Wearing sharply tailored suits and sharing “Godfather”-style kisses in the courtroom, attorneys Bruce Cutler and Edward Hayes appeared a formidable defense team for two ex-NYPD detectives accused of moonlighting as hit men for the mob.
Now, two months after Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were convicted of eight slayings, the former cops are charging that their lawyers botched the case — and asking a federal judge to throw out the verdict.
Both Cutler and Hayes were disappointed by the allegations from their one-time clients, saying Eppolito and Caracappa were desperate men motivated by the life sentences awaiting them if their appeal fails.
“I was just so personally offended,” Cutler said. “One day you’re begged to come in, and the next day you’re knocked by the client, who to me is delusional in a certain respect. He’s certainly ungrateful and shameless.”
Former lawyer’s ‘indifference’
The defendants’ new lawyers were unsparing in their assessment of their predecessors.
“Hayes’ indifference to Mr. Caracappa’s defense, both in terms of preparation and understanding, was apparent throughout the case,” Daniel Nobel, who now represents Caracappa, said in court papers.
Joseph Bondy, the new attorney for Eppolito, said Cutler “spent the majority of Mr. Eppolito’s closing argument speaking about himself, including that he lost over 14 pounds during trial, loved Brooklyn as a borough of bridges and tunnels, and was an admirer of the great Indian Chief Crazy Horse.”
A hearing is set for June 23 on the defendants’ allegations of ineffective counsel.
The allegations against Cutler and Hayes are at odds with their reputations.
Cutler, a burly, swaggering figure, is best known for defending Mafia boss John Gotti, employing a loud and merciless style of cross-examination known as “Brucifixion.” And Hayes, author of the recent memoir “Mouthpiece,” had a client list that included Sean “Diddy” Combs and Robert De Niro; he was the model for the impeccably tailored, street-smart defense attorney in Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”
‘Blaming this and that’
When the two decorated former detectives were convicted April 6, Hayes shared a tearful courtroom hug with Caracappa. Their rapport has since vanished.
“He’s desperate — who else can he attack?” Hayes said. “I am surprised, however, since I didn’t think he was like that.”
“They started off blaming the government and the prosecutors, blaming this and that,” Cutler said. “Who’s left? Us. I am rankled and angry.”
Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were found guilty of committing or facilitating eight killings while on the payroll of both the NYPD and Luchese family underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso.
Their new lawyers charged that Cutler and Hayes failed to attack a possible flaw in the government case: That the alleged racketeering enterprise did not continue once the defendants retired and moved to Las Vegas. That would mean the five-year statute of limitations had expired and the convictions would be invalid.
‘I will be heard’
The court filings also included complaints that Cutler and Hayes ignored their clients, that Eppolito was denied his right to testify, and that cross-examination of prosecution witnesses was improperly handled.
Neither Eppolito or Caracappa took the witness stand, though Cutler probably will at the hearing this month.
“I don’t want to hurt Lou, and I certainly don’t want to hurt Steve,” Cutler said. “But I will be heard.”