Murder-for-hire plot featured on 'Cops' headed to 2nd trial
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Dalia Dippolito offered an undercover police officer $7,000 to kill her then-husband, a proposal seen by millions thanks to the television show "Cops," YouTube and other internet sites.
Dippolito says she was just acting, that she didn't really want her husband dead. She claims police entrapped her because they wanted to impress "Cops" producers and give them an unforgettable case that would gain national attention. And if she is to avoid a possible 20-year prison sentence, her lawyers will have to get a jury to believe that story.
Dippolito's second trial is scheduled to begin Thursday as she faces charges she tried to hire a hit man to kill her newlywed husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito, in 2009. Prosecutors allege she wanted his $250,000 in savings and their $225,000 townhouse. If convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, she could be sentenced up to 20 years. A 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were thrown out on appeal because of a judge's error.
Brian Claypool, her new attorney, said he will put the Boynton Beach police investigation on trial. If the investigation wasn't rigged to benefit "Cops," which had a film crew working with the department, why did the former police chief tell staff he was looking forward to throwing a party where they could watch the episode with her arrest together? Why are there recordings of only a few of the hundreds of phone calls between Dippolito and police informant Mohamed Shihadeh, her former lover?
Claypool believes more recordings exist but were destroyed because they would have shown Dippolito had no intention of killing her husband. He says she only moved forward with the plot because Shihadeh threatened to kill her and her family, threats he made because detectives were threatening him with arrest.
"They were inducing her and pressuring her into getting this sensational video so they could run out and show the whole world what a great and fantastic police department they are," Claypool said.
Dippolito has testified that she, her husband and Shihadeh were shooting an ill-conceived video project they planned to post online in hopes it would land them a reality TV show. Claypool said she may not testify again.
Michael Dippolito, who says he met his ex-wife when he hired her to meet him for sex, and Shihadeh have denied there was a project. Shihadeh also denies threatening her, but says Boynton Beach police threatened him with arrest if he didn't stick with their investigation. The police have denied that and Claypool's allegations.
"We have confidence in the quality of the case presented, and the ability of our state attorney to successfully prosecute Ms. Dippolito a second time," Chief Jeffrey S. Katz said in a statement.
During a pretrial hearing, prosecutor Craig Williams gave Dippolito a preview of the cross-examination she will face if she testifies. Why, he asked, was there no mention of the alleged video project in the hundreds of text messages between her and Shihadeh? If there was a script, why were no copies found? Why did Michael Dippolito never appear in any tapes?
"This is acting?" he asked incredulously at one point as he played a video.
Williams will have videotaped ammunition:
— A 23-minute conversation in which Dalia Dippolito tells undercover officer Widy Jean she's "5,000
— Her interrogation, during which she denies doing anything wrong and suggests to detectives that her husband's former crime partners could be the killers.
Prosecutors declined comment on the trial, which is expected to last one to two weeks.
Follow Terry Spencer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/terryspen . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/terry-spencer.