Brooklyn Prosecutor Stonewalls IAB
May 7, 2007
A top Brooklyn prosecutor refused to cooperate with a police investigation involving his key investigator, who was accused of beating a friend to death.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione refused to talk to the Internal Affairs Bureau about the investigator, Thomas Dades, of Staten Island.
“I don’t report to you guys and I don’t have to talk to you,” Vecchione told IAB, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.
Although witnesses said Dades stomped his friend, an ex-heroin addict named James Coletta, in the ribs while he was on the ground, and although the medical examiner pronounced the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Dades.
Dades has worked closely with Vecchione in two high-profile cases. The first concerned the former NYPD detectives and mob hit-men Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, known as the “mafia cops,” and the second the ex-FBI agent turned alleged mob mole Lindley DeVecchio.
Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney, confirmed Vecchione had refused to cooperate with IAB.
“When he [Vecchione] was approached by IAB, he had already been interviewed by the Staten Island prosecutor,” said Schmetterer. “He called the prosecutor, who told him he didn’t have to cooperate. He [Vecchione] told the IAB investigator what the prosecutor said and they never got back to him.”
However, the Staten Island District Attorney’s office offered a different interpretation. D.A. spokesman Bill Smith said, after conferring with Assistant District Attorney Paul Capoferi, who presented the case to the grand jury, “At no point did anyone in this office directly state or even imply to Mr. Vecchione that he should not cooperate with IAB.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had ordered IAB to conduct an investigation. It was apparently separate from that of the Staten Island District Attorney — reportedly because two ex-cops were present when Dades attacked his longtime friend, James Coletta, outside Dades’ home last Dec. 18th.
After his beating, Coletta was able to get up and accompanied Dades to buy cigarettes, according to a witness and another longtime friend of Coletta, Richard Palumbo. Coletta died a day later after he was rushed to the hospital.
The medical examiner’s report said Coletta “was assaulted” and listed the cause of death as a ruptured spleen “due to blunt impact of torso.”
According to news and witnesses’ accounts, Coletta had driven to Dades’ home with two ex-cop friends of theirs, Thomas Ippolito and Peter Mangano. Mangano, who carried a metal baton, had reportedly threatened Dades because Dades had refused to help Mangano’s father reduce an insurance fraud rap. Ippolito said Coletta was attempting to diffuse the confrontation when Dades attacked him.
Mangano was charged with menacing. However, Dades refused to cooperate, leading to charges against Mangano being dropped.
Vecchione and another high-ranking Brooklyn D.A. colleague, investigator Joseph Ponzi, who visited the crime scene after Dades called him, testified on Dades’ behalf before the grand jury.
But when Internal Affairs Bureau Captain Dan Carione contacted Vecchione on Feb. 24th, Vecchione refused to meet with him.
Schmetterer said, “The policy of our office is you cooperate with the police. He [Vecchione] did so. He spoke to the prosecutor and appeared before the grand jury. Our position is you cooperate with a law enforcement investigation, which Mike Vecchione did.”
Ed DiPaolo, Coletta’s half-brother, quoted IAB Sgt. Brian Reich — who works under Carione — as saying IAB sought to question Vecchione about a phone call he had received from Ippolito concerning Dades a week after the murder. IAB wanted to know what Vecchione said to the Staten Island District Attorney about that phone call and why Vecchione waited three months to tell the D.A. about it.
A law enforcement official in another jurisdiction — who has dealt with the NYPD but who has no personal knowledge of this case — said Vecchione was within his rights in refusing to cooperate with IAB.
“On the one hand it is unusual. On the other hand, you do not lose any of your rights as a citizen,” the official said. “The police department can have its own agenda. They hold grudges.”
Both Carione and Reich declined comment, referring calls to the department’s Office of Public Information. Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne did not return a call.
Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt