Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Court delays new trial

State to review Dippolito’s bid to dismiss case

- By Marc Freeman Staff writer

Scratch those plans for Dalia Dippolito’s murderfor-hire case retrial next month.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Friday ordered a postponeme­nt, giving attorneys for the state 20 days to respond to Dippolito’s bid for the charges to be dismissed over claims she was entrapped by police.

Before the appellate court’s review, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley had planned for attorneys to make all pretrial arguments on May 16 and for jury selection to begin four days later.

The 33-year-old Boynton Beach woman remains on house arrest, accused of paying $3,000 to an undercover cop, posing as a hit man, to kill her then-newlywed husband, Michael Dippolito, nearly seven years ago.

It’s been nearly two years since the appellate court tossed Dalia Dippolito’s 2011 trial conviction and 20-year prison sentence for solicitati­on to commit first-degree murder with a firearm.

The court ruled she was cheated of a fair trial because the pool of prospectiv­e jurors was tainted. The entire panel had heard one person mentioned an allegation in the news that Dippolito “had tried to poison her husband with antifreeze.”

Now Dippolito’s legal team is trying to prevent the second trial from ever starting. On April 4, lawyers filed

their appeal over Kelley’s March 2 refusal to dismiss the case over claims Boynton Beach Police violated her constituti­onal rights before her 2009 arrest.

Dippolito deserves immunity from prosecutio­n because “the behavior of law enforcemen­t was so reprehensi­ble,” wrote the attorneys, Andrew B. Greenlee in Sanford, Matthew R. McLain in Maitland and Brian Claypool in Pasadena, Calif.

One of the key arguments is that the cops set her up with the help of her former lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, who worked as a confidenti­al informant for police.

At a hearing in January, Shihadeh testified that after he went to police to inform them about Dippolito’s desire to have her husband murdered, he was pressured to set up Dippolito for arrest or face prosecutio­n himself.

Dippolito’s lawyers accuse Boynton Beach police of failing to conduct a legitimate investigat­ion into Shihadeh’s tip. The attorneys also allege that hundreds of conversati­ons between Shihadeh and Dippolito about the alleged hit plan either were never recorded or preserved as evidence, harming her ability to prove she was the victim of police entrapment.

Dippolito’s appeal — which the state Attorney General’s Office must now rebut — argues police concocted the crime due to a “thirst for publicity.” The defense points to the department inviting filming by the TV show “Cops,” and also posting on YouTube a video of police officers approachin­g Dippolito at a staged fake-murder scene.

In response, the police chief has praised the “principled work” by detectives on the case and said he was confident the evidence would produce another guilty verdict.

Prosecutor­s also say the police did nothing wrong, and merely made sure Dippolito was caught “before the victim was actually murdered” as she wished.

Judge Kelley concluded the cops acted in ways “not consistent with good police practices.” He called the police misconduct claim overblown and said Dippolito’s defense could still make the case before a jury.

In February, Dippolito testified that recordings of her speaking about desires to have her spouse eliminated were just part of an acting job for a planned reality-TV show. She testified Michael Dippolito and Shihadeh threatened her to play this part so they could achieve fame.

“It’s part of the script,” Dippolito said, revisiting the core defense used by her former attorneys during her first trial.

Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams challenged Dippolito’s claim and asked why she didn’t sound scared on the tapes.

“I had to be cool as though I wanted to do this,” she answered. “I needed to project confidence.”

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