Vic­tim’s fa­ther calls son’s mur­der ‘a crime against hu­man­ity’

Pat Co­mu­nale speaks out af­ter one of ac­cused killers is con­victed

The News-Times (Sunday) - - From The Front Page - By Ig­na­cio La­guarda

NEW YORK — The an­guish of the last two years is writ­ten all over Pat Co­mu­nale’s face.

The sleep­less nights and days of cry­ing have taken a toll on Co­mu­nale, who has re­tired since his son was killed in 2016.

Emo­tions ran high for Co­mu­nale again on Fri­day when one of his son’s ac­cused killers was con­victed of all charges in Man­hat­tan Supreme Court.

James Rack­over faces 25 years to life in prison af­ter a jury found him guilty of mur­der, hin­der­ing pros­e­cu­tion, and con­ceal­ment of a hu­man corpse.

Rack­over and Lawrence Dil­ione have been ac­cused of beat­ing, dis­mem­ber­ing, burn­ing and dump­ing the body of Joey Co­mu­nale af­ter a night of par­ty­ing in Novem­ber 2016. A third man, Max Gemma, has been ac­cused of help­ing clean up the crime at Rack­over’s Sut­ton Place apart­ment.

Pat Co­mu­nale de­scribed the in­ci­dent as not just a mur­der, but a sav­age at­tack.

“An an­i­mal at­tacks a hu­man, he gets eu­th­a­nized with­out the fancy at­tor­neys, with­out his day in court,” Co­mu­nale said, fight­ing back tears as he awaited the ver­dict on Fri­day. “These are three an­i­mals. Euth­a­niz­ing them is prob­a­bly what they need. There’s no rea­son that they should be min­gling in a free so­ci­ety.”

While Rack­over’s at­tor­ney, Mau­rice Ser­carz, blamed Dil­ione for the mur­der, Pat Co­mu­nale said it was clear to him who killed his son.

“If you sat in the court for the last two weeks, I think the ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing,” he said of Rack­over’s guilt.

‘Crime against hu­man­ity’

Dil­ione, who faces the same charges as Rack­over, will go to trial next fol­lowed by Gemma, who has been charged with hin­der­ing pros­e­cu­tion and tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence.

Pat Co­mu­nale said all three should be equally held ac­count­able.

“This wasn’t mur­der. This re­ally was a crime against hu­man­ity,” Pat Co­mu­nale said. “For that, all three, and I re­peat, all three, need to go away for a very long time.”

Co­mu­nale re­futed the story that his son’s mur­der stemmed from a drug- fu­eled ar­gu­ment over cig­a­rettes.

Co­mu­nale be­lieves the al­ter­ca­tion was over one of the women par­ty­ing at Rack­over’s apart­ment. Joey Co­mu­nale’s blood-al­co­hol level well over the le­gal limit, but the 26-year-old only had trace amounts of co­caine in his sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s tes­ti­mony.

“I can come up with my own spec­u­la­tion about what the fight was over,” Pat Co­mu­nale said. “I cer­tainly don’t be­lieve it was over cig­a­rettes.”

Robert Abrams, an at­tor­ney for the Co­mu­nale fam­ily, said there were oth­ers not charged who were in­volved in cov­er­ing up the mur­der and ly­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

While Abrams did not men­tion any names, the Co­mu­nales have filed a civil law­suit against Rack­over’s surrogate fa­ther, Jeffrey, claim­ing he helped cover up the crime.

“All of the peo­ple, not only the peo­ple who killed, but the peo­ple who cov­ered it up, are go­ing to be held ac­count­able for ev­ery­thing that they did,” Pat Co­mu­nale said. “They’re just as guilty in our eyes.”

Sup­port sys­tem

Co­mu­nale de­scribed his son, a Westhill High School and Hof­s­tra Univer­sity grad, as a “great kid” and a “typ­i­cal ath­lete” who played hockey and base­ball.

“He just had a great per­son­al­ity — a very out­go­ing kid,” Pat Co­mu­nale said. “You don’t judge a man’s wealth by his money, you judge by how many friends he has. If that’s the case, he’d be a very wealthy guy.”

Co­mu­nale said his son’s large group of friends have be­come a sup­port sys­tem for the fam­ily over the last two years.

“They’re not only here to­day, but the last two weeks, re­ally for the last two years,” Co­mu­nale said of those who have ac­com­pa­nied him to court. “(There’s) a lot of sup­port, re­ally from the en­tire com­mu­nity, the city of Stam­ford.”

Jim Bel­lan­toni, one of Joey Co­mu­nale’s Stam­ford Amer­i­can Le­gion base­ball coaches, was among those who at­tended the clos­ing ar­gu­ments on Thursday.

“He had friends from Stam­ford to Long Island and all over the world,” said Pat Co­mu­nale, who said his son vis­ited Italy, Croa­tia and Ibiza, among other places.

Co­mu­nale said his son of­ten went out in New York City like he did on Nov. 13, 2016. He said his son also fre­quented the Gilded Lily night­club, where he met Dil­ione that night.

“He went out that night like any other 26, 27-yearold kid does, they go club­bing, they meet up with peo­ple,” Co­mu­nale said. “It was a very friendly night.”

Co­mu­nale be­came con­cerned the next day when he no­ticed his son did not set his fan­tasy foot­ball team.

“We used to tease him at work that if he could re­mem­ber all of the stats for the foot­ball play­ers and base­ball play­ers, why couldn’t he re­mem­ber the part num­bers for where he was work­ing?” said Co­mu­nale, whose son worked for him at Tri-Ed Dis­tri­bu­tion in Elms­ford, N.Y.

Fight­ing back tears, Co­mu­nale said his son’s life was cut short when he ran into a bad crowd.

“You’re par­ty­ing with five or six other peo­ple,” he said. “Who in a mil­lion years would ex­pect to come in con­tact with three psy­chopaths?”

Richard Drew / As­so­ci­ated Press

Pat Co­mu­nale, fa­ther of Joseph Co­mu­nale, and one of his at­tor­neys, Elizabeth Kase, leave the court­room last week.

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