June 16, 2007

Louis Eppolito Says He’s Been Wrongly Imprisoned
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK One of two former NYPD detectives accused of moonlighting as hit men for the mob considers himself an innocent man wrongly imprisoned for more than a year after news outlets “crucified” him in reports about the sensational case.

Louis Eppolito made the assertions in a rambling two-page letter written to The Associated Press from a federal jail in Brooklyn. Both Eppolito, 58, and Stephen Caracappa, 64, remain jailed there while prosecutors appeal a judge’s decision last summer to overturn their convictions in eight Mafia murders.

“As you know, this case was overturned by the judge, yet we linger in solitary confinement (free men by law) for the past 15 months,” Eppolito said in the handwritten letter dated June 7.

Eppolito also accused the government of suppressing evidence that would prove his innocence, and complained about the “media circus” that surrounded the case.

“We were both crucified with each and every story that was written,” he wrote in response to an interview request. “It was proven to me by the press that they are not after the truth, but only to sell their newspapers with lies made to make us look like corrupt dirty cops, who were more like monsters then the good family men which we are.”

The text of the letter was written in block letters, but Eppolito signed it in script with a flourish.

The former detectives were convicted in April 2006 of leading double lives, working for both the NYPD and Luchese crime family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso. They earned $65,000 for one of the slayings, authorities said.

A jury found the so-called “Mafia Cops” were responsible for the eight murders, along with kidnapping and other crimes. The pair had been out on $5 million bail for nine months before their convictions on racketeering conspiracy put them behind bars.

Two months later, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein stunned prosecutors by saying he was compelled to set aside the verdict because the statute of limitations had passed on the slayings, which occurred between 1986 and 1990.

After hiring new attorneys, Eppolito and Caracappa sought their release on bail while they awaited the outcome of a government appeal of Weinstein’s ruling or — if it was upheld — a retrial on lesser charges stemming from a 2005 drug sting in Las Vegas, where the partners both had retired. But the judge rejected their bid for freedom, calling them “dangerous criminals with no degree of credibility.”

Prosecutors said no hearing on an appeal has been scheduled. It’s not unusual for federal appeals to take a year or more to decide.

Eppolito’s attorney Joseph Bondy said he was considering going back to the judge to ask him to reconsider a bail application. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals “appears to be backlogged,” he said. “I think that nobody anticipated at the time the judge ordered him detained he’d still be waiting for a date” for a hearing, he said..