Newsday Staff Writer

June 24, 2006

“Mafia Cop” Louis Eppolito admitted Friday to being a foul-mouthed spewer of racial epithets who told tall tales about striking a prostitute.

But Eppolito insisted he didn’t like violence.

“I am not a violent guy.”

The 57-year-old Eppolito, who was convicted with his old partner in April for taking part in eight gangland murders, took the witness stand Friday in Brooklyn federal court in an unusual bid to get a new trial by citing what he says was ineffective work by his lawyer..

Both Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, 64, were convicted after a monthlong trial of being operatives for the Lucchese crime family during the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the defendants maintain that they were given terrible representation by their lawyers, Bruce Cutler and Edward Hayes, respectively, and should have new trials.

Eppolito said Cutler refused to let him testify or interview possible witnesses, while Caracappa claims Hayes didn’t prepare a proper defense.

Under questioning by his new lawyer, Joseph Bondy of Manhattan, Eppolito described in sometimes rambling, vague testimony that his relationship with Cutler deteriorated during the trial earlier this year. Cutler, recalled Eppolito, not only refused to call him as a witness, but eventually refused to talk to him as the case progressed.

“As the case got closer and closer [to trial], he got further away from me,” Eppolito said.

Eppolito said that after prosecution witnesses testified and he believed he could refute their statements, Cutler still refused to have his client take the stand.

“‘If I feel you need to take the stand, I will put you on,'” Cutler said, according to Eppolito.

After the prosecution rested its case, Eppolito said he pressed Cutler again to allow him to take the stand, but the defense attorney still said no.

“‘You are not going to take the stand,'” said Cutler, according to Eppolito.

But under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Henoch, Eppolito said he didn’t tell Judge Jack B. Weinstein about his problems with Cutler because he feared he might aggravate the jurist.

“I didn’t want to tick off the judge,” said Eppolito, who explained how he had months earlier angered Weinstein by showing up two hours late for court because of a traffic jam.

However, the dangers of having Eppolito testify to a jury were underscored Friday when the defendant admitted under Henoch’s questioning to using a racial slur and once commenting in a taped conversation that he had to wash his hands after shaking hands with an African-American. The jury during the trial was composed of several African-Americans and Hispanics.

Bondy objected to the line of questioning, but Weinstein told the attorney it was to be expected.

“This is just what the jury would have heard, what he is testifying to,” said Weinstein.

Eppolito also admitted he used the prospect of a date with his daughter Andrea as “bait” to get an accountant to raise money for a film production. There wasn’t any evidence the daughter knew of her father’s scheming. Eppolito said the investor, accountant Steven Corso, who was actually a government witness, made no secret of his attraction to his daughter.

Questioned further about taped remarks that he once struck a prostitute, Eppolito denied the incident actually happened. The special court session continues on Monday.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc..