Dec 17, 2006
Can two disgraced ex-cops share the same cell without driving each other crazy?
Like a jailhouse Felix and Oscar, so-called Mafia cops Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa have been sharing a 7-by-12-foot cell in the Metropolitan Detention Center’s solitary-confinement wing in Brooklyn for eight months.
“He’s on top, I’m on the bottom,” Eppolito told The Post in a telephone interview last week, referring to their bunk assignments.
The former partners differ so wildly in habits, appearance and personality, former co-workers can’t fathom the pair sharing such tight quarters – much less for up to 23 hours a day.
Caracappa likes to “hang up his socks and fold them,” a former cop pal said. “He’s a total neat freak – I can’t see Steve sharing a cell with anybody.”
Another former partner of Eppolito’s agreed. “I don’t know which is more punishing, being kept in solitary confinement – or being confined with Louie,” said William Oldham, co-author of “The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia.”
Other than their NYPD careers and the corruption charges against them, they share few interests behind bars.
“He’s a big car nut. I couldn’t care less,” Eppolito said.
Eppolito, known as “the fat guy,” is brash, outgoing and talkative, with family ties to organized crime. Caracappa, “the skinny guy,” is aloof, reserved and stoic, friends said.
Eppolito tipped the scale at 300-plus pounds at trial, but said he’s lost 81 pounds on a prison diet of “hockey-puck hamburgers,” yucky stew and gluey macaroni.
Caracappa “weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet,” his friend joked.
While Caracappa was a natty dresser who liked fine Italian suits, Eppolito bought $40 suits off the truck from Burton Kaplan, a drug trafficker and mob associate whose turncoat testimony was key to the duo’s convictions.
Both men are so desperate for a break from staring at the four walls – and each other – that they volunteer to mop the floors and scrub toilets.
“Anything to get out of the cell is a privilege,” a friend said.
Caracappa asked the feds months ago to remove him from the joint cell. “It’s not an Eppolito thing,” said Caracappa’s lawyer, Daniel Nobel. “It’s for a modicum of space and privacy.”
Their longtime friendship is being tested to the max: A cop who knows them both said Caracappa used to “idolize Louie” and was “in awe of his bravado, his tough-guy attitude – that’s what Steve was attracted to.” He’s godfather to Eppolito’s eldest daughter.
Since a jury found them guilty of murdering for the Luchese crime family, Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein tossed out the convictions on a technicality. They remain jailed without bail while the feds appeal, and await retrial on money-laundering and drug charges.
“We didn’t do these murders,” declared Eppolito, who blames what he calls a lackluster defense, prosecutors on a vendetta and “lies” by rats like Kaplan.
Caracappa declined to be interviewed.
The two are stuck together in the jail’s ninth-floor “segregated housing unit,” a hellhole where dangerous inmates and those being disciplined scream and kick the metal doors. They aren’t allowed to have soap or toothpaste.
“We’re sitting there freezing,” Eppolito said. “We have a leaky ceiling, no heat, and no running water in the sink. I run the shower and drink with my hand.”
They get an hour a day outside in a small caged yard, “like an animal,” Eppolito said.
The prison has seized all their books, except a Bible.
They are isolated, supposedly for their protection from other inmates, but their lawyers blast it as “punitive.”
Eppolito’s current lawyer, Joseph Bondy, told The Post he sent a letter Friday to the detention-center warden demanding the “inhumane conditions” be remedied immediately.