Delaware convict to be retried for killing White Plains student

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request to hear the appeal of Delaware prosecutors in the overturned conviction of a Delaware man accused of raping and killing 20-year-old Lindsey Bonistall of White Plains. This means the case will have to be retried in Delaware, causing indescribable grief to the Bonistall family.

Bonistall was attacked on May 1, 2005 in her off-campus apartment at the University of Delaware, where she was a student. After raping and killing Bonistall, her attacker set the apartment on fire. The suspect, James E. Cooke, was convicted of the crime, but his conviction was overturned because of improper behavior by his lawyers.

Read the full story from my colleague Timothy O’Connor on

Could healthcare costs wipe out Westchester’s senior DAs?

photo_courtroom_smInteresting story by my colleague Gerald McKinstry today … Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said if the county requires a 15% payment of healthcare costs, her top assistant district attorneys would retire en masse and collect a full pension in retirement.

To read the full story, click here.

What do you think? Is DiFiore bluffing to protect her people or could the county lose some really good prosecutors if County Executive Rob Astorino makes them kick in for healthcare costs? Should it matter? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

With Lippe mistrial, what’s next?

werner lippeIf you haven’t already heard, the Werner Lippe murder trial ended in a hung jury on Friday. Click here to read the story.

What seemed on the surface to be a slam-dunk case — he confessed three times to killing his wife — turned into an uphill battle for prosecutors, thanks in no small part to defense lawyer Andrew Rubin, considered one of the best (if not the best) in Westchester County. His argument that Lippe was coerced into confessing, and his skills preparing lippe before taking the witness stand, created reasonable doubt in the minds of at least one juror (and from what I heard, several).

I called a few criminal justice experts on Saturday to get their thoughts about what happened and what needs to happen to avoid a second deadlock. To my surprise, they all took time out of their weekends and called me back. Thanks, guys! Click here to read that story.

So now everyone is wondering …. when is Lippe going on trial again? From what I hear, it may not be for several months. Rubin has another trial about to start, plus he and his partners have other clients to defend. Assistant District Attorneys John O’Rourke and Christine O’Connor also have other cases to prosecute. But both sides will meet this Thursday in the Trial Assignment Part court to discuss scheduling. As soon as I know more, you’ll know more.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in the news

tjndc5-5nwywkgizms1465wj607_thumbnailWhile the jury in the Werner Lippe murder trial continues deliberations, The New York Times has written an interesting story about the state’s highest-ranking judge, Jonathan Lippman, who lives right here in Westchester County (Rye Brook to be exact).

Now that he’s been in office more than a year, the differences between him and his predecessor, former Chief Judge Judith Kaye, are beginning to show.

Click here to read the story

Jury gets the Lippe case

After more than three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses and five (!) hours of closing arguments today, the seven women and five men on the Werner Lippe jury began deliberating if he was guilty of murdering his wife, Faith, and burning her in a backyard barrel behind their Cortlandt home.

Click here to read my stories from the trial.

The jury sent out a note at 6:45 p.m. — a little over an hour into their deliberations — asking the judge for clarification on involuntary statements and about Miranda rights. Defense lawyer Andrew Rubin, in his three-hour closing statement, insisted that Lippe gave an involuntary confession to state police investigators because Lippe asked to speak to his lawyer twice and they kept talking to him. Lippe was given his Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent ….”) and asked point-blank if he really wanted a lawyer, to which he replied, “No, no hold on a minute.”

Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli called it a night at 7:30 p.m. and sent the jurors to a local hotel for the night. She is known for sequestering juries in murder trials. They will resume deliberations around 9:30 a.m. tomorrow

Pintado Remains in New Jersey Jail, Wanted in Rockland in Mall Molestation Case

The court clerk this morning called out the name Elio Pintado in County Court Judge William Nelson’s courtoom.
No one came from the audience and no one was brought into court, shackled at the waist wearing an orange jail jumpsuit.
Pintado was a no-show for his arraignment on sexual abuse charges involving the molestation of a 7-year-old girl inside the AMC Loews theater bathroom at the Palisades Center on New Year’s Day.
He had an excuse: he remains in the Union County Jail in New Jersey on separate charges accusing him of trying to lure a young girl into a car in Berkeley Heights, N.J. Clarkstown police charged him in the mall molestation incident while he jailed on the New Jersey charges.
Nelson today signed a warrant for Pintado’s arrest – a maneuver that will ensure Pintado’s not released from jail. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office also has filed a fugitive of justice warrant seeking Pintado, making sure he can’t be release.
Rockland DA Thomas Zugibe says Pintado can’t be brought to Rockland until the Union County Prosecutor’s Office moves to lift his bail and New Jersey drops its parole violation charge. Pintado served several years in New Jersey prison for taking people hostage in 2004 and threatened he had Anthrax, a bomb and shotgun.

Rockland Prosecutors Garner $1M from Illegal Lottery Case

Rockland County prosecutors hit the lottery with the prosecution of nine people for running a gambling operation out of storefronts, primarily in Spring Valley.

The District Attorney’s Office scored more than $1 million in forfeiture money as a result of breaking up an estimated $10-to-$12 million-a-year gambling ring in June 2008. Forfeiture money can be used for investigation and buying law enforcement equipment

Police ended up arresting nine people and seized about $450,000 in cash, nine high-end vehicles, and one of the defendant’s home located at 5 Gooler Court in Stony Point that’s worth more than $700,000 at 2010 value.
Authorities even gave the investigation the fancy name of “Dinero de Diablo.”

The ringleaders – living in Stony Point and driving high-end cars – ran the Dominican Lottery out of three storefronts in working-class Spring Valley, along with one in Ramapo and two in New Jersey. Illegal immigrants paid off the $15,000 costs of being smuggled into the United States by running numbers for the operation. The lottery also had national connections.

The investigation was run by the Rockland Intelligence Center based on information first obtained by Spring Valley Police Officer Ronnie Charles in 2007. Spring Valley police said violence in collecting debts and robberies results from the operation.

It took more than 18 months to settle the forfeiture issue, including the sale of houses and fancy cars. The people arrested got jail time and probation as part of their sentences.

“This was not a harmless neighborhood lottery or sports book,” Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said today. “This gambling ring was fraught with violence and a variety of criminal dealings.”

The Dominican lottery is similar to the New York Lottery’s Pick 3 game. If the player hits the three numbers picked in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the player could win up to $600 on a $1 investment.

Read more about the case in Friday’s edition of the Journal-News and at

Werner Lippe, jeweler to the stars

werner lippeSome celebrity gossip came out of the Werner Lippe wife-slay trial today … namely that Lippe, a world-renowned jewelry craftsman, made an engagement ring for Donald Trump, baubles for Yoko Ono and NY Giants football coach Tom Coughlin. Outside the courtroom, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office said Lippe also has made earrings for Oprah Winfrey. Oprah!

Lippe, 68, is on trial for allegedly murdering his wife, Faith Lippe, and burning her remains in a backyard burn barrel. Click here to read more about the trial.

We also found out more about the Lippe’s early years today. Faith Lippe was a FIT grad (that’s Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan for the uninitiated) and worked in the fashion industry as a seamstress before meeting Werner, whose two previous marriages lasted 2 years and 8 weeks, respectively. Their home mansion on Little Lake Road was built from scratch in the early 1990s, and they moved in just before their son, Andrew, was born in 1994.

We also found out about Werner Lippe’s vegetable garden, and his battle with various woodland creatures, including chipmunks, rabbits and deer. “I like them on my table, yes, but not eating my vegetables,” he said, offering a lighter moment in the trial.

We also heard about the $1.2 million, 7,000-square-foot log cabin that Lippe was building in Eden, Utah, where he planned to retire. It was supposed to be completed this year. He said Faith did not want to move there in 2008, but he built a sewing room for her in case she changed her mind.

While on the stand today, Lippe had a cold — he spent the entire day blowing his nose and taking throat lozenges. He finished testifying today and will return on Tuesday, when the case will go to the jury.

Snow days for courts in the 9th District

Like most everything else today, all of the county and state courts are closed today because of “snowmageddon,” as my hometown paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, so accurately phrased it.

However, the Westchester County Courthouse was opened today for people who had business with the county clerk, the county probation department and the section of Family Court that issues emergency orders of protection.

Supposedly, they’ll be back on schedule tomorrow.

Lippe takes the stand

werner lippeInteresting day in the Westchester County Courthouse … Cortlandt jeweler Werner Lippe spent all day testifying in his own defense, namely that the confession he gave to police — the one about knocking his wife unconscious, dragging her body into a backyard burn barrel and incinerating her remains — was a great big lie.

Click here to read my update of this morning’s testimony.

Lippe, wearing a navy suit and white mock turtleneck, was calm and confident as he explained — at times in lots and lots of detail — what he was doing when he last saw his wife leave their home (make that mansion, I saw the pictures) and what he said and did with friends and police in the weeks following Faith Lippe’s disappearance.

His attorney, Andrew Rubin, had to keep Lippe in line, telling him several times to answer only his questions and not to go off on tangents. The nearly six hours of questioning ended with Rubin asking, “Did you kill Faith?” and Lippe replying, “No!”

Prosecutors will get their chance at Lippe on Thursday. The judge declared Wednesday a snow day based on the weather forecast and hears her other non-jury cases on Tuesdays.