By Sewell Chan
Two highly decorated former detectives who were convicted of serving as assassins for the mob, helping to kill at least eight men in one of the most spectacular police corruption scandals in New York City’s history, were sentenced on Friday to life in prison — for the second time. (The sentencing is the topic of Jim Dwyer’s About New York column, which notes that both men have been drawing tax-free disability pensions.)
The two men, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, were convicted of murder in 2006 and were to be sentenced to life in prison. But then, in a stunning reversal, the federal judge overseeing the case, Jack B. Weinstein, threw out the convictions. He ruled that although there was little doubt that Mr. Eppolito and Mr. Caracappa had “kidnapped, murdered, and assisted kidnappers and murderers,” he had no choice but to let them go because the five-year statute of limitations in conspiracy cases had run out.
Federal prosecutors appealed Judge Weinstein’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which last September reinstated the convictions.
The appellate court concluded that Judge Weinstein’s view of the conspiracy was too narrow, and that it had continued to exist within five years of when the men were charged. Although murders and other serious crimes that the men were accused of occurred in Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors used more recent and less serious charges — money laundering and narcotics distribution in Las Vegas in 2004 and 2005 — to bring the earlier acts under the umbrella of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
The two former detectives were defiant in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Friday, as the life sentences were imposed.
“I was a hard-working cop,” Mr. Eppolito told Judge Weinstein, as reported by The Associated Press. “I never hurt anybody. I never kidnapped anybody. … I never did any of this.”
Mr. Caracappa told the judge, “You’ll never take away my will to prove how innocent I am.”
In addition to the life sentences, Mr. Eppolito, 61, received an additional 100 years for various other offenses including money laundering, and was fined $4.7 million. Mr. Caracappa, 67, received an additional 80 years, and a $4.2 million fine.
In a statement, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, Benton J. Campbell, said he hoped the sentences would “bring some closure for the families of the victims of these defendants’ unspeakable crimes and for the citizens of the city whose trust they betrayed.”
The two men, who logged a combined 44 years on the job, were found guilty of secretly being on the payroll of the Luchese underboss, Anthony Casso, starting in the mid 1980s.
The A.P. reported:
Caracappa left the New York Police Department in 1992 after establishing a special unit for mob murder investigations. Eppolito, whose father was a member of the Gambino crime family, was a decorated officer who went on to play a bit part in “GoodFellas” and launch an unsuccessful career as a screenwriter.
The pair were arrested a 2005 drug sting in Las Vegas, where they had retired.