of contention in the case will likely be how much of the alleged plot was Dippolito’s own doing and how much of it was contrived by the Boynton Beach Police Department to make for a good episode of the television show “Cops.”

Dippolito’s defense team tried several times unsuccessfully to get the case thrown out altogether because of claims that Boynton police violated her rights in the way they conducted the investigation.

Dippolito has also claimed that her husband and Mohamed Shihadeh, her lover-turned-police-informant, concocted the murder-for-hire-plot together as part of an acting script and forced her to go through with it.

A point of contention in the case will be Dippolito’s attorneys’ attempts to claim that police failed to record hundreds of calls between Dippolito and Shihadeh before and after he introduced her to the fake hitman.

Dippolito’s attonreys say there were more than 500 such calls, but prosecutors say the number is closer to two dozen and the calls in question were brief.

 

Girlfriend of murdered FAU student tearfully testifies

Through tears, the longtime girlfriend of slain Florida Atlantic University student Nicholas Acosta on Tuesday haltingly described the violence that erupted seconds after she opened the door of her Boca Raton apartment for what was suppose to be a routine drug deal.

Donovan Henry
Donovan Henry shortly after his arrest. His hair has been cut short for the trial.

While Kayla Bartosiewicz had difficulty articulating exactly what happened in the horror-filled seconds, she firmly identified 19-year-old Donovan Henry as the young man she let in on December 29, 2015, believing the fellow student simply wanted to buy some marijuana from her boyfriend. However, minutes after Henry and a younger man came into the apartment in University Park, three other men Bartosiewicz said she didn’t know barged in.

After screaming at them to, “Get on the ground,” one of the men shot Acosta twice, killing him, she testified.

Nicholas Max Acosta
Nicholas Max Acosta

Attorney Scott Skier, who represents Henry, who is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and armed burglary, hasn’t yet given his opening statements in which he explains to jurors Henry’s version of events. But, while questioning Bartosiewicz, Skier offered hints of his defense strategy. He indicated that he will argue that Henry had no plans to kill Acosta. In court papers, he has said Alexander Gillis, who police say was the shooter, masterminded the murder without Henry’s knowledge. Gillis and Adonis Gillis are awaiting trial.

A freshman, majoring in engineering and playing on FAU’s soccer team, Henry was friends with Acosta, Skier insisted. But, while Bartosiewicz acknowledged that both she and Acosta had seen Henry at a party and that Henry had bought pot from Acosta at least three times before, she rejected Skier’s intimation that the two were friends.

She firmly answered “no” when Skier asked whether Henry and Acosta had embraced when he entered the apartment. “That didn’t happen,” she said. But, she said, Acosta knew Henry well enough to give him the electronic code so he could enter the apartment.

Under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, she also acknowledged that she initially lied to police about Acosta’s illicit business and didn’t tell them that the intruders stole a quarter-pound bag of pot on their way out.

“I didn’t want Nick to be remembered that way,” she said. “Because he was so much more than that.”

The star witness is expected to be Rodrick Woods, who was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder after agreeing to testify against the others.

The trial is expected to wrap up Friday or Monday.

 

 

Lake Clarke Shores murder case ends with plea

Nicholas Agatheas DOC photo
Nicholas Agatheas DOC photo

A last-minute plea deal has ended what could have been a second trial in a Lake Clarke Shores murder case from more than a decade ago.

Nicholas Agatheas, 40, accepted an agreement Monday that will send him to prison for 22 years for the 2005 murder of Thomas Villano in Lake Clarke Shores.

The penalty is much lower than the life sentence he received in 2006 after his first trial in the case.

His attorneys and prosecutors reached the plea deal allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser second-degree murder charge before what was to have been his second trial in the case.

Villano found shot eight times inside his Lake Clarke Shores home.

At his first trial, prosecutors called to the stand Agatheas’ former girlfriend, who testified that he had admitted killing Villano shortly after they saw television coverage of his death.

The girlfriend testified Agatheas also told her he had left his T-shirt at the scene. Investigators found a discarded T-shirt in Villano’s ransacked home. Though investigators could not initially make a match, improved DNA technology years later linked Agatheas to the shirt.

In the new trial, Agatheas defense attorneys were expected to argue that because Agatheas worked for Villano’s small restaurant equipment company, the shirt could have been at Villano’s home after Agatheas did other work there.