WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors portrayed a Florida woman on Thursday as being so eager to get her husband’s money that she solicited a hit man to have him killed, while her attorneys said she was entrapped by a police department seeking television fame.
Prosecutor Craig Williams told the three-woman, three-man Palm Beach County jury during opening statements in Dalia Dippolito’s third trial that she wanted her husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito, killed. She wanted possession of his money, their townhouse and his cars, so she plotted her husband’s “destruction,” Williams said.
The case gained national attention following her 2009 arrest when videotape of her alleged solicitation was shown on the “Cops” television show. A 2011 conviction for solicitation of first-degree murder and a 20-year sentence were thrown out on appeal while a retrial last fall ended with a hung jury.
“She is absolutely, overwhelmingly guilty,” Williams said.
Dippolito’s attorney, Brian Claypool, portrayed his 34-year-old client as a victim of an overzealous Boynton Beach police department that wanted to gain fame on “Cops,” which happened to be filming in town. He said Dalia Dippolito had no intention to kill her husband, but was egged on by an informant and an undercover police officer posing as a hit man.
“This case was a fiction created by the police department to create a script for ‘Cops,'” Claypool said.
Williams spent much of his opening statement reading the jurors X-rated text messages Dippolito exchanged with a now-deceased lover, Mike Stanley, in July 2009 just months after she got married. They allegedly show how she originally planned to get her husband sent to prison for violating his probation. When that failed, Williams said, she shifted to having him murdered.
For example, Williams said she had Stanley first impersonate a doctor, to help her hide her theft of $100,000 from her husband, and later a lawyer, to make him wrongly think he had completed probation. She hoped that if her husband stopped visiting his probation officer, he would be found in violation and sent back to prison and she would have his money and property, Williams said.
When that failed, Williams said, Dippolito approached a former lover, Mohammed Shihadeh, to ask his help in finding a hit man to kill her husband. Shihadeh contacted Boynton Beach police and asked detectives for help. That kicked off a week-long investigation that included a 23-minute videotaped meeting with undercover officer Widy Jean, pretending to be a hit man, where she said she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted her husband dead and agreed to pay $7,000.
It ended with detectives staging a murder scene where they told Dippolito her husband had been killed and her interview with detectives where she suggests possible killers. She then denied knowing Jean when they brought him before her and told her he was their suspect. They then arrested her. Detectives let “Cops” film much of it.
Claypool said detectives’ cooperation with “Cops” show they weren’t conducting a thorough and just investigation. He said they ignored Shihadeh’s belief that she wasn’t serious about hiring a hit man and her claim that she was being abused by her husband. Instead, they thought they had “stuck the lottery.”
“A murder-for-hire is pretty juicy for a TV show,” he said.
Prosecutors called Michael Dippolito as their first witness, who said that shortly after they married in January 2009 his now ex-wife duped him out of $100,000 that was supposed to be restitution for people he had swindled in a stock scam. That had led to his conviction and a two-year prison sentence, followed by 28 years of probation that could be ended early if he repaid the $191,000 he owed his victims.
He said his wife told him that if he gave her $100,000, she would add $91,000 of her own money. He gave her the money in March 2009 but she never sent it to his lawyer, Michael Dippolito said. His testimony was to resume after a lunch break.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
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