'Mafia cop,' lawyers to part ways

Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc. 

Convicted "Mafia Cop" Louis Eppolito and his well-known attorney, Bruce Cutler, have just about parted ways, according to the latest court filings.

In a letter filed Friday with Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein, Cutler's co-counsel Bettina Schein, who also represented Eppolito during his recent racketeering trial, said the lawyers want out from the case. Her letter followed comments by Eppolito in an interview that he felt "abandoned" by the lawyers during the trial after they allegedly refused to allow him to testify.

"Counsel agree that Mr. Eppolito should have new counsel represent him," said Schein, particularly since there is a crucial motion that has to be prepared in an effort to set aside the guilty verdict.

Eppolito, 57, and his former detective partner Stephen Caracappa, 64, were convicted earlier this month on charges they played roles in eight gangland murders for the Luchese crime family. The jury found by its verdict that Eppolito and Caracappa were acting as moles for former crime family acting boss Anthony Casso.

After a number of witnesses, notably former garment executive and Luchese associate Burton Kaplan testified, the government's case seemed to many trial observers to be overwhelming. Cutler and Stephen Hayes, who represented Caracappa, used their theatrical and animated cross examinations to attack the witnesses, but didn't shake their testimony. Caracappa hasn't made any remarks to the media questioning his attorneys' trial tactics.

Schein's letter comes in advance of today's hearing scheduled by Weinstein, to determine whether there is a conflict of interest between Eppolito and his lawyers, Cutler and Schein. But by saying the current attorneys are ready to bow out, Schein is attempting to take the drama out of today's proceedings.

Ultimately, it will be up to Weinstein to approve the withdrawal by Cutler and Schein from the case. Eppolito's complaints about not being able to take the witness stand were made in a jailhouse interview he gave the Daily News. He and Caracappa are being held without bail pending a May 22 sentencing in which they face life in prison under federal guidelines. 

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