January 19, 2012

Two former NYPD detectives who doubled as hitmen for the mob are again waging a fight to appeal convictions that condemned them to life in prison – and late wiseguy John Gotti is playing a central role.

Attorneys for ex-cops Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are arguing that former Luchese crime family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso – who became an FBI informant – should have testified for the defense.

Eppolito’s attorney claims that high-profile lawyer Bruce Cutler, who served as trial counsel, chose not to call Casso to the stand because he feared “a truckload of evidence” damaging to his prior client – John Gotti – would have been aired in court.

The lawyers for Eppolito and Caracappa claim Casso could have shown their clients did not get fair trials because of “conflicts of interest.’’

Eppolito’s lawyer, Joseph Bondy, claimed in court papers that because he served essentially as “house counsel” for Gotti and his Gambino crime family, “Cutler, quite understandably, would never have provided Casso, a disgraced Mafia informant, with a forum in which he could malign John Gotti.’’

At a hearing yesterday in Brooklyn federal court, the former cops won a small victory when Judge Jack Weinstein ruled that prosecutors should hand over to defense attorneys internal FBI reports on Casso,

Both former officers participated in the hearing via trans-continental electronic hook-ups, with Caracappa on the line from a federal prison in Victorville, Calif. and Eppolito calling in from a federal facility in Tuscon, Ariz.

After the hearing, Zoe Dolan – who represents Caracappa – said she was encouraged by the judge’s decision to release the FBI reports.

In 2009, a federal appeals court upheld the murder conspiracy convictions of the two former NYPD detectives.


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